In this world where good and evil can occupy the same space, we must be wise and vigilant. In this world where stately roses and disruptive weeds can share the same garden, we must be wise and vigilant. In this world where the foolish and the wise can sit together at the same table, we must be the wise and prudent ones. The question is: how often are we prepared to be the wise one?
Growing up, my grandmother would tell us stories to explain why it wasn’t right to tell a lie, or why it was wrong to steal, and so on. I used to hear her stories and say to myself, “why can’t grandma just say what she means? Why does she have to tell us these stories?” As I got older, it occurred to me that not only did she just enjoy using stories to convey life lessons, but the life lessons made more sense once digested, and became nourishment for my soul. Today’s Gospel reminds me of my grandmother’s stories — a little esoteric, thought-provoking, with moments that make you want to ask a question, but hold back, and in a way, open to interpretation. Like any parable, the reader is invited to do more than just read it. The reader is invited to chew slowly, let the words digest, and relish the total mind and soul effect at the moment when we realize that we have being enriched, and awakened by the words; by the parable; by the story. This Gospel prompts us to stay spiritually awake, and to be prepared to bring light to the darkness.
Are you missing out on what’s most important in life? Being unprepared can lead to unnecessary trouble and even disaster! What good is a life-jacket left on the shore when the boat is sinking? Jesus’ story of ten single ladies waiting for a wedding procession in the middle of the night seems strange to most westerners today. But Jesus’ audience knew all too well how easily this could happen to them.
Wedding customs in ancient Palestine required extra vigilance and preparation for everyone involved. (Some near eastern villages still follow this custom.) The bride and groom did not go away for their honeymoon, but celebrated for a whole week with their family and friends. It was the custom for the groom, in company with his friends, to come at his discretion and get his bride and bring her to their new home. They would take the longest route possible so that many villagers along the way could join in the wedding procession. Once they arrived and closed the doors, no one else could be admitted. If the groom decided to come and bring his bride at night, then lights were required by necessity to guide the travelers through the dark and narrow streets. No one was allowed on the village streets at night without a lamp!
To show up for a wedding party without proper attire and travel arrangements is like trying to get into a special event today that requires a prearranged permit or reservation. You just don’t get in without the proper pass. Can you imagine the frustration travelers might experience when going abroad and finding out that they can’t get into some country because they don’t have the right visa or a valid passport.
Jesus warns us that there are consequences for being unprepared. There are certain things you cannot obtain at the last moment. For example, students cannot prepare for their exams when the day of testing is already upon them. A person cannot get the right kind of character, strength, and skill required for a task at hand unless they already possess it, such as a captain with courage and nautical skills who must steer a ship through a dangerous storm at sea.
When the Lord Jesus comes to lead you to his heavenly banquet will you be ready to hear his voice and follow? Our eternal welfare depends on our hearing, and many have trained themselves to not hear. We will not be prepared to meet the Lord, face to face, when he calls us on the Day of Judgment, unless we listen to him today. The Lord invites us to feast at his heavenly banquet table.
Let us be wise and vigilant and ready to encounter Jesus in every step of our life.
Fr. A. Francis HGN