Our life here below is analogous to the night the virgins spent in awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Sooner than expected, it will end and the night will give way to an encounter with the Bridegroom in all his infinite holiness and glory.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
31 August 2018
In today’s gospel, we hear the parable of the ten virgins:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt 25:1-13)
Half Foolish and Half Wise
The foolish virgins neglected to prepare for the long night ahead in awaiting the bridegroom’s arrival. It is easy in today’s frenetic world to place all kinds of goals, needs, social gatherings and daily activities ahead of time spent in nourishing our relationship with Christ. Our life here below is analogous to the night the virgins spent in awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Sooner than expected, it will end and the night will give way to an encounter with the Bridegroom in all his infinite holiness and glory, a moment in which we will be judged on whether we failed to prepare, as did the foolish virgins, or whether we did prepare, as the wise virgins. Do we nourish our faith and remain committed as the night draws on through a life of prayer and worship in the heart of the Church, through reception of the sacraments and through a life of intimacy with Christ?
They Became Drowsy
During the long night, drowsiness sets in. Distractions, sin, apathy—all these lead to a kind of spiritual drowsiness in which we become numb to the presence of Christ and to the essential need to remain vigilant. Gradually, worldly thoughts and desires take precedence. It happens slowly, insidiously, creeping in the further we go along. At best, we begin to slip into lukewarmness. At worst, we become lax. We fall into spiritual and religious indifference and the sin of sloth, in which disinterest or even sadness is experienced about the heavenly things of God. The conscience becomes sluggish or blunted. Christ is no longer important. We no longer meditate on the gospels, we rarely pray, we are unconcerned about religion and participating in Holy Mass. We tell ourselves in self-deception and with presumption, “Don’t worry. God is merciful. He loves me. He understands.”
The Sudden Arrival of The Bridegroom
“At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” Suddenly the time has arrived. All who await the bridegroom must go out and meet him. In the blink of an eye and when least expected, this life will come to its close. Death will meet you. Will you have the oil needed in your lamp to endure the judgment and be found worthy as one who has lived his life by the light of Christ?
The thought of finding the door to eternal life barred shut and hearing the Lord say, “I do not know you,” is perhaps the most terrifying thought possible—if we are aware of reality, that is. Time and again in the gospels Jesus warns us that eternal damnation is a real danger and that the lives of many end in the unending wreckage of spiritual death.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mt 7:13-14)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ (Mt 7:21-23).
What is the solution? Turn your attention to Jesus Christ. Make him primary in your life. This involves more than an intellectual belief in Jesus. It is a new way of life and means a radical change of priorities has taken place through repentance. It’s an attitude of self-entrustment to Christ in which you give yourself over entirely to him. It means prayer, commitment, diligence, preparation, life in the worshipping community of the Church and reception of the sacraments, especially the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist.
Let Us Pray:
Lord, I know you are present and I will soon meet you in all your glory at the time of my judgment. I also know you love me and will provide me with every grace I need to unite myself in faith to you and to live my life in charity. I come before you as a poor but deeply loved beggar. Come to meet me now. Come with your treasures of love, grace, and truth. Free me from all indifference, apathy, carelessness, lack of preparation and vice. Free me from the evil spirit of the age in which the Christian religion and the sacraments of the Church are thought to be unimportant. Increase in me every good virtue. Accept me once again as your own. Let me not fail. Jesus, I trust in you.
Photo Credit: Phoebe Anna Traquair [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.