We get a glimpse of ancient Jewish culture in today’s Gospel from Matthew 25:1-13 with the image of the 10 bridesmaids and their oil lamps waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. One can imagine colour, sounds and aromas, vibrancy, expectation, and joy. Weddings in all our cultures tend to be incredibly significant occasions. Wonderful family times but also with its element of stress and family dynamics.
Sometimes in our experience of Church weddings, we hear that the bride is going to be late and if it is not too bad people are very understanding. Afterall this is her special day. In our parable it is the bridegroom who is late. Quite a different scenario.
In Jewish culture he set out to the house of his bride with his entourage to take her back to his home. The bridesmaids would accompany the bride on that journey.
Jesus uses this story for us to think about our future and the ultimate future of our world. We are the people who believe that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and that Christ will come again. He is the bridegroom coming to us and we as members of his Church are the bride to be prepared for his coming.
The key phrase in the Gospel is the cry that goes out, ‘The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.”
Of course, at the end of our lives we want to be united with Christ and to share in the heavenly wedding banquet like the five sensible bridesmaids that greeted him with their oil lamps, who were ready and went into the wedding hall with him.
Of course, being united with Christ is something that we yearn for, search for and long for here and now. ‘My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God,’ is the response to the Psalm this morning taken from Psalm 62(63).
We get glimpses of the bridegroom’s presence when we encounter something beautiful, something moving, something inspiring. It is good to stop and be present to those moments and hold up a light to welcome and recognize him.
Our living out Christ’s commandments to love God with our whole being, heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves is to carry with us the oil of salvation. We can sleep with confidence and without anxiety that when the Lord comes, we can go out to meet him and humbly offer the lamp of faith, hope and love we have kept burning for him.
There are times in our lives, we may think we haven’t been that faithful or sensible like the foolish bridesmaids who forgot to bring extra oil. We can allow our doubts, fears, weakness and sinfulness to snuff out the light within us or at least sabotage our walk by faith.
We need to be patient. Our parable is reminding us that it is not over. The Holy Spirit is still active and working within us. This is the time of salvation and the oil of salvation is still available to us.
The bridegroom is coming and wants to take us into the wedding hall. Listen to ‘O My God I Long For You’ from ‘Truly Blessed’.