Sunday, November 12
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25: 1 – 13
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.”
The founder of Scouting, retired British Army officer Robert Baden-Powell, was once asked to elaborate on the famous Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” His questioner asked, “Prepared for what, exactly?” According to Scouting legend, the old campaigner quipped, “Why, for any old thing!”
We all know people like the foolish virgins in the parable (perhaps some of us are even married to them!) They aren’t prepared for anything, it seems. They have no extra jacket, their cell phone battery hasn’t been charged, and the gas tank routinely hovers below E. They are always ready to roll their eyes at “the prepared” for their precautions and safety margins. Strangely enough, they are also the ones who are more than ready to ask “the prepared” for help when they encounter troubles! It is only the most saintly of Christians who doesn’t luxuriate in schadenfreude and self-satisfaction in such moments. It feels so good to gloat when our foresight is proven correct!
It would have been “very Christian of them” if the wise virgins had given the foolish virgins some of their oil. But if the “wise virgins” were truly wise, earlier in the day they should have been able to recognize the “foolish virgins” for what they were: fools! So why did such “wise” people allow such “fools” to start out unprepared, and suffer an easily preventable catastrophe?
When we rejoice over the ill-fortune of others, especially as a result of their sins, we should stop a moment. Before we are tempted to pat ourselves on the back for our holiness, for our avoidance of temptation and our lack of vices, perhaps we should ask ourselves an uncomfortable question: If I see a fool in his folly and leave him in it; if I then rejoice over his misfortune from that uncorrected folly… how “wise” am I? How “holy” am I?