“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we are approaching the end of the liturgical year, the readings of this Sunday begin to draw our attention to the eschatological dimension of our faith, our Church: the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Sunday Gospel in particular is a lovely story and yet rich of meaning and symbols. Very often we read the story of the wedding feast as an image of the heavenly banquet. This image immediately captures the idea of Joy, love, and total union with the Lord as the fullness of our faith. The arrival of the bridegroom which is followed by great joy, jubilation and union is an unpredictable event, beyond calculation and it might take us by surprise. Thus, the fundamental attitude is to stay awake.
Interesting to notice that both the wise and foolish bridesmaids in the parable are all sleeping; none of the virgins is indeed awake and watching. All of them were awakened by the crier announcing the coming of the bridegroom. The difference between those who joined the banquet and those who did not was due to being ready and being prepared adequately. It was not due to some of them watching and others not watching. Five of the young women had sense enough, not just to be ready for the groom but...for the groom's delay. The anticipation of the five sensible young women is accredited to an act of prudence, being wise. Wisdom is always in relation to the attitude of being alert, as my favourite psalm 90: 12 puts in a nice way: “teach us to count the few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart”.
Moreover, the parable can teach two points of reflection; first, we have to be aware that there are certain things in life which cannot be obtained at the last minute. What comes to my mind is a friend of mine who was about to leave for foreign country for further study. A week before his departure I advised him to begin preparing his luggage and clean his room. He would answer me with self-confidence, “do not worry, father”. I replied to him, “Surely, I am not worried, but you will be worried eventually”. The night before his departure, I saw him so nervous and confused, packing his belongings and eventually leaving his room clean and tidy. “My bro, I said as I approached him that night, I had told you that I was not worried then, but I can see you are now.” Yes, there are things in life which cannot be done at the last minute. And certainly, it is easy to leave things so late that we can no longer prepare ourselves adequately to meet with God. No tragic moment can be stressed enough with regret as when we hear the words “too late…”
Second, there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. The five unprepared women found it impossible to borrow oil when they discovered that theirs was running out. There are certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves, for we cannot borrow them from others. Unquestionably, a man cannot borrow a relationship with God, but he must possess it for himself. It reminds me of the song we use to sing when we ourselves have to find the way to Jesus:
“una cam le wi woka gona Heaven.. na Jesus Christ na Im go carry you
Your papa sef no go carry you na heaven… your mama sef no go carry you na heaven
Your sister sef… your brother sef.. your padi sef… no go carry you na heaven,
but Jesus Christ na Im go carry you…”
Yes… stay awake… when the Lord comes… join the party…