32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel begins with a realistic parable. Jewish weddings were held in the evening. Family and friends accompanied the groom as he brought his bride from her family home to his family home where the wedding dinner was held. Torches or lamps were needed to provide light. In the parable, ten girls were given this responsibility. The bride and groom are late arriving and the girls fall asleep. When word arrives that the groom is on his way there is a frantic flurry of activity. Five of them forgot to bring oil for the lamps so the procession threatened to be a disaster because there is only enough oil for five lamps. To divide the oil will mean that all ten will splutter out, so the wedding procession will be a complete flop! The girls go off to find an oil shop.
Despite this chaotic beginning, the wedding feast gets underway. When the five girls return from their shopping trip, the groom refuses to open the door to them. The procession is over. They are too late!
What’s the deeper point? Wedding banquets signal above all the union of the Messianic Son of God with his people. The point of the story is that we do not know when the Messiah will return, any more than the girls knew when the bridegroom would arrive. The ten girls represent the Christian community after the Resurrection waiting for the Messiah’s return. Matthew divides them into “wise and foolish” to make one of his favourite theological points. The time between the Resurrection and the return of the Son of Man is not empty time. It gives the followers of Jesus the opportunity to prove they are his genuine disciples by devoting themselves to good works. That time is now: make an effort to do your Christian duty so that Christ will recognise you before the door is closed.
The Irish Catholic suggests a few practical contributions you could make. You could help those who provide food and shelter for people in developing countries where healthcare and housing are underfunded. Trocaire supports Refugee camps in Uganda where many seek shelter from South Sudan.
In Zimbabwe at the moment over 4 million people face starvation and are further oppressed by Covid. You could buy Trocaire Christmas gifts for them because you know there are Irish helpers on the ground making sure the resources will be well distributed and the most needy will get help. Trocaire are the wise bridesmaids who will shine a light all the way into the presence of the Saviour.
You could also make an insertion in your will to help the homeless here in Ireland or you could help St Vincent de Paul by providing vouchers to bring food to the hungry today.
Whatever you believe about Climate Change there is a huge problem with extreme weather, droughts and floods destroying crops in the world’s most vulnerable countries. Pope Francis talks about that injustice all the time. You can help here too and listen to the cry of the poor who suffer because of the unbalanced ecology. Why be remembered as the generation which was slow to learn and act to save our common home on earth when the need was so urgent and necessary?
Today’s gospel is about the end of time and the final choices we need to make so as to be prepared to meet Jesus. But it is also about the here and now and preparing yourself to help your neighbour by making sure you have something to give and you have a light to shine. You are entitled to your siesta as long as you are ready to celebrate when the divine visitor comes.