Matthew 25:1-13. The Ten Virgins Know Neither the Day Nor the Hour.

Our Gospel reading for Sunday, November 6 is Matthew 25:1-13, and it can be accessed here for the Catholic lectionary, and here for the RCL.  My background notes on the Sermon in the Temple, which ought to be read in conjunction with this postare here.

"The Wise and Foolish Virgins." Hieronymus Francken, 1616. Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

The parable of the Ten Virgins, otherwise known as the Wise and Foolish Virgins, is another parable that is unique to Matthew. Matthew appears to remember far more about the events of the Temple Sermon than does Luke or Mark.

The ten virgins is an eschatololgical parable whose sole purpose is to remind the reader to be alert for the return of the Lord.  Jesus tells us that “ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom.”  Some had brought sufficient oil to wait out the night with their lamps, others had not. The clear moral of the story so far is that five of the virgins were prepared and thought ahead, the other five had not.

At midnight, the foolish virgins find themselves without oil, and they are told to go out and get it themselves.  In the meantime, the bridegroom arrives.  As the foolish virgins fail to appear at the appointed time, they are left outside and do not gain admittance to the wedding banquet.  We can see that the warning he first gave in Matthew 7:21…

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

…is also repeated in Matthew 25:12:

Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’

 But as Jesus says, the door was locked.

Be Attentive!

Being attentive for the return of the Lord has nothing to do with stocking oil, nor water, nor food, nor any other dry good.  The wise virgins who kept their oil lamps lit are, in reality, those who do the will of the Father (Mt 7:21), who practice Christian discipleship as it is defined in Matthew’s Gospel, and who don’t slack off under the assumption that faith and works of mercy can be put off for another day.  Those that keep the precepts of the Lord – to love God with all their hearts, and who love their neighbor – will find themselves well prepared for the Lord’s return.

We Don’t Know When Jesus Will Return.

Perhaps I should not neglect to state the obvious.  Jesus himself tells us that we know neither the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return.  Predicting the return of the Lord seems to be big business among some charlatans who exploit and financially profit from the public’s curiosity about the end times.  The bottom line is that neither we nor they know when the Lord will return.  Scripture does warn us that there are signs that will anticipate the return of the Lord, but Christians have already (wrongly) predicted the coming of the Day of the Lord many times before.

We have yet to be right.

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.”

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