“At that time 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 took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
When I heard this Bible story as a child, I always thought that the wise maidens were actually “mean” maidens because they wouldn’t share their oil. After all, the Bible and our parents both said that those who have are supposed to share with those who don’t have. As I have gotten older and come to a deeper understanding of the Bible, the oil in this parable is faith. The lamps represent our lives. The bridegroom is Christ and the marriage feast is the judgment at the end of every life.
When the foolish maidens took their lamps and had no oil, it means that they lived their lives without faith. The wise maidens had lives (lamps) that had an abundance of faith in them. Because the bridegroom was late in coming, the maidens all fell asleep. And because the judgment from God seems like it will never come, that life continues on and on, many people are asleep spiritually. They never find faith, or choose faith, or grow in faith, or feel an urgency to live faithfully. When the bridegroom was about to come, there was an announcement that it was time to meet him. Then the foolish maidens asked the wise maidens for some of their oil. And the wise maidens said they could not share their oil.
Most material things can be shared. We can cut a sandwich in half and share it with someone else. We can even give material things away, like money or clothes. Faith, on the other hand, cannot be divided and shared. It cannot be given away. A person can talk to someone else about his or her personal faith, but one cannot take his or her faith and divide it and give a portion of it away. Faith is something personal to each individual. Either we have it or we don’t. Thus the wise maidens were not mean at all. They were faithful and ready. In fact, they were so filled with faith that they were able to sleep with confidence, knowing that at the moment the bridegroom came for them, they were ready.
The five wise maidens are an example of how we should be living. Our lives (lamps) should be filled with oil (faith) at all times. We don’t know when the Bridegroom is going to come for us. He could come tonight. He could come next month. He could come many years from now, to invite us to the marriage feast, the judgment that precedes our entrance into eternal life. Ideally, we are living with faith and growing in faith to the point that we can live our lives with joyful expectation that if the Bridegroom comes for us today, we are ready.
There are many people who are living like the foolish maidens. Their lives don’t have faith. They are soundly sleeping, probably not giving much thought to the Bridegroom, and even if they do, they probably think that the Bridegroom isn’t going to come today or for a long time. Saint Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:2 that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And Jesus says in Matthew 24:43 that “if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into.” Because we don’t know when the Bridegroom is coming, we have to be ready at all times.
If our lamps lack oil, there will not be time to rush out and buy some when the Bridegroom comes. If our lives lack faith, when Christ comes for our souls at an unexpected time, there won’t be time to get faith or repent or do the works of faith. Therefore, we need to get faith for our lives and oil for our lamps without delay.
If our lamps have sufficient oil, we can live with joyful expectation of the Bridegroom coming, because when Christ comes for our souls, we will have lives to present to Him that will account us worthy of His Heavenly Kingdom. In a real lamp filled with oil, the oil is going to burn away, so we have to be vigilant that even if our lamp of faith is full, we have to keep watch over the oil at all times to make sure it is sufficient.
In our theme of healing of soul and body, we pray that God will continually open our hearts to understand, deepen and live out our faith, and that we can have joy at the prospect of the marriage feast, when we become one forever with the Lord in heaven.
Open to use the gateway of your loving kindness, O Blessed Birth-giver of God. Having set our hope in you, may we not fail; but through you, may we be delivered from all adversities; for you are the salvation of all Christians.
Keep your lamp filled with oil. Keep your life filled with faith!