Reflection for Sunday – November 12, 2017
Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13 Click here to download a PDF of this homily.
Preacher: Gee Gee Micoli
Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13
Preacher: Gee Gee Micoli
Who doesn’t like going to a wedding? It is a joyous occasion where two people profess their love to each other. It is celebrated with the best food and wine a family is able to provide. That same enthusiasm existed two millennia ago when Jesus walked the earth. Then, weddings could even last for a week! Everyone in the village and surrounding area was included in a celebration not to be missed.
In the parable, Jesus shares a custom of young maidens waiting with torches for the bridegroom as he returns from the bride’s home. This image of a bridegroom was familiar to the disciples as it had been used by the prophets who imagined God coming for the people of Israel, the bride whom God cherished and loved.
The disciples also understood this image to represent Jesus and his love for his people. Jesus had previously compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast. John, in the Book of Revelation, continues this image of a banquet and calls it, the marriage Feast of the Lamb. If going to heaven is like a wedding reception, we surely don’t want to miss it! But how could that happen? What does the exclusion of the young maidens mean for us when they went to find more oil and missed the bridegroom’s arrival?
This passage of the bridegroom is nestled in a long discourse in which Jesus shares what will transpire at the end of time. Through a series of parables, Jesus directs us to pay attention and make preparations. In the parable, the wise maidens brought extra oil along with their torches, just in case the bridegroom was late. They didn’t know the hour of his return nor do we know when Jesus, our bridegroom, will return at the end of time. The foolish maidens were absent for the bridegroom’s return as they had gone to purchase more oil. Because of their late return, they missed the celebration feast.
The harsh response of the bridegroom may be due to the fact that Matthew directed his gospel to a predominately Jewish community and some of that group showed little interest in the apocalyptic or belief in the end time. Matthew may have considered them the ill-prepared maidens. Whatever the agenda of Matthew, we need to consider the light from the torches of the maidens as it does provide a wonderful metaphor and incentive for us.
The wise maidens’ simple gesture of providing light represents their dedication to the bridegroom. Jesus, our bridegroom, makes his expectations clear later in this chapter: “Come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to us as the light of the world. Indeed, our internal light shines when we courageously work to eliminate poverty and take care of our environment. We must address poverty and confront the systematic injustice and greed that pervades our culture. Being present to the needs of the impoverished or marginalized allows our light to shine brighter. This is the light of those torches. The oil of the wise maidens could not be shared as it was a part of who they were. There is no light switch. It takes time. Nobody can do it for us. When we choose to follow Jesus, our light shines. Our every decision can make a difference in our world and may dictate our destiny.
Like the ill-prepared maidens, we could miss the banquet! As Christians, we do believe in an end time and that Jesus will come again. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we need to remember the call of Jesus to look after God’s people. We want to be at that grand celebration of the marriage Feast of the Lamb. Jesus wants us at that banquet too!