32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A20
The Thessalonians had a problem. As did many other converts to the faith, they believed that Jesus, “with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven”. But the members of their faith community were “falling asleep”. What would happen to them when Jesus reappeared in his glory? Would they be left behind? Paul sought to reassure them by telling them: “No”. The dead would be the first to rise, and those alive at the coming of the Lord will join them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
The expectation of the Lord’s return in glory is something we as believers today are not too concerned about. I mean, it’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. Why now? Well, why not now? That is the reason for today’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins.
They were to accompany the bridegroom to his bride’s house to claim his betrothed. At first, they were ready to meet him but he was long delayed. They all became drowsy and fell asleep when finally they were awakened by a cry announcing he was near. This is when the parable gets interesting. When the foolish ones asked the wise ones to share some of their oil for the lamps, we assume Jesus would have said: “Share the oil” out of compassion for the five whose lamps were going out. But the wise ones feared they would all run out of oil. Instead they suggested a fool’s errand: go to the merchants and buy some. How many merchants would open up shop after midnight? Would they say, if they answered at all, ‘come back at my regular hours’?
We can learn a few lessons today:
- Although their bodies have passed on, our beloved dead’s spirits are still alive. We also believe that their bodies will share in the resurrection of the dead but in a transformed state.
- We cannot borrow the good deeds of others no matter how abundant they are. Each of us must take of our own oil, i.e. good deeds. And we cannot buy them as well.
- The fact that the Lord has not yet come in glory doesn’t mean he won’t.
- “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
- And finally, the day of the Lord should be something we look forward to and not fear if we truly believe in and love the Lord.