Wisdom 6: 12-16 + Psalm 63 + 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 + Matthew 25: 1-13
November 12, 2023 at St. William and St. Peter Churches in Naples, FL
This Gospel Parable is not about sharing. It is about waiting which is something most of us do not like to do. Since it is about waiting, then it is also about time which is something we can neither hurry nor stop. Most of us rush through time to get things done. When we are not getting things done, we think we are wasting time. But the real waste of time is the way we rush through it. In hurrying to prepare ourselves for things not yet upon us, we end up unprepared for what is here. Sooner or later, our gas runs out. We live in time, and if we’re smart and faithful, we also know that there is something we refer to as the “end time” or the “time of fulfillment.” What we have with this parable is both: the waiting time and the fulfillment time when the banquet begins and the door is shut.
What this parable offers us is a contrast between two ways of living in time and a suggestion about which one is better. One is for the foolish and the other for the wise. The point of telling and retelling this parable over the years is that we have to decide which one we choose to be, foolish or wise. It’s a little like life here in Southwest Florida and how we live through and with the threat of hurricanes. Some watch the weather, they keep batteries and flashlights, water and maybe some canned goods on hand with plenty of gas in the car. Then there are some who just play another round of golf, dismissing the odds and predictions certain that the storm will go another way. We know how that works out, and in theory, none of us want to foolish.
Most of the sermons and commentaries I have heard and read on this parable focus on the foolish virgins which never makes much sense to me. This parable is about wisdom and how wise people live their lives in the present with an eye to the future. This is no warning against taking nap. Both the foolish and wise sleep. This is a warning about forgetting why we are here, waiting for the banquet, knowing that it might be a long wait. The parable is less about oil than it is about being prepared for the long wait. The foolish have gone off somewhere when the wait is over. There is here an obvious reminder that we ought not forget why we are here and wonder off somewhere distracted by whatever is a problem at the moment.
What if those foolish ones had stayed where they were and not wandered off. I like to think that they would have made it into the banquet because this is not about oil. It is about knowing why we’re here and not wandering off because the wait is longer than we thought it would be. It also reminds us that we cannot and should not assume that someone else is going to do what we should be doing. If we do not want to shudder before the words: “I do not know you,” there is still time, but maybe not much.