Today's Gospel parable is well known to us. There are ten virgins. The five wise virgins have enough oil for their lamps; the five foolish virgins don't. The bridegroom is delayed and the virgins fall asleep. At midnight, the bridegroom arrives. The foolish virgins go to a merchant to buy oil and when they return the door is locked.
In this parable, the bridegroom is Christ, who comes at a time we do not expect. We are the virgins. Some of us are wise and some are foolish. The oil is our overflowing love of God and neighbor. We don't know when our day of reckoning will occur. As the parable tells us: "Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
The door in the parable is our entry into heaven. It is interesting that once this door is locked the foolish virgins cannot enter and the wise virgins cannot exit. Once we get to heaven, we will be there eternally with God. Otherwise, we must spend eternity without God in hell.
The foolish virgins say: "Lord, Lord, open the door for us". Jesus, the doorkeeper, doesn't say "you're too late, the door is closed." Instead he replies: "Amen, I say to you, I do not know you." The foolish virgins don't have a relationship with Jesus, so they cannot get in. We get to know him through prayer and by receiving him in the Eucharist. Our relationship with Jesus is reflected in our actions, especially our love for others.
The emphasis in today's Gospel is on becoming wise. Being wise in terms of Jesus means knowing that we are waiting with the confident assurance that he will come. This waiting is an important part of life, showing good faith in the promise of Christ's return. And part of waiting is being prepared to greet the master. The wise are aware that they are always waiting for the Lord to come.
Waiting is not a virtue in our culture. For most people, waiting is something they don’t want to put up with. I must confess that, if I can, I try to avoid it, by gently accelerating through yellow lights and checking out various lines at the store for the shortest one. I can be very impatient when I have to wait. But I, like all of us must wait, in eager anticipation, for the Lord.
When we come here to give thanks, to participate in the Mass, we are acting wisely. Being here reminds us that we are waiting on the Lord. We come to the meal that is a reminder of the heavenly banquet that awaits us.
The difference between being wise and foolish is not some unusual effort on the part of the wise, but a habitual way of living. The wise anticipate the One who will come, even though they don’t know when. When the bridegroom arrives, it's too late for the foolish virgins - their eternal destiny is sealed. They cannot get oil from the wise virgins and they cannot purchase the oil, the love, they need.
Fortunately, it's not too late for us. The door isn't locked. Jesus reminds us that we still have time. Jesus has shown us what we must do to keep a good supply of oil- love God and love our neighbor. At this Eucharist, we acknowledge our need and dependence on God. We yearn and search for Wisdom -- it is given to us in these scriptures and in the food prepared at this table set before us.
We may not know the day or hour but we can be prepared. We have been given the gift of faith—we have a relationship with God—a relationship to which we must cling with all of our strength. The virgins, and all of us, are ultimately either wise or foolish- there is no grey area. We will either be welcomed into heaven- possibly after a stop in Purgatory, or will be dispatched to hell. Let us pray that we will be fully prepared to meet him on the last day and will celebrate forever at the heavenly banquet.