I love how the Lectionary seems to be right on track with life as we know it! Our Gospel passage for Sunday (Matthew 25:1–13) finds 10 bridesmaids waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom.
Weddings of this era were always held at night and it was customary for the bridegroom to go to the house of the bride and take her to the wedding. It would be a common occurrence to have to wait until all the negotiations between the families were complete. In this reading, we find a group of people waiting long enough to fall asleep anticipating the events to get started.
Life seems to be made up of a great deal of waiting. When we are little, we cannot wait to grow up, we cannot wait to get a driver’s license, we cannot wait to finish school or get a job, we cannot wait to find a partner, and so it goes. One of the staples of life that makes it worth living is the notion of waiting — and anticipating that there must be something beyond the now, something worth waiting for!
This passage is also set in a place of anticipatory waiting—it is intended for those of us who live in the intervening time between the Lord’s first coming and His second. This story is particularly valuable when we recognize ourselves somewhere in it. The element of waiting implies readiness, being alert, and a sense of expectance, and hope. These maidens were waiting for the bridegroom and, in terms of the underlying message of the parable, they are awaiting the return of Christ.
If we dig deeper into the parable to view the lamps filled with oil as ourselves filled by the Holy Spirit, one can see why it would be important to keep ourselves full of the Spirit and watching the “fuel-gauge” of our lives. Many times we are, like these maidens, reminded that Lord’s return is imminent sometimes by events in our common lives such as major disasters or some other realization like a terminal diagnosis that time may be short.
It can be easy to lose sight of how vigilant we as Christians must be. We can all “fall asleep” and be caught unaware. Matthew’s ending statement brings us back to what we have to do now: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Christ’s return is an event we know will come but not when. We can ask ourselves who are we in the parable? Ask ourselves about our willingness to wait even when we don’t know how long it may take or what the future holds. We are called to faithfully entrust ourselves to the unknown resting in the certainty of God’s goodness.
The Rev. Robin O. Sands, Deacon