Anyone who has ever planned a wedding or social occasion can appreciate the problem of having everything happen on time. There are always those things that happen unexpectedly, e.g. the florist delivers the flowers to the wrong church, the car breaks down, an important guest arrives late or even the groom. In the gospel today the bridegroom was late for the bride. This was not an unusual event in an age when the exactness of time as we figure it was unknown. No clocks or watches, time was recorded by the sun and after dark it was anyone’s guess as to how much time had passed.
Preparedness is the theme of the story, we are cast in the role of the bride’s attendants. We have to decide which set of the bridesmaids really stands for us, the ones who are called sensible and wise or the crowd that is dismissed as foolish and unprepared. There are always people who are unprepared for just about everything, not prepared to learn or grow mentally, not prepared to expand their horizons, to accept new opportunities. For some major undertakings like marriage or getting an education can take place without advance preparation and like the student who never does his own homework, things usually end in disaster.
It is the same in the realm of spiritual preparation, some depend upon others’ prayers, others’ gifts, upon others compassion and upon others faith. Little wonder then that such persons are unprepared for either the highs or lows that life brings. Life holds many surprises for us, we all need reserves of strength and faith for those times when life seems to break us down. We need to be prepared for those tough times we all hope will not happen, but which often do-times of illness, stress, turmoil or grief. The only thing that will sustain us through difficult times is a resource of spiritual strength and faith. A personal relationship with God.
There has to be a storing away of spiritual resources that are as real to us as the food we eat and the water we drink. There are times in our lives when the light in our life burns low and we desperately need the oil of faith. But religion and faith are not just insurance policies against hard times. We do no plan only for the low points in our lives, if we see it that way then we have missed something very important in the message of Jesus. Perhaps, to some the Christian faith is only a matter of preparing for life after death. The Christian should be concerned about-is there life after birth?
Faith that prepares us for dying, but not for living, is an incomplete faith. Somebody got a message across that Christians are supposed to be unhappy and that unless you are suffering you are a suspect Christian. How often do we say if this or that is good it must be sinful? It is almost like we think we have a masochistic God who wants nothing more than for you to be in pain and that pain is a sign of God’s will. This is not the same God who hugs little children, the God who talks about flowers and birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
Jesus put the emphasis on how people were to live, He taught them how to find fulfillment and purpose. He taught them what was of lasting value and He taught them how to love one another.
All the bride’s attendants were anticipating the joy of a wedding; some had not taken care to prepare themselves adequately. Perhaps, they were careless. Perhaps, they were used to putting forth just the minimum effort. Perhaps, they were used to depending on others too much to get them through. The gospel warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. The foolish attendants of the bride found it impossible to borrow oil. Likewise, we cannot borrow a relationship with God just when we feel we need one.
There are certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves for we cannot borrow them from others. A close loving relationship with God has to be cultivated, then we can say with the Psalmist:
Thus will I bless you while I live
Lifting up my hand, I will call upon your name
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied
And with exultant lips, my mouth shall praise you