This parable, unique to the Gospel of Matthew, is one section of the fifth and final great speech of Jesus, which considers the end of the world and the gathering together of God’s people. This final speech also contains the great drama of the judgement: ‘Whenever you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.’
The parable of the ten bridesmaids is full of symbols. Jesus is described as the bridegroom repeatedly in the four gospels. Earlier in this gospel (9:15), in a reference to his passion and death, he spoke of himself as ‘the bridegroom who will be taken away’.
This image has its origins in the Jewish Scriptures, where the relationship of the people to God was compared to that of a bride to her husband. The Church, the new people of God, is rightly described as the bride of Christ. It is the role of the bridesmaid to accompany and serve the bridegroom. We all take on this task from the time of our baptism. But will we be ready when the bridegroom appears?
The symbol of the lamp brings an even clearer allusion to Christian life and to the sacrament of baptism. We receive the light of Christ when we are baptised, and we are constantly challenged to keep the light burning brightly. This responsibility is reflected in the determination of the sensible bridesmaids not to let their lamps go out. The foolish bridesmaids, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to be distracted from what is really important in their lives.
Do I see my life as a preparation to meet the Lord?
Do I nourish my life with prayer and the sacraments?
We pray for those who have lost their way on the journey of life.
We ask for a deeper appreciation of the gifts the Lord bestows on us.