Ten bridesmaids, ten interpretations

There are different ways you can interpret the parable of the ten bridesmaids which we read this Sunday. You can turn it on its head and say the five ‘wise’ ones were selfish and unjust in not sharing what they had with their fellows and so excluded them from the banquet of life.

They showed ‘concealed violence’ to those who were ill-prepared and so perpetuated divisions in society. Gerhard Lohfink, who wrote a great book, Jesus of Nazareth, What He Wanted, Who He was, tells us that the Christian community from the beginning has focused on one interpretation as being in accord with the mind of Jesus: Jesus was saying, ‘the reign of God is here, his kingdom is among you, seize the moment’.

This is the message of Jesus from beginning to end. Mark’s gospel, the first to be written starts with the proclamation, ‘the reign of God is close at hand, change your way of thinking and believe the good news!’ Every word and action of Jesus from then on supports, clarifies and demonstrates that proclamation. Another parable tells of a man who hears the message as if it were a treasure buried in a field. He ‘sells everything’ and buys the field. The key in the words and actions of Jesus is the sense of urgency. There is no time to waste. We are to act.

Interpretations that ‘kick the can down the road’, that divert our attention from the central point into, for example, a detached critique of social conditions as mentioned above, is simply an excuse for avoiding the urgent call to act. We may come up with a brilliant analysis of our situation but if we do not do something – however apparently insignificant – we are blunting the force of Jesus’ words and emptying them of their transformative power. We are like the people addressed in the story of the Good Samaritan who pass by saying, ‘this is the state’s responsibility, this is the Church’s task’ and we do nothing.

Thank God for young people! (We are all young once and know this!) They have terrific energy and a burning desire for change and they want to ‘seize the moment’. The sad thing is that today’s young people are often tomorrow’s comfortable middle class, settled in their professions with all their anger blunted by ‘success.’ But Jesus doesn’t allow us to get too settled. He allows ‘unsettling’ things to happen in our life. Over and over he gives us opportunities to seize the moment and by so doing we advance along the way for our own benefit and the benefit of those who are part of our world.

8 Nov 2020     Sunday 32 A   Wis 6:12-16     1 Thess 4:13-18           Matt 25:1-13

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