In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. His arrival will kick off the wedding feast, a grand party where the whole community will feast and celebrate the marriage. The bridesmaids take lamps to greet the bridegroom with light, but he is delayed and they all nap for a bit. When they are awakened by a shout that he is finally here (from the watchtower, most likely), the lamps are running out of oil. Half of the bridesmaids have brought along extra oil, and half have not. The bridesmaids who were wise enough to bring a refill refuse to share with the others. The bridesmaids who foolishly did not bring more oil must hurry off to buy some. In the meantime, the bridegroom arrives, and the “wise” bridesmaids go into the wedding banquet with the bridegroom while the “foolish” bridesmaids are shut out.
Jesus often taught using parables, stories that explain complex deeper meanings using everyday images and experiences. Through parables we learn about what God intends for the world, what God’s priorities are, as well as how we can be part of carrying out God’s priorities in the world.
I have compassion for this parable’s waiting bridesmaids. Waiting is often tough, especially when the much-anticipated event and their role in its start is delayed. Half the bridesmaids did not realize they would be waiting so long and did not bring extra oil just in case. When the time finally arrives for them to welcome the bridegroom and escort him into the banquet with their lamps, they are off looking for more oil and miss it entirely. If only they had not run out.
As followers of Jesus, we strive to live in ways that reflect what we receive from God; unconditional love and welcome, abundant healing and forgiveness, transforming justice and hope. Some days we have plenty of resources to share the light of God and other days we are nearly empty. Life can leave us drained and flickering out. There are times that we desperately need to be refilled. At those times especially, it is important to remember that God has compassion for us (despite Jesus’ use of hyperbole in this parable’s conclusion). Unlike the bridesmaids in the parable though, we each day we have another chance to share our light with those around us.
May your resources for sharing the light of God be refilled throughout each day. In moments of worship and prayer. In encounters with beauty in creation, art, or music. Through people who love and treasure you. In the peace and quiet of reflection. In the quiet yet comforting presence of God.