Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16; (or Amos 5:18-24; Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
“Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low.” – Henry Ward Beecher
In this parable we have the story of the five foolish and five wise virgins. The foolish ones did not bring enough oil for their lamps. We do not have this story so that we can decipher who of us are wise, and who of us are foolish. We are all wise. We are all foolish. The advice in the last line of today’s gospel is stay alert, be awake (Matthew 25:13) because we know neither the day nor the hour. Remember that earlier in the parable all ten virgins fell asleep. This is our story as we sleep. This is the story to wake us up. The real energy for us is the oil in the lamps. The lamps are for giving light. What do we need, especially in our dark moments, to bring brightness into an otherwise drab existence? At the risk of a cliché, the answer is love. The foolish virgins in the story were not prepared with enough oil. Let’s remember we are in this together. We can fill each other’s lamps with oil, when we do not bring enough, by loving. This sort of oil does not run out, as was the fear in the parable. There is an Eskimo proverb that goes: “May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart.” If we want a warm, peaceful igloo, let’s fill each other’s lamps with love. Now that’s the fuel for happiness.
The original Greek does actually refer to “virgins.” Some translations use the word “bridesmaids” or “wedding attendants.” That is not totally inaccurate. In those days bridesmaids were presumed to be virgins.
Five virgins are called wise. Another translation is prudent.
The oil referred to in this parable is literally olive oil.
When my lamp was low
oil of your heart overflowed.
Now on to feasting.