Christ is sometimes referred to as the Wisdom of God, and that comparison goes both ways. Just as Our Lord always lights the way, wisdom is necessary for us to see our path in life and to show the path to Christ for others as well. The greatest wisdom is him.
In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that we seek out the things we love, and we need to seek out and love wisdom. If you don’t look for something it is unlikely that you are going to find it. Wisdom is the light by which we see the bigger picture in life. The more we consider the bigger picture in life, the more wisdom we can find.
The world sometimes can be very dark, and we need to keep watch for those moments of light when they present themselves. It’s no coincidence that the First Reading today has us keeping vigil to find wisdom or seeking her out at the crack of dawn. In today’s First Reading wisdom is personified as a woman, but we know that Christ is wisdom Personified. He doesn’t just wait for us to find him. He seeks us out, comes into our lives, our situations, and tries to help us sort things out. Thinking of wisdom perfects the virtue of prudence, and prudence the virtue of knowing the right thing to do in every situation and circumstance. What better teacher than Christ?
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians who are in the dark as to the fate of their fellow believers who have died. In the early Church the Second Coming of Christ was thought to be just around the corner. The Thessalonians were concerned because some of them had already died and the Second Coming had not yet happened. Would the dead be left out?
In the light of the Risen Christ Paul helps them see the bigger picture. It is the wisdom of the Resurrection: if Jesus died and rose, so would their departed loved ones. Death does not have the last word, because Christ has conquered death. Christ sheds light on death and his victory over it, and we have hope as a result.
In today’s Gospel the lighted lamps represent charity. The less charity you have, the less likely you’ll be ready for Our Lord or able to help yourself or anyone else to find him. An Entrance Antiphon in the liturgy for the feast days of virgins summarizes perfectly what is praiseworthy of the Wise Virgins today, “Here is a wise virgin, from among the number of the prudent, who went forth with lighted lamp to meet Christ.” The wise ones know the wait for the Lord can be long, so they take extra oil. They see farther and plan. The foolish ones probably didn’t see much beyond the party they wanted to enjoy, but the party was just one part of what was expected of them.
The marriage feast in today’s parable is an image of Heaven. The wise virgins continued to stoke the light with the fuel of their charity (love for Christ, and love for others in him), and that light not only showed them path to take, but others as well. Jesus today teaches us that we must have an intense and lasting love to light the way. Love is the only mark of an authentic disciple. If a disciple is following Christ, someone can follow that disciple to be led to Christ. Like the bridegroom in today’s parable, Jesus will appear at a midnight of human history, and we must be ready with lamps bright and alight.
The foolish maidens proved how foolish they were by thinking they could risk not loving enough when the moment of decision came. They wanted to draw the wise virgins into their foolishness by asking for their oil. We see this played out in so many areas of our lives: that negative comment, that judgment, that suspicion. We lack charity and we want to suck others in thinking it will resolve our problems, but it doesn’t. Love for Christ is not a tradeable commodity. It is intimately personal. If the wise virgins had taken their advice, then there would have been ten foolish virgins left out in the dark that night instead of five. Since we’re speaking of the love of Christ it begs the question: how much is too much? Jesus teaches us today that the real question should not be how much should we do, but how much can we do.
In Baptism we received the light of Christ, and Christ has asked us to make that light shine in others’ lives in a special way. Are we leaving anyone in the dark? Are we leaving those with whom we work in the dark? In today’s parable the failure rate was fifty percent. Am I sharing the love of Christ with them? Am I helping them? Am I accepting them? Am I sharing the things with them that are truly helpful for them? Paul phrases it beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (4:29).
Are we leaving those we “love” in the dark? Those with whom we work are not the only co-workers in our lives. What about our family? Is it a fight every day just to get the kids out of bed, bathed, clothed, and groomed? Are you on the same wavelength as your spouse?
Love is like light. It’s meant to shine on the things that are darkest in order to bring them to light, address them, and resolve them. Love is a light that has to shine in the dark in order for you to see and to show the way to others as well.
Readings: Wisdom of Solomon 6:12–16; Psalm 63:2–8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Matthew 25:1–13.