26 Aug, Friday of Week 21
1 Thess 4:1ff. Conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Matt 25:1ff. Parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids; on being ready to receive the bridegroom when he comes.
Pitfalls of Eschatology
Jesus points out that not all even of the specially chosen people are assured salvation. Only five of the bridesmaids were there to welcome the bridal party; five others were told, “I do not know you.” The interpretation of this parable developed within early Christian history. In first speaking it Jesus was warning that salvation did not come automatically through the perfect observance of law and tradition. In this he was in direct continuity with Old Testament prophets up to John the Baptist, who bluntly corrected those who preened themselves on being Israelites, with Abraham as their father, “God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Jesus, therefore, was not saying anything new, only imparting a greater urgency to the oft repeated prophetic challenge.
When Matthew wrote his gospel, a controversy was raging between Christian Jews and Pharisaic Jews. The former considered themselves genuine disciples of both Moses and Jesus, the latter condemned them as traitors to Moses. Some of the chosen people accepted Jesus, some did not. The Messiah had come and some were not ready. Already in Matthew’s gospel, the interpretation of the parable was evolving further. The Christians faced the question of when to expect the second coming of Jesus. Now the moral is, “Keep your eyes open, for you know not the day nor the hour.” Being a Christian was no absolute guarantee of being ready to welcome Jesus on his return.
As we re-read this gospel passage, we sense the pathos and tragedy of the five foolish bridesmaids. They really did nothing seriously wrong, but simply nodded off asleep. No matter how many excuses may explain the failure, nonetheless, people often let an important opportunity slip by. We need the repeated reminder, “watch, for you know not the day nor the hour.”
On the other hand, in the case of the Thessalonians , some people became so absorbed in the vision of the Lord and in rarified spirituality, that they despised this present life and soon considered all physical acts totally unimportant. The tragedy here is that such overly-spiritual people can weave the web of immorality without sensing any danger. They nod, fall off to sleep and hardly notice the real condition of their lives. Paul’s language here to the Thessalonians boldly condemns their sexual aberrations and will not accept the excuse that absorption in the second coming of Jesus makes one’s earthly acts inconsequential.
First Reading: 1Th 4:1-8
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do no know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.