Summary: We are called to be faithful to God and obey him. Being faithful is the meaning of waiting for the Lord to come. There will be no second chances when Christ returns.
It’s not hard to tell that we are getting closer to the end of the church year. In fact, three weeks from today we will be celebrating the First Sunday in Advent. The Gospel readings for these last few weeks of the Season of Pentecost talk about what God’s judgement will be like. They talk about the separating of the faithful from the unfaithful. Today’s reading from Matthew 25:1-13, which is known as the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids, emphasizes the important of being prepared for Christ’s return.
Jesus described preparations for a wedding. Weddings provided much needed relief from the humdrum and hard work of daily life. Usually women took care of children and performed household chores. They looked forward to any small distraction, such as their daily visit to the village well where they could visit with other village women.
But, occasionally, their tedium was broken by the great events of village life––weddings, births, and bar mitzvahs––even funerals. Of these, weddings involved the greatest celebration. At a wedding, the couple was the center of village life for days on end. After the marriage ceremony, there was feasting, dancing, and revelry, which could last for several days. For the couple, it was "the gladdest week in all their lives". It was a glad week for their friends as well––an event not to be missed!
An important part of the wedding ceremony was the procession from the home of the bride's parents to the couple's new home. As the bridegroom escorted his bride to their new home, their pathway was lit by wedding guests holding aloft flaming torches, probably sticks wrapped with oily rags.
A wedding was a great joy for all the members of the community, but especially so for the young women invited to serve as the bride's attendants. It was an honor to be asked to participate, and those who agreed were expected to do so enthusiastically and responsibly. The young women were expected to be ready, because the bridegroom's coming signaled the beginning of a great and joyous festival––something that promised to be one of the highlights of these young women's lives.
Many of you know what it is like to be prepared for something. If you lived on a farm, you prepared for the winter months. If you have ever gone on a trip, you had to prepare first. Some of you even prepared for the day when you would be here in this nursing home. The most important thing we can do is to prepare for Christ’s return.
Matthew wrote his Gospel a half-century after the resurrection. He struggled with the issue of the delayed Second Coming. Many first-generation Christians believed that Jesus would return in their lifetimes, but by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, many years had passed since the Resurrection, and many Christians were beginning to wonder how long it would take for Jesus to return. In this series of parables, Matthew encouraged the church to maintain its vigil, even though the people were weary of maintaining an "alert status."