Summary: Fulfillment of life comes not from the horizon outside, rather it grows within us through our life in partnership with God...
Matthew 25.1-13 is a parable that compares the christian life to a virgin who waits for the coming of the bridegroom with her lamp lit as well as with plenty of reserve of oil in order to add festivity to the wedding feast. The imageries of the wedding feast, the bridegroom, the reserve of oil or its lack and their interplay summarise most powerfully the way a christian brings her or his life to its consummation or the way one does not.
Nuptial imagery was applied by the rabbis to show the relationship between God and his people. The wedding feast was an imagery for the culmination of the kingdom of God. The bridegroom stood for Christ. Oil represented the good works of the disciples who waited for the moment of salvation that would come from God. They believed that this moment was near and that salvation would be offered to those who do works of charity and helpfullness to build up a beautiful community of people centred around God.
In this light, the parable speaks of two groups of people. One group consists of those christians who waited for the "parousia" [the coming of the kingdom of God] with their works of love, mercy and reconciliation, but lost their enthusiasm and hope in the face of an unexpected delay of it and turned back to their old way of life. The second group consisted of those christians who held fast to their faith and continued with their newly embraced form of life, who later received the gift of the presence of God in their lives from their experience of happiness, peace and harmony with whom they lived and related.
There is the story of what a village priest did to his parishioners. Though he was an ideal pastor to his people, when they did not take his instructions on christian life seriously, he played a trick on them. He told them that God himself was coming to their community to increase the joy and peace in their life. They believed it for some time and lived a good life to give a good impression to God when He arrived, but slowly they grew tired of waiting and went back to their old way of life. The priest told them much later that the devil was arriving shortly to destroy their lives and property. They got themselves united in order to fight the devil. In order to preserve this unity, they remained steadfast in mutual help, generosity and neighbourliness. They did this out of fear, and it has nothing to do with our religion, which is based on love. But the story reveals the lack of human perseverence in relation to doing good.
The monsters of boredom and shadows of weariness overpower us in the face of delays in expected results. The group of people who got wearied of their waiting is named foolish because they ignored God’s promise of a full-life-experience, that was to come. In those who remained steadfast to their faith a heavenly joy grew up even without their knowing, which is in fact the experience of the Kingdom of God. It does not come from outside. It grows from within us. God has planted His Word in us already in baptism. God does not bring us the culmination of our life from a farther horizon. It grows within us as we practise His Word in our relation with one another. That is given not to those who grow weary, but to those who remain steadfast in doing good.
Today we live in a world of technology where many complicated functions are performed with magnificent results merely at the touch of a button. We are mistaken, if we expect similar results in our relationship with one another. In technology we deal only with prgrammed components of matter. But free, conscious and intelligent human beings live in our neighbours. They have their own needs and limitations like or different from ours. Our interaction with them may not yield expected results. Often we are disappointed. We make our joy or sorrow dependent on what others do to us, if we expect them to do good to us and make us happy. But wisdom of the gospel teaches us that joy wells up within us, when we continuously do good to others. Faith and hope are the keys. Loss of interest and enthusiasm has roots in our false expectations. Realistic expectations contribute to increasing our interest and enthusiasm. Realistic expectations presuppose a realistic understanding of the reality of our life.
If we want to be like the wise virgins with plenty of reserve of oil and turn our daily life into heavenly festivities with God and one another, we wait not for the arrival of joy from God or others from the farther horizon, rather continue to do good to others and discover and experience a divine joy that wells up within us, even in the absence of external results or recognition or appreciation. When we do that, we become the wise people of the gospel and our life becomes a parable for others.