Homily for the thirty-second Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 25:1-13
 
 
by
 
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 
 
" Jesus said: «Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For 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, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.» "
 
 
 
Homily:
 
 
" Jesus said: «Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For 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, they all slumbered and slept.» "
 
As was the case last week, today's gospel passage places us two or three days before the Passion of the Lord. Jesus knows all that he will suffer, freely, for the sins of mankind, for our sins, and, in particular, he cannot avoid thinking, already, about the terrible agony he will experience, which will cause him to sweat blood, and during which he will be all alone, all alone... Of course, Peter, James and John will not be far away, but... they sleep! They sleep, just like the ten maidens of the parable: "As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept."
 
What a curious thing, this sleep we all undergo... This sleep that sometimes takes a form that is mystical, and I would even say mysterious, such as when God created Eve, taken from the side of Adam, who was asleep: "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman." (Gen. 2:21-22)
 
Adam's sleep already prefigured the sleep of death, which later would be that of the new Adam: Christ. Jesus was hung on the wood of the cross, dead, as if he were asleep. Suddenly, a soldier pierced his side, just as God opened Adam's side. And Saint John saw, flowing from his side, blood and water, the sign of the Church, the Bride of Christ. And when Adam awoke, he saw Eve and said: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Gen. 2:23)
 
The Passion of the Lord is very much present in this parable. For the Lord will soon die, after having suffered much. And, alas, relatively few men and women will reap the fruits of his sacrifice, the others being negligent and foolish, fools for all that is not God... For the parable tells the story of ten maidens, of whom five were wise and five were foolish. Saint Jerome, in his beautiful Latin, writes: "Quinque autem ex eis erant fatuae, et quinque prudentes." (Mt. 25:2) And this indicates to us that, as Saint Thomas Aquinas understood very well, all of man's life on earth involves the virtue of prudence!
 
Prudence consists in governing all our actions according to a just mean: we must not desire too greatly what we love, and we must desire sufficiently what we do not love. When we love something that is not God, we should not love it too much. When we do not love something, we should endeavor to love it enough. To do otherwise is to lack the virtue of prudence, and to fall into various faults, more or less numerous, more or less grave...
 
" «But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.» "
 
The ten maidens, or the ten virgins, as Saint Jerome calls them, each had taken oil to fuel their lamp during the night. But five of them did not take enough: they had incorrectly estimated the length of time that they would have to wait for the bridegroom! What does this mean? Simply that half the maidens did not think that they would have to wait for the bridegroom for their entire lives, until the very end.
 
It is true that it is difficult, or impossible, to estimate the quantity of oil necessary to keep a lamp lit as we await the bridegroom for an unknown length of time! For if we must wait for the bridegroom until the end of our life, and if we do not know the hour when our life will end, we cannot estimate the amount of oil necessary...
 
However, it is possible to solve this problem, since the five prudent virgins succeeded in doing so. How? Simply by assuming that our life will never end. In other words, by thinking of eternity and by hoping that God will grant us the grace, in his mercy, of welcoming us into his Paradise, on the day of the final Resurrection!
 
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary - Have you not yet understood that we were speaking of Her when we evoked the wise virgins? - teach us prudence in all things!
 

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