11 and 12 November 2017 Thirty Second Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily
First Thessalonians 4:13-18
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
Jesús talks about a wedding feast in the Gospel today.
Wedding feasts at the time of Jesús were not “quickie” ceremonies that were judged on the basis of how little time they took from “Here comes the Bride” to “There goes the couple.”
We might think of the “ten virgins” as the “ten bridesmaids” but they actually were the young and unmarried sisters and cousins of the bridegroom.
Their task was to go to the bride’s house and await the arrival of their relative the “bridegroom” so they could accompany him back to the bridegroom’s father’s home where the couple would live after they were married.
If the bridegroom was a man of means and had his own home the “bridal party’s destination would be the bridegroom’s own home where his family would receive the couple, the bride and bridegroom as well at the bride’s family.
I would like to share a cultural and personal note on these customs. A similar set of customs is practiced in the Indigenous Tzutuhil Mayan people in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala where I served for a time.
As today’s story develops the “ten young girls” might have fallen asleep because negotiating the “bride price” or dowry might take as long as a couple of days to be agreed upon. The negotiations, like the match making were not done by the couple to be married but by their parents and other trusted and/or bossy family members.
The wedding feast was also an extended affair. It often could a take week or even more time to properly celebrate the couple’s marriage.
The five wise young girls and the five foolish young girls differed in the fact that the “wise” young girls made “preparation” for the wedding feast.
The five “foolish” young girls went “along for the ride” and may well have been participating out of “duty”, “guilt” or “obligation.”
These “good time” lassies may well have looked for or been open to a better offer if it had come along before they fell asleep.
The “unthinking” as in foolish girls when they awoke “expected” to be “taken care of” by their more thoughtful companions.
The “foolish” young girls may have felt “entitled” to a share of the oil that their sisters and cousins had decided to bring to the vigil. No one, including the bridegroom, knew when the bridegroom might come. The bridegroom hopefully would come sometime before dawn.
The “wise” young girls were practical in their response to their “foolish”, unthinking, “advantage taking” sisters and cousins.
When asked to “share” the thoughtful companions wisely suggested that their unthinking relatives go, in the middle of the night, to buy their own oil.
This may well have been a fool’s errand since there was probably not a 7-11 down at the corner that was open 24-7 to address the needs of the “foolish” young girls.
We might ask, “Why the bridegroom is so mean or rude to his own family by refusing to ope the door?”
The bridegroom is cut of the same cloth as the “wise” young girls.
The foolish, “entitled” girls petition saying;
“Lord, Lord, open the door for us!”
But the bridegroom said in reply.
“Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”
The bridegroom is addressed as “Lord” because he symbolizes, as does this whole parable, Jesús the Christ whose wedding feast celebrates God’s love incarnate in Jesús the Christ.
Jesús the Christ is “wedded” to us.
We are the “cherished, honored, profoundly and eternally “loved one” of the bridegroom Jesús the Christ.
The foolish, “entitled” girls say:
“Lord, Lord, open the door for us!”
One reason the “foolish” young girls are not let in is that they, like the man who came to a feast without the proper festal garment, do not “know” or “get” what this feast is about.
They are invited but are incapable of understanding or comprehending who it is that invites them and what it is that is being offered and celebrated.
Jesus does not expect or accept lazy, halfhearted, foolish and distracted participation in the business of the coming of his Father’s kingdom.
Today’s Gospel ends with a simple sage piece of advice:”
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
“Estén pues, preparados,
porque no saben ni el día ni la hora”.