by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
The first generation of Christians was convinced that Jesus, the Risen Lord, would soon come back fully to life. It didn't happen. Little by little, Jesus' followers had to prepare themselves for a long wait.
It's not hard to imagine the questions that were sparked among them. How do we keep the spirit of our beginnings alive? How do we stay awake and alert until the Lord comes? How do we nurture the faith without letting it burn out? Jesus' story about what happened at a wedding helped them to think of the answer.
Ten young women, friends of the bride, lit their lamps and prepared to welcome the bridegroom. When he comes at sunset to take his bride with him, they will accompany both of them in the procession that will take them to the groom's house where the nuptial banquet will be held.
There's a detail that the narrator wants to highlight from the start. Among the young women, there are five "wise" and provident ones who bring oil with them to fuel their lamps as the flame is burning. The other five are "foolish" and careless ones who forget to bring oil, risking that their lamps will go out.
They soon discover their mistake. The bridegroom is delayed and doesn't come until midnight. When they hear the call to meet him, the wise ones feed the flame of their lamps with oil and accompany the groom until they enter the feast with him. The foolish ones don't know what to do but lament: "Our lamps have gone out." Busy getting oil, they arrive at the banquet when the door is closed. Too late.
Many commentators try to find a hidden meaning in the symbol of "oil". Is Jesus talking about spiritual fervor? Love? Baptismal grace?...Perhaps it's easier to remember His greatest wish: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" Is there anything that can light up our faith more than living contact with Him?
Isn't it foolishness to try to preserve a burned out faith without reviving it through the fire of Jesus? Isn't it a contradiction to believe ourselves Christians without knowing His plan or being attracted to His lifestyle?
We urgently need a new quality in our relationship with Him. To care for everything that helps us center our lives on Him. To not waste energy on what distracts us or takes us away from His gospel. To light up our faith every Sunday pondering His words and being in vital communion with Him. No one can transform our communities like Jesus.