“The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.”
A very warm welcome to all to Hearers of the Word for Sunday, 8 November 2020.
We may feel that we need no lesson in patient endurance in these days of pandemic. Nevertheless, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins still has something to teach us. Matthew is hoping to trigger active waiting, not simply the passive variety. We can then ask ourselves what such active waiting might look like.
Over the weekend, papers carried ads from the (Irish) government on how to stay sane (reasonably) during these days of social austerity and privation. Under the general heading “Taking Care of Our Wellbeing & Resilience,” the government gives detailed suggestions about keeping active, keeping in contact, getting creative, eating well and minding your mood. On the same weekend, an editorial in The Irish Times was devoted to Stoicism, of all things, with a native tinge.
As people of faith, we do have sources of life, resilience and compassion. God is with us always and, in that Emmanuel experience, we are supported and set free: to cherish the common good, to act with compassion, to have regard for the truth and, not least, to pray. As followers of the Christ, the anointed one, we have better oil in our lamps than the sheer doggedness of Stoicism!
2. YouTube video
The YouTube video on Matthew 25:1-13 (just 24 mins) goes a little deeper into the nature of this parable and its place in Matthew’s overall scheme. Matthew chooses to place no fewer than seven parables here, as the finale of the discourses in his Gospel. The level of repeated insistence reminds one (this one anyway!) of the closing hammer blows of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
3. An alternative ending
Not everyone is satisfied with the way the parable ends. In The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis offers an intriguing alternative:
“What would you have done, Nathanael,” Jesus asked, pinning his large, bewitching eyes on him, “what would you have done if you had been the bridegroom?” Nathanael was silent. He still was not entirely clear in his mind what he would have done. One moment he thought to send them away. The door had definitely been closed, and that was what the Law required. But the next moment he pitied them and thought to let them in.. . .
“I would have opened the door,” the other answered in a low voice so that the old chief would not hear. He had been unable to oppose the eyes of the son of Mary any longer. “Congratulations, friend Nathanael,” said Jesus happily, and he stretched forth his hand as though blessing him. “This moment, though you are still alive, you enter paradise. The bridegroom did exactly as you said: he called to his servants to open the door. ‘This is a wedding,’ he cried. ‘Let everyone eat, drink and be merry. Open the door for the foolish virgins and wash and refresh their feet, for they have run much.’ ”
Matthew might not be happy with this ending, concerned as he was to tackle any latent or overt complacency.
4. Hearers of the Word (vol. 4) for Advent and Christmas 2020.
The next volume in the series by yours truly is now available for purchase here.
Wishing you all every blessing in the week to come,
Kieran O’Mahony OSA