This Sunday’s Readings
Wisdom will come to those who seek it.
Our souls are thirsting for God.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
(shorter form: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
God will raise all those who have died.
Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, teaching his disciples the importance of being prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
Background on the Gospel Reading
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about what it means to be prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. This week’s reading follows a series of warnings and predictions by Jesus about the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus wants his disciples to understand that the exact day and time cannot be predicted. He teaches the disciples that they must remain vigilant so that they will not be caught unprepared.
When thinking about the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, it is important to consider the first-century wedding traditions of Palestine. Scholars tell us that it was the custom of the day for young maidens—friends and family members of the bride—to meet the bridegroom when he came to bring his bride to her new home.
As with many of Jesus’ parables, several levels of interpretation are possible. In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus warn against following the example of the Pharisees and scribes. If read in the context of early Christianity’s struggle to define itself against Pharisaic Judaism, this parable is a continuing critique of Judaism. It suggests that the Jewish leaders were like the foolish virgins, unprepared to meet Jesus, the bridegroom of Israel.
In the chapter preceding this parable, however, Jesus warns about the destruction of Jerusalem, the tribulation of the end times, and the coming of the Son of Man. When read in this context, today’s parable is a warning to the Christian community to remain vigilant and prepared to receive Jesus, the Son of Man who will return at the end of time. This interpretation is supported by the reference to the delay of the bridegroom. The Christian community for whom Matthew wrote this Gospel was coming to terms with the realization that the promise of Jesus’ return would not be fulfilled within their lifetimes. The question remains for us to ask ourselves, Are we ready to receive Jesus? Will we be prepared to receive him?