The Lord Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe this, the seventh article of the Christian Creed. The parable of the Ten Virgins, which we will hear at Holy Mass tomorrow, helps us to meditate on this article of faith. In the parable, the arrival of the bridegroom at the wedding represents the second coming of Christ. The groom’s arrival represents the final judgment and the consummation of all things. [Spanish]
The virgins in the parable represent all of us who believe in the Creed. The ceremony of an ancient Palestinian wedding involved a torch-lit procession, leading the groom to the couple’s new home. The parable centers around one item in this procession: the oil needed to make the processional torches burn.
The ten young ladies came to the house, to celebrate the marriage of their friends. All ten looked forward to a delightful feast, a party that would last for days. Maybe the young women had thoughts in their minds like, “I will see young Mr. Eligible and Handsome So-and-so at this party!”
These ten had been chosen to participate in the solemn joy by doing a specific sacred office. They were to illuminate the dark night in front of the bridegroom as he made his final steps to the house. Then the feast could begin.
The bridegroom took his time in coming. Maybe his camel had a bum leg. The virgins waited for hours for word that the groom had reached the edge of town. The young ladies got sleepy and dozed off. It was late. No foolishness in any of this.
Among those dozing ten ladies, however, there were two distinct groups. The five members of the first group had thought ahead. They anticipated what would happen when the word came to go out into the night to meet the groom.
At that moment, with no time to spare, each torch-bearer would have to pour a little flagon of oil into her torch, as someone came down the line with a taper to light all the torches. These torches held only enough oil to burn for a half-hour or so—just long enough to escort the groom from the edge of town to the house.
As the ladies dozed, the first group slept in peace. They had little flagons of oil in their pockets. They were ready. They were wise.
Some of you know how my brother and I got to go to Super Bowl XXII, thirty-three years ago. We were goofy teenagers, to be sure, but not altogether foolish. A business associate of my father had given him two real Super Bowl tickets. My father gave them to us. If my brother and I had flown to San Diego and caught the bus to Jack Murphy Stadium, without any tickets in our pockets, that would have been, as the Lord put it, foolish.
That, however, is basically what the other five young ladies did. They came to the Super Bowl with the right jersey on, with their favorite player’s number, and with a placard that read, “Go, Doug Williams!” or “We love the Hogs!” But they never stopped to ask themselves, “How will we get into the stadium?”
The time to light the torches came, and the five fools only then thought to themselves, “Wait. I guess these things require some kind of fuel?”
Which brings us to the decisive question: In the Lord’s parable, what does the oil for the torches represent?
The Lord Jesus Christ will come again to judge. At that moment, which could come anytime, what must we have? What is the ‘ticket’ that we need, to enter the stadium of heaven, where the Washington Redskins will reign as Super Bowl Champions forever?
Seriously: What will make our torches burn, to welcome Christ when He comes? What is the oil we will need then, to participate in the final procession into the Kingdom of God?
I think the answer is so simple, yet so hard to achieve, that we might make this more complicated than we have to. What each of us needs is: a clear conscience.
When Jesus comes, He needs to find us with hearts fundamentally at peace. Since all of us have sinned, that means the oil is Divine Mercy. The tender love of the Savior’s Heart, living inside mine. That alone gives a sinner peace. And it makes me a just and honest person. It makes me into the kind of companion that can forgive a fellow sinner and start over in peace.
Then we can go in and enjoy the wedding.