In Palestine during Jesus’ time, the wedding took place in two stages. The first is betrothal. This was held at the residence of the father of the bride, where the bridegroom presented the marriage contract and bride price to the father and the bride. During this stage the bride remained in her father’s house for almost a year and there is no sexual contact between them until the second part of the wedding when the groom would come for her to bring her home with him. This procession of the wedding party to the house of the groom would signal the beginning of the feasting.
This is the context of the gospel story when the five young, unmarried woman, around twelve years old at the bridegroom’s house, who went out with their lamps to welcome bridegroom and the bride and the whole procession and to lighten their path, were considered wise virgins. While the other five who were not ready were considered foolish virgins. Here the focus is not the bride but the virgins and their lamps.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins warns us against unreadiness and promises blessings to the watchful, vigilant and ready. While this short parable does not specifically mention Christ’s return, that is its focus. Those who are ready will be greatly rewarded, and those who are not ready will suffer a great loss of eternal life.
No one knows neither the day nor the hour (see Mt 25:13) when Jesus will return at the end of time as King and Judge both of the living and the dead. And that will be final, definite and absolute. There will be no “last two minutes” as in Basketball. There will be no further time for preparation. There will be no more last chances. Because of this, there are those who will be ready, and those who will not be. The time for preparation is now. Now is the time to procure “oil of good deed.” For Matthew, light is equated with good deeds that are visible to others and that lead to the praise of the heavenly Father (Mt 7:16). “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven (Mt. 5:16). “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown him by your service to his holy people. Our desire is that each of you show the same zeal till the end, fully assured of that for which you hope” (Hebrews 6:10).
I, therefore, exhort you with this words of St. John of God: “Labour without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the time.”