This weeks gospel reading (Matt 25:1-13) brings us to the parable of the 10 bridesmaids. 5 are wise, and 5 are foolish. I know a lot of people who are like the wise bridesmaids. They seem to always ready with whatever is needed and never find themselves unprepared, they even seem to have extra. They carry those things around with them “because you never know”.
Those are the kind of people I like to have around, the kind I can ask for a Tylenol, or Tums, or a pair of scissors….whatever I might find myself needing in the moment they will have ready. Because as much as I want to identify with the wise bridesmaids being prepared in any situation, I often find myself more like the foolish bridesmaid who isn’t quite prepared enough.
An example comes to mind as I recently wrote a mid-term exam for a course I am taking. Though it took me a long time, and though I often find myself behind where I would like to be (there is no actual set schedule, it’s distance education), I did all the readings that I was to do and listened to all of the lectures through the school website. I took notes of things that I thought were important and spent the last week and a half making sure I memorized all unfamiliar terms, or concepts of the subject matter. I was as prepared as I have ever been for an exam (despite popular belief about my study habits).
The thing about it though is no matter how prepared I was there were still questions on the exam for which I was not prepared. I passed the exam well enough, but I did not get 100%.
There are often times in life where I have prepared for something, yet there will be that little thing that I have forgotten, that piece that takes me by complete surprise even though I did my best to be ready. So I feel for the foolish bridesmaids who are shut out of the party, because if I am honest, I would be in that group.
I think our tendency can be when we read this parable, to scorn the foolish bridesmaids, after all they were unprepared and they are simply getting what they deserved.
The thing about it is, however, that if we read the story carefully we see that all of the bridesmaids, wise and foolish, fell asleep as they awaited the bridegroom, moreover, these foolish bridesmaids were indeed prepared for the wedding they just weren’t prepared for the delay. Yet they seem to be treated mercilessly because they were not over prepared.
So what to make of this? Personally, I’m not overly sure to be honest. Some will focus on the apocalyptic tones of the text, but in doing so we have to remember the context of the Matthean readers. They were expecting Jesus return just about any day at first and as time went on I imagine that it got hard to wait. Now over 2000 years later we are still waiting and waiting is sometimes hard.
Maybe the text means that while we wait we make the most of life here, live it to the full and be prepared in every circumstance to welcome the bridegroom. He will come.