Could you recall any foolish thing you did recently for which you can boldly accept your foolishness? I could remember running out of gas one rainy evening as I was returning from a funeral. Though I saw a gas station, I was, however, hoping to stop at the next one, but none showed up until my car came to a dead stop. After calling for roadside assistance (AAA), a towing truck lifted me and my car to the next gas station twenty-five minutes away. I felt foolish because I made the wrong choice.
I have come to understand and accept lately that life is a field of choice-making, and we become as good or as bad as our choices. In the Gospel Reading from Matthew (25:1-13), our Lord Jesus continues to teach about the kingdom of God with another parable. He talked about ten virgins waiting for the arrival of an unnamed bridegroom.
Typical of most parables, Jesus makes a distinction. Here the contrast is between five of the virgins who were wise and the rest five who were foolish. Note that this distinction lies in the choices they made before coming to the ceremony. The wise ones made the right choice by bringing extra oil in their flasks for their lamps, not knowing how long they would wait. The other five were foolish because, though they had burning lamps, they thought they had enough oil that would last the whole time
The bridegroom arrived late; in fact, they were all asleep when he came, and quickly, they started trimming their lamps to enter the wedding feast. Naturally, all their lamps were running out of oil and needed topping up.
Those who had extra oil added some to their lamps but could not share with the others who did not come with extra oil when they asked them. They instead advised them to go to the local sellers to buy. They went, but before they could return, the marriage banquet started, and the door was shut. Their persistent knocking and calling could not change the bridegroom’s decision, who made it clear that he does not know them. The door closed, and the case closed!
Foolishness Equals Wrong Decision
The opening story shows me deciding to get gas from an imaginary station while driving past a real one, and that was a wrong decision, which could be called foolish. The Book of Psalms (14:1: 53:1) tells that the fool said in his heart, “there is no God.” Here we understand that the most foolish things we do start from our defective thought patterns that eventually move us to make wrong actions
In the parable, the five foolish virgins thought that flasks of oil would be needless, and that was the foreground of their decision to come without additional provision. On the other hand, the rest five virgins took their flasks of oil, leveraging their wise choices.
The Flask of Oil
The turning point of the narrative is undeniably the “flask of oil.” The product sets the standard between the wise and the foolish virgins. On a deeper level of thinking, we need to understand the meaning of the flask of oil.
As used among the Jews, the oil flask appears to be a jar-like that could contain less than a litter. The oil comes from beaten olive, which keeps a lamp burning continuously (Exo. 27:20; Lev. 24:2). The lamp itself is a spherical-like pottery object with an outlet for a wick and another opening for the oil.
From the narrative, we understand that the ten virgins came as light-bearers for the wedding feast. That explains their invitation to the wedding. They needed to make sure that each had her lamps burning, and the “policy” did not permit the sharing of oil. Without their burning lamps, the virgins were useless in the wedding feast.
What do you think made the five foolish virgins leave their flasks of oil behind? The answer is presumption. The attitude of presumption is one of the deceptions of the mind that leads to bad choices. In their minds, they could be thinking that the others would bring enough oil, and they could share or that the bridegroom may not take much time before he shows up. The attitude of presumption is often a bad transaction!
Keeping in mind that our Lord Jesus Christ was giving a kingdom parable, we understand here that the flask of oil represents those virtues that would help us attain the kingdom of heaven. We cannot share them with anyone. It is all about your faith, your hope, and your love. St. Paul would call them the three things that would endure (1 Cor.13:13).
We also remember that the narrative is about virgins, and one would think that the designation alone would help them go into the wedding dinner when they returned from buying the oil. Here we learn that virginity without virtue is vanity.
It is not enough to be a Christian by name and identity; that would be foolishness. There would be a need for us to have the “essential oils” that would keep aflame our Christian life. As we march into a new week, let us try to re-examine our priorities, discard presumption, do the needful now, and run with those needful virtues that would lead us to God’s eternal kingdom.
God bless you.