Today’s parable is about preparing for our individual and irrevocable particular judgment at death and it is always a Bring Your Own Oil affair—BYOO.
The inevitable sleep of death overtook all ten of them, and our First Reading describes this as wisdom; seeing time as it truly is – the threshold of eternity.
The five foolish virgins show us that you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp. The oil is the Holy Spirit. John 14:17 speaks of, “He dwelleth in you.” Sanctifying grace in the soul is also called Charity.
A lamp is trimmed when the wick is turned either up or down to regulate the amount of flame. If a lamp is empty of oil, it does not matter how much one trims it—the lamp will go out when the oil is consumed.
The Second Reading speaks about the preparedness of those who are alive at the Second Coming of Christ.
The phrase, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with [the saints] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” refers to believers in the state of grace living on earth when Christ returns; they will be caught up or raptured to join the saints as they ascend to glory. The Latin verb here used, rapiemur, means “the rapture.” Perhaps their bodies will be instantly glorified and made immortal.1
Some Protestants craft a complicated doctrine of the Rapture from this same reading where they mistakenly believe that true Christians will be raptured up and the billions left behind will be slaughtered by in the tribulation. John Nelson Darby was the co-founder of the Plymouth Brethren. Darby invented “The Rapture” by stitching together this text from 1 Thessalonians and another from 1 Corinthians, and Matthew 24:40 which speaks of: “one taken, and one is left.” They have bumper-stickers that say, “In case of rapture this vehicle will be unmanned.”
The Church has never believed in a rapture doctrine about some being raptured up while those left behind will be slaughtered in a tribulation. In fact, in a “parallel text in Luke 17:37, where the apostles ask Jesus, “Where [will they be taken] Lord? And Jesus responds, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” That does not sound like heaven.”2 Other Catholic scholars assert that “Taken…left” means that “the former probably means taken into the kingdom; the latter, [who are left behind] are left for destruction,” to mean that “people in the same situation will be dealt with in opposite ways. In this context, the discrimination between them will be based on their readiness for the coming of the Son of Man.”3 That is the same message in our Gospel today on the ten virgins.
The rhetorical flourish in the Requiem Mass ends with: “Therefore, console one another with these words.”
The First Reading, from Wisdom 6:15, promises that you can have a peaceful outlook, “whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; you will soon find peace of mind.”
Our Gospel says, “Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.”
There is a “door” that leads to heaven. It is the door of God’s grace, held open by the bloody cross of Jesus Christ.
Today the door is still open, but not forever. Either you go through the door by faith, and baptism and staying in the state of grace, which is staying saved, or you will never go through at all.
1. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Edition, p. 377
2. Tim Staples, Catholic Answers Magazine, Jan-Feb 2023, pg. 45.
3. [Matthew 24:40–41 and Lk 17:34–35] from the footnotes of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bible online.