But at midnight, a cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here, come out and meet him!‘ All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.‘ The sensible ones answered, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.‘
When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out buying oil, but those who were ready went with him into the wedding feast, and the doors were shut.
Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!‘ But he answered, ‘Truly I do not know you.‘
So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
During the time of Jesus a wedding was a very important community event. It was a celebration that usually lasted a few days, the climax of which was the arrival of the groom at the bride‘s house where a group of bridesmaids joyfully welcomed him. There were times when the groom mischievously delayed his arrival to catch them by surprise.
Jesus made use of this image to admonish people about the need for constant vigilance and to be always ready for his coming at the end of time. Some people will be caught off guard because they never take it seriously. In the Gospel, the bridegroom‘s delay gives the foolish bridesmaids the occasion to do something but they fail to take the opportunity. They give in to complacency, wasting their time, talents, gifts and opportunities given them by the Lord. As a result they lose the chance to enter the eternal banquet in the kingdom.
The oil which lighted the lamps of the bridesmaids is sometimes taken to be symbolic of the acts of kindness, love and mercy that believers accomplish as a manifestation of their active and dynamic faith. It is likewise accepted as symbolic of the virtues that a believer develops and lives by. This parable can be read along the Parable of the Last Judgment (Mat 25:31-46) where all will be judged according to the good deeds that we did or failed to do.