Most Christians know well the story of the ten virgins that Jesus told:
Ten young women wait outside for the bridegroom to show up and the wedding party to start. He’s late. It’s getting dark. The women doze off. Finally, at midnight, here he is, but only five of the women have oil for their lamps to lead him to the feast. The other five had to run to get some, and, by the time they return, the door to the feast is locked.
The punchline is the final sentence in which Jesus tells his disciples: “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Keeping our eyes open
Don’t sleep away your life.
Our job as human beings is to keep our eyes open to life and to other people. Our task is to show up, to be alert, to take in the world and the reality of existence in all its fullness — in all its pain and joy — and to be present to those around us. To see those around us, really see them. To listen to them with our full attention, to really hear them. And to share with them our own struggles and delights.
That’s what the story of the ten virgins is about.
It was simple enough to remember to bring the needed oil. Five did, and five didn’t. The message here is that we can’t sit back and expect God to spoon-feed us.
“Sitting by the gate”
That’s also the message in the Book of Wisdom.
Wisdom — the insight into how to live a full and holy life — is portrayed as a woman, “resplendent and unfading,” who is anxious to help. “Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”
God’s Wisdom is there at the gate for each of us. All we have to do is to seek her out.
Which is another way of saying: Stay awake!
Patrick T. Reardon