Parable Of The Ten Bridesmaids
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
My dear encountered couples:
The parable of the ten bridesmaids is to teach us to be ever ready to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. For each of us personally, that means, at the end of our lives. We are always supposed to be ready for Christ when he comes for us to accompany him to the wedding feast in heaven. We certainly don’t want to find ourselves on the wrong side of the door when it closes. And how do we make sure that doesn’t happen? By living wise lives, not foolish ones! Wise according to the ways of heaven, not wise according to the ways of the world.
Without going into the customs of the Jewish people in regard to marriage preparations and the wedding day itself, I would like to focus more on the groom himself, and his bride. I would like to talk about any two people anywhere who are contemplating marriage – marriage to each other. Those who might enter marriage wisely, those who might enter foolishly.
Was this groom Jesus talked about wise or foolish? Was he ready for marriage? Did he have a job? A job that would pay enough to support a wife and any possible children? Did he have a house or an apartment prepared for them to move into? I hope so. If he did, he was wise like the bridesmaids who brought along extra oil. He would be showing he was looking beyond the wedding day to at least some of the actual realities of life. But if he planned to play it by ear, to put off doing anything about money and a job and a place to live until later on, until after the wedding day, then he was very foolish. Like the five foolish bridesmaids, it would be better for him to forget about the wedding, to forget about marriage. He’d be better off to stay home, drink his beer, and watch football on the tube.
Remember: A marriage entered into without preparing for the days of real living after the wedding day is like buying a car without any money for gas.
I wonder how the marriage turned out. Was it one of growth? Or did it lead to stagnation, maybe boredom, and eventually divorce? What do I mean by that? I mean that to have a successful marriage requires even more than a place to live, a job and money. It requires that the two people help each other improve and grow.
The husband and wife are to look for and recognize each other’s hidden, good qualities and nurture them. They are to promote the development of those qualities in each other. They are to see to it that neither of them stops learning and improving in mind, character, and body. Marriage is a commitment of two people to devote their lives to the growth and improvement of one another. The “Me-First” attitude has no place in marriage. Self-fulfillment, with the accent on self, has no room in marriage. “Me – first, last, and always” - ruins a marriage. The emphasis is to be put on us, the considerations must always include us. Marriage is for two people who are interested in the mutual development of both.
I am not talking about reforming your spouse. I am not talking about changing your spouse into what you might like him or her to be. I’m talking about discovering the hidden, good qualities God has put in your spouse, and giving him or her sufficient space and encouragement to develop those qualities. Husbands and wives need both space and encouragement just like single people do in order to be themselves, in order to become the people God intends them to become.
Husbands and wives need to have enough faith in one another so that they allow each other to say what they want to say, to show emotionally what they want to express. They have to trust one another before either will feel free to change and grow. Some women complain that their husbands are no longer like the man they married; some husbands wonder what happened to the girl (woman) that came walking to them down the aisle. They say they seem like different people; they no longer know one another.
Let me tell you this. No one is to remain the same. We are all to change, improve, and grow in every good way possible. To be kept the same; to stay the same is a sin. Marriage is a full commitment between two people who have enough faith and trust in one another to allow the other one to gradually develop into a person that someday can be a saint.
For most of us that means vast changes must take place. For many of us those changes are to take place in a marriage relationship. There are many ways to help these changes take place. Let me suggest one that you might find both successful and enjoyable. It can help make you aware of the good your spouse is doing; it can help you learn that the good you do is noticed and appreciated by at least one other person. Give an award to the one who shows greater kindness and responsibility during a specified period of time.
For instance: Each evening at dinner, award the use of the favorite coffee mug, the crystal goblet, or the silver napkin ring to the spouse who has shown greater kindness and responsibility by performing a particularly good act that day. It can be given for completing a project ahead of time, for treating an irritable person with patience and concern, for helping someone when you didn’t have to, for not letting a domineering person bully you. The two of you can discuss and decide who should get the award.
What this does is help you both see the good in each other, it gives praise when praise is due; it encourages the spouses to try harder to develop into two responsible, caring, and strong people.
Preparing for marriage like that is wise. Not giving it serious thought is foolish. The wise bridesmaids went into the wedding with the groom. The foolish ones found themselves on the wrong side of the door after it was closed. They were not ready for that wedding. And they were not ready for one of their own. Are you?