Wise and foolish
Parable of oil and lamps in the gospel of Mathew
For the feast of Indian saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu (pronouncing the surname or house-name is a good lièguistic exercise), the reading was that of the10 young girls waiting for the bridegroom to come(Mathew 25). The gospel writer Mathew calls the five of them who carried special reserves of oil for their lambs as wise, and the others who didn't have the same as foolish. As the bridegroom came late, the oil of the second group got over, and they didn't get the chance to enter with the bridegroom in his chamber.
Every parable when read literally can raise a few troubling questions. Probably that happens when we use parables beyond its stretchable limits. We can't stretch a “rubber band or spring” indefinitely. I can just think of two questions I had thought of…
- Why ten girls for the bridegroom?
- Why those wise young girls were not ready to share?
When we realise that the message of the parable is not to do with marriages or about commandment to love, but connected to the final judgement, things become clearer. It speaks of the individual judgement that awaits each one of us. Considering it as an individual, unique and singular event is very helpful. My context will surely be an important aspect there.
A question that will be asked today is; if Jesus (or Mathew) would have narrated a parable to convey similar message, will he have used the same one? I think no…. the images, symbolisms etc in a parable are always connected to the time, place and other contextual circumstances. Thus its important for us not to get stuck at some symbolisms (which may be of another age), but to move to deeper message they try to convey.