Bible Cross-References
by Jason
Revelation 19:7-9 – The bride is ready and clothed with fine linen , bright and pure.
Ephesians 5:25-27 – That He might present the church to Himself without blemish or wrinkle.
2 Corinthians 11:2 – To present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Ephesians 6:18 – Keep alert with all perseverance.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-19 – The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. Do not sleep as others do.
Matthew 24:44 – The Son of Man is coming at an hour which you do not expect.
Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
1 John 3:3 – Everyone who hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.

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Inductive Bible Study

Lector Prep

by Greg Warnusz
Lector's Notes

First Reading

Before preparing your oral interpretation, read the passage to yourself again with the above interpretation in mind. Take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of the author’s tactic. Then resolve to proclaim it in a way that makes your listeners want wisdom as much as man has always wanted woman.Note that the word “wisdom” appears only two times in the text. So listeners who let their minds wander even a moment, then come back to attention, will be puzzled by the pronouns in your proclamation. “Who is this ‘she’ the lector talking about?” they’ll ask themselves. “Mary? Joan of Arc? The Little Flower? I’m missing something here.” Well, give them a hint by emphasizing the word “wisdom” at both opportunities.

Second Reading

Be sure to read with plenty of contrasting tones of voice, to help the listeners distinguish what Paul promises to those already dead and what lies in store for those still living. Remember that your listeners probably don’t know what you just read; even though they sing every Sunday, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again,” that hope is unlikely to inform their hearing of the reading. So give them a little help. For more on how the Thessalonians prepared for Jesus’ early return, see the passage next Sunday, the last before the feast of Christ the King. Today’s passage, by the way, is the source of the teaching about “the Rapture,” so popular in some Christian circles and the premise of the “Left Behind” novels. The Greek expression translated “[we] will be caught up” is, in the Latin Vulgate, “rapiemur.” That verb’s past participle is “raptus.” Of course, Rapture-theory proponents overlook the fact that Paul eventually stopped hoping for Jesus’ quick return. By the time the Apostle wrote Romans, he believed the world’s Jews would become Christians before the Lord would return.

Visit LectorPrep.org to read about the historical situation, and a theological reflection for each reading.
Intro to Readings

First Reading

About 100 years before Jesus, for Jews living among hostile pagans, a sage wrote a book praising the wisdom of their faithful ancestors. In this passage he personifies that wisdom as someone whom they would find very attractive.

Second Reading

For several years, the earliest Christians expected Jesus soon to return in glory and bring history to its climax. When some Christian friends died before Jesus came back, they wondered how it would all work out. Saint Paul gives his answer in this, from the earliest of his letters.

Gospel

Saint Matthew’s community lived in a time of uncertainty and turmoil. Everything seemed possible. They remembered a saying of Jesus and applied it to the need to be prepared.

Fr. Fleming
Fr. Hawkswell
Fr. Hoisington
Fr. Kavanaugh, SJ
Fr. Ligato
Msgr. Pellegrino
Fr. Smiga
Fr. John Thornhill, sm
Jamie Waters
and more


Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week


Faith Sharing
Discussion
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; — Wisdom 6:15

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Responsorial Psalm

I will remember you upon my couch, and through the night-watches I will meditate on you: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.— Psalm 63:7-8

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Second Reading

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:16

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Gospel

‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." — Matthew 25:11-13

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commentary

For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; — Wisdom 6:15

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First Reading

Wisdom 6:12-16

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Right relationship with God

FIRST READING—The Book of Wisdom is one of the seven books of the Old Testament and only found in Catholic Bibles. It was written about 100 BC.Today’s reading describes how accessible wisdom is to all who seek her.“ She is readily perceived by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.” For the Wisdom author, true wisdom is right relationship with God. Those who find wisdom will be free of worry. They will not worry over the coming of the Lord because they live in a spirit of vigilance. Those who do not seek wisdom will remain foolish and be filled with worry about many things.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Wisdom is found by those who look for it

FIRST READING—The Book of Wisdom is not generally recognized as Scripture in most Protestant editions of the Bible. Today, some editions do contain this and other “Apocryphal Books” in an appendix. It was not originally written in Hebrew but was to befound in the Greek version of the Jewish Bible called the Septuagint (LXX), the Bible used by the early Christian communities and by the Gospel writers.

The Book of Wisdom was most likely writtenjust before the birth of Jesus by a teacher of Jewish philosophy who wrote for Greek-speaking Jews. In the first section (1:1 -6:21), the author concludes his claim that wisdom will obtain eternal life for those who possess it. So, he ends this passage by asserting that all should seek this great gift. Because of its divine origin, wisdom is personified and has come to represent God. Wisdom initiates the search by which God is found by those who seek God.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The signs of the times

FIRST READING—The Book of Wisdom was written relatively close to the time of Jesus; scholars date it after 30 B.C.E., with the possibility that it could have even been written in Jesus’ own days.  That makes it roughly contemporary with Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher who tried to harmonize the Jewish traditions with Greek wisdom. Like other authors of scriptural texts who gave themselves famous pseudonyms, the author of the Book of Wisdom subtly assumed the identity of Solomon as a way of letting people know what kind of wisdom they would find in the book.

Our selection comes from the conclusion of the first part of the book and is an exhortation to seek wisdom for all the good she offers those who love her. The author’s particular concern was to help Jewish people appreciate the wisdom of their tradition as they adjusted to being in the midst of the Greek culture. Thus, the book can serve to guide any believers who seek to reframe their faith as cultures change.

Following Wisdom’s lead we can take on the task of mining the wealth the tradition offers in response to new challenges. We can approach today’s reading as a guide for those who seek to understand God’s ways in the signs of the times.

The reading opens with a promise that wisdom is unfading, which in the philosophy of the day meant that wisdom is eternal. That promises that even as times and cultures change, the core of God’s offer to humanity retains its potential — no matter the language or context in which it is expressed.

The next phrase adds to that promise by saying that Wisdom is available to anyone who seeks her. As Moses told the people, God’s ways are “not too wondrous or remote … but very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Wisdom is readily available to the willing.

Both the Book of Wisdom and Deuteronomy suggest that Wisdom is a personification of God’s own Spirit reaching out and dwelling within us. This is the Spirit who hastens to make herself known, who is readily perceived and who will not disappoint. Deuteronomy states specifically what the Book of Wisdom will make explicit later: The purpose of wisdom is to lead one to act aright. As “Solomon” prays later in this book, “Send her forth … that she may be with me and work with me … Thus my deeds will be acceptable” (Wisdom 9:10-12).

Following Solomon’s lead, we understand that Wisdom leads to integrity. Wisdom is easily perceived because all the world can recognize people who act with integrity, those whose actions transform their dogmas into concrete behavior. The person who has sought the ways of God stands out in the crowd.

The search for Wisdom offers a trajectory for life, a reciprocal and ongoing exchange with God. A person may seek Wisdom and Wisdom seeks people who are worthy of her. Each person must keep vigil, always growing, but Wisdom waits eagerly for every seeker. For those who seek, Wisdom is at the gate, at the door, always ready to accompany her lovers in whatever will come their way.  Wisdom will lead us through the changing times.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentaries

Sunday Readingscommentary

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Exhortation to Seek Wisdom

In the First Reading, we are urged to seek the Wisdom of God that guides us in making right decisions on our journeys to eternal salvation.  Human beings can participate in the wisdom and goodness of God.  He gives His human children control through the gift of free-will over their acts.  Wisdom gives them the ability to govern themselves in doing what is right and good according to moral law that is the work of divine Wisdom. Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:1-2), and it is Jesus Christ who is the perfection of God’s Divine Wisdom. Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).

Exploring the Text

God's truth is wisdom

God’s truth is wisdom, the moral law is the work of wisdom, and God gives man the choice of participating in His wisdom that is a divine gift.  It is by Divine Wisdom that God commands the whole created order and governs the lives of men and nations.  He alone made the heavens and the earth, and only He can impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to Himself.  It is God’s desire to allow His creatures to share in His being, wisdom, and goodness.  Scripture tells us, O LORD, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all (Ps 104:24).  It is because God creates through wisdom that His creation is ordered: You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight (Wis 11:20).  Human beings can participate in the wisdom and goodness of God.  He gives His human children control through the gift of free will over their acts and the ability to govern themselves in doing what is right and good according to moral law that is the work of divine Wisdom. Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:1-2), and it is Jesus Christ who is the perfection of God’s Divine Wisdom, as St. Paul writes, Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
 SOURCE: Wisdom: The intentional Conspicuousness of Present Good in the World Today
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I will remember you upon my couch, and through the night-watches I will meditate on you: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.— Psalm 63:7-8

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

I love you, Lord, my strength

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm is a beautiful song of one seeking a relationship with Divine Wisdom. Having this relationship is “greater than life” which reminds us that life without God and his love is no life at all.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

Commentary

Life Recovery Bible

God is worthy of all our praise

The more difficult our life is and the more severe the temptations we face, the more important God becomes to us. When we are at our weakest, God’s power takes on added significance for us. We begin to discover how precious his compassionate care toward us really is. He is worthy of all our praise, for only he can satisfy our deepest longings.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Sunday Readingscommentary and homily help

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Seeking the Lord

In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear the heartfelt longing for God’s divine presence from the psalmist who defines what is meaningful in his life in terms of his relationship with his Lord. He says he longs for the life-giving presence of the Lord in his life in the same way that water refreshes the earth and sustains life. He expresses his gratitude for the Lord’s guidance, and he cherishes the closeness of his relationship with the Lord in the liturgy of worship.

Exploring the Text

David's relationship with God

This psalm, attributed to David when he was an outlaw in the wilderness of Judah (1 Sam 22-24), expresses the fervent desire for a close relationship with the Lord.  He says he longs for the life-giving presence of the Lord in his life in the same way that water refreshes the earth and sustains life.  In verses 2-5, he recalls the times he spent in God’s divine Presence in liturgical worship.  His desire for God in his present condition is intensified by his previous experience of meeting God in the Sanctuary.  He says nothing can compare with that experience, not even life itself (verses 2-3).  He praises God and invokes the Divine Name when he lifts his hands in prayer to the Lord who satisfies his soul (verses 4-6).  He tells God how he mediates on Him and his relationship with God during the night (verses 6-8).  He professes God as his help, and despite his troubles, he is grateful and joyous for God’s divine protection.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
An example for all of us

The psalmist’s heart-felt longing for God, his gratitude for the Lord’s guidance, and how he cherished his relationship with the Lord expressed in the liturgy of worship is an example for all of us. The word “love” is more than a feeling. In the deepest expression of the word, it is a verb requiring action. David loved the Lord with all his heart and his words and actions reflected that love. We should follow his example in our lives with souls that thirst for the constant presence of the Lord, our help and our joy.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Kevin and Tiffany Dickinson of Fayetteville, Arkansas, watch a livestream Mass with their children celebrated by Fr. John Connell from St. Raphael Church in nearby Springdale March 29. (CNS/Arkansas Catholic/Travis McAfee) SOURCE: National Catholic Reporter
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Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:16

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Second Reading

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 OR 4:13-14

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The resurrection is only the beginning

SECOND READING—The Thessalonians apparently believe that those who had died before the return of Christ have perished forever. Paul reminds them that the Resurrection of Christ is only a beginning, that all the baptized will be raised up as Christ was. That is why Paul can refer to the dead as having merely “fallen asleep.” Mourners for the dead should temper their grief with hope.

Having assured his readers that believers—living and dead—will live forever with Christ, Paul tries to describe how the Second Coming will happen. Fundamentalist Christians interpret these verses literally and believe that Paul is giving us an exact account of how Christ will return. Their interpretation is known as the “rapture,” which means, “being caught up.” Most, if not all mainline churches, see Paul’s words as largely symbolic. He draws on the imagery of the prophet Daniel to express an indescribable theophonic (divine) experience. As Catholics, we would say that we do not know the when, how or where of Christ’s Second Coming. We just believe that Christ will return and all the faithful who have ever lived and believed will enjoy his presence for all eternity.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God will bring the living and dead to life in Christ

SECOND READING—This first of the Christian canonical Scriptures to be written, long before the writing of the Gospels, addresses some of the disputes in the community at Thessalonika. Specifically, there was a disagreement about what would happen to those who were still alive at the time of Christ’s return. Would they be disadvantaged in some way when those who had died were raised and taken to heaven? Paul, who also believes at this point that Christ will return to judge the world in their own lifetime, assures them that no one will have any advantage. Those who are alive will be taken up into the clouds (into heaven) along with the dead. Fundamentalist Christians have made a big deal out of this passage, referring to the rapture or the taking up. What will happen to your car on the highway when you are raptured? A literal reading of this imagery in Paul leads to all kinds of weird conclusions.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Hope in God’s future

SECOND READING—In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul has been talking about the Parousia, the end of times. His people are genuinely eager for Christ’s return and the vindication of all his beloved followers. But they have one faith-challenging worry: What about those who die before Christ’s return? That’s the question Paul addresses in this short selection.

Although we may not share that exact problem — most of us aren’t really expecting the end of the world before our own demise — Paul’s call to the community challenges us to reassess our faith just as they are called to do. This reading invites us to consider our beliefs about death and our response to it. Paul has some suggestions for us.

Paul’s key phrase regarding how a Christian or Christian community approaches death is his desire that they “may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” That assumes that people will grieve the death of a loved one, but that Christians will do it in a way marked by their faith.

To understand Paul’s idea we might take a look at what the word grieve meant in Paul’s world. Biblical scholar Earl Richard (First and Second Thessalonians) tells us that the word grief and its cognates “are often employed by Paul to describe the pain one human causes another … a pain that can lead to repentance … or be qualified as excessive or obstructive.” Thus, grief is not necessarily a negative thing, although it can become all-consuming and thus destructive of life. That latter may be the sort of grief that Paul says “the rest” get caught up in.

How does Paul suggest that we grieve? What is good grief? Apparently, it is the grief of those who have hope. The grief of those who have no hope may be the fatalism that perceives no meaning in life beyond the momentary: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” That was not the Thessalonians’ problem. Their concern came from unmet expectations; they wanted to meet Christ in glory before any of them departed this life. Paul insinuates that such an expectation was a plan, it was their agenda as opposed to hope in God.

The essence of Christian life is hope in God’s future. Christ went to death with faith-filled hope, not a script. Paul’s people were suffering because things weren’t turning out as they had planned. In Paul’s theology, their grief offered an opportunity for grace. In effect, he was saying, “Let yourselves be comforted by the fact that you are called beyond your plan and your agenda. Let this type of grief be a source of conversion.”

Grieve, yes, says Paul, but grieve like Christians. Grieve like those who ache for union with their loved ones in the heart of God. Grieve like those who are longing for the Parousia — the day of Christ, when all will be caught up together in joy. Let your grief, like everything else in your life, be an expression of your faith and an opportunity to grow in it.

Commentaries

Life Recovery Bible

God’s plan includes all believers

Apparently the Thessalonian believers were afraid that believers who died before Jesus returned would lose the opportunity of sharing in Christ’s glorious reign. Paul explained that dead Christians would be raised and share in the fellowship and reign of Jesus in God’s Kingdom. We all have this hope in our future as well. All believers can be sure that they will have a special part to play when Christ returns. It doesn’t matter whether we are dead or alive; God’s plan includes us.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Sunday Readingscommentary

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The Promised Second Coming of Christ

In the Second Reading, St. Paul explains what will take place when the Lord Jesus returns in glory to collect His Church. His resurrection is the hope of our future resurrection. We must watch for Christ’s return that signals the final victory over death. He will gather all Christians who acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, and both the living and those who have died will join Him in the clouds to begin the climax of salvation history.

Exploring the Text

Second Advent of Christ

St. Paul instructs the Christian faith community at Thessalonica concerning the promised Second Advent of the Christ.  Jesus spoke of His return in His discoursed in John 5:24-31, in Matthew 24:26-25:46, and at the Last Supper in John 14:2-3, 28-29.  However, about 20 years have passed since Christ’s Ascension and the faithful have begun to wonder about His promised return (see 2 Pt 3:3-10).  They are concerned for their loved ones “who have fallen asleep” in physical death and wonder when their “awakening” in the Resurrection will take place.  Paul urges the community to have hope (verse 13).  They are not like unbelievers who have no hope of a resurrection from death and will suffer two deaths: one physically and the other spiritual death which Jesus calls “the second death” (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Christian death

The good news is that for a Christian, death is not the end of life in its fullness; it is only the end of life on earth.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ, died and then arose from death to glorified life.  His death and resurrection is a pledge of our escape from death in a resurrected life in Heaven.  St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him (2 Tim 2:11-12).  Jesus’ resurrection is the cause of our promised resurrection.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Three signs of Christ's return

In verses 15-17, Paul assures them that those who have already died will not be at any disadvantage compared to those who are still alive when Jesus returns.  Paul is not referring to the general resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked at the end of time but only to those who “die in Christ.”  He says that there will be three signs of Christ’s return:

  1. Jesus will descend from Heaven.
  2. There will be a shout of command from an Archangel.
  3. There will be the sound of the shofar that is the trumpet of God.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The sounding of the trumpet

In the Old Testament, the ram’s horn trumpet (shofar in Hebrew) announced the Theophany of God at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:16).  It was also sounded to announce the call to battle as in the Battle of Jericho (Josh 6:1-5).  This time the trumpet announces another Theophany of God and victory over death and Satan in Jesus’ return.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Two groups of Christians at the Second Coming of Christ

Paul also identifies two groups of Christians at the Second Coming of the Christ:

  1. Those who have already died will arise to join Christ in clouds.
  2. Those still alive will follow them to meet the Lord in the clouds (see 1 Cor 15:51; 2 Cor 5:2-4).

Paul then advises the Thessalonians to comfort each other with his words of hope for the day when all Christians will be with our Lord forever (verse 18).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
Breathtaking shot of Christ the Redeemer taken from 1,500 feet above Rio. SOURCE: Daily Mirror
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‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." — Matthew 25:11-13

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 24:42A, 44

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus places emphasis on love

GOSPEL—Scholars tell us that many of Jesus’ parables have two or more levels of meaning to them. The first level is the intended meaning for the original audience. In the original audience, the wise ones are those who hear and embrace the message of Jesus. The foolish ones are those who close their hearts to his message.

At the second level, the intended audience is Matthew’s own community (living some 40+ years later). His fellow Jews, who choose not to receive Jesus (the bride-groom) or the Church, are the foolish and unprepared bridesmaids. But others, mainly Gentiles, accept the message of Jesus as preached by the early Christians. These are regarded as wise.

At a third level, the parable is used by Matthew to teach a lesson to all believers about vigilance. Here the wise ones are those believers who keep their lamps trimmed in preparing to meet Jesus by daily hearing and keeping his Word. The ‘foolish’ ones are those who hear Jesus’ message but do not act on it, just like the man who builds his house on sand and has nothing to fall back on in time of crisis. The Gospel ends with a warning for all readers: since no one knows the day or hour of Jesus’ return, all would be wise to maintainan attitude of continuous preparedness.

Some of us may criticize those who had oil for failing to share with those who had no oil. Scholars point outthat the parable is not about compassionate giving to those without. It is a call to personal readiness for the Lord’s return. “Stay awake for you do not know the day nor the hour.” In addition, there are some things that we cannot share, especially when others have closed minds and show no interest in hearing from us.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

The Bridegroom comes! Go out to meet him!

GOSPEL—The Parable of the Ten Maidens is very well known to those who are older.We used to hear it at least three times each week at daily Mass! Before the reform of the liturgical calendar, and before we were given the Lectionary now in use, the Gospel at Mass for the Feasts of Virgins was always the same: The Parable of the Ten Virgins. And there were more virgins than you could shake a stick at in the Roman calendar. As adolescents,we used to groan whenever this Gospel was read, again. As a young priest, I used to groan whenever I had to read it, again!

Familiarity does not equal understanding, though. It’s a bit more subtle than it appears at first hearing. In his letters, Paul had taught that the end of the world would come soon. Many early Christians believed this. Some passages in the Gospels indicate that Jesus, too, might have taught that the end would come soon after his death and resurrection: When the years and the decades passed and the end had not yet arrived, some major disappointments, fears, anxieties,and controversies arose. Why has the end not come yet?

Matthew wants to address that question. Why does the Bridegroom delay in coming? What have we done or not done to cause Jesus to delay his return in glory? How are we supposed to live with that delay in the meantime, and how are we best going to prepare for the Coming when it does occur?

The Church, which is the Bride of Christ, is ready; she has already entered and is waiting for the Groom. The celebration cannot begin until the Groom arrives. But the Church is also made up of those who still need to prepare themselves before they can welcome the Groom. They need to acquire the virtues that will be required for qualification upon entering the place of celebration. It is not just a matter of waiting passively for Christ to come again. There is work to be done in the meantime; there are spiritual assets to be acquired. On first hearing this parable, children often say: “Why didn’t the five wise virgins share with the foolish ones? Weren’t we taught we have to share with those who have less than we do?” It is hard to explain that one cannot acquirea virtue for anyone else. One cannot give away a virtue.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The wise and foolish virgins

GOSPEL—Whereas our first reading praised Wisdom and those who seek her, Jesus tells a tale contrasting the foolish and the wise — obviously inviting us to consider who is who, then and now. Here the group is evenly divided with five wise and five foolish virgins – that’s a better scorecard than we got in Matthew 22:14 where we heard that many were called but only a few chosen.

Jesus told this story, but except for the obscure detail about the wise virgins having extra oil on hand, he didn’t really explain what makes one wise or foolish. To understand that, we need to go back to what he said in Matthew 7:24-26: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock … And everyone who listens … but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.”

The difference between foolishness and wisdom is that the wise hear the word and put it into practice. That was not a new revelation; Jesus was drawing on his tradition when he said it. Proverbs 13:9 tells us: “The light of the just gives joy, but the lamp of the wicked goes out.” The idea is that the wicked or foolish create nothing worthwhile in their lives. As all creation is moving toward union with God, they have played no part in the drama of advancing toward that end. The little light they had simply fades away.

When we interpret this parable in the context of other parts of Matthew’s Gospel, we get the idea that the wise virgins’ oil of preparedness came from rock-solid habits of putting Jesus’ words into practice.

In his 2017 homily for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis could have been commenting on this parable when he said: “Let us ask ourselves if we are parlor Christians, who love to chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or apostles on the go, who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts.”

The parables that come toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel are all calling us to look at our heart.  The parable of the wise and foolish virgins asks us about our commitment for the long haul. Are we like the five who went to the house with just enough oil to check out what was happening? They were there for the entertainment, like people who knew about the bride and groom but who didn’t have a significant attachment to them or the celebration. In contrast, the wise young women had been saving up for this occasion. They went early and planned to stay late. The wise ones had been practicing for this party. Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm. If the groom was late, that didn’t matter; they knew he would come.

In both their waking and their dreaming, they were ready.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Podcasts

Bishop Robert Barron

The wise and foolish virgins

How do we wait? That is the question addressed by Jesus’ parable for today. While we wait for the second coming of the Lord, we should keep our lamps stocked with oil, that is to say, we should pray, study, love, do the works of mercy, and keep vigil. In so doing, we are ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom. (2017)

© Word on Fire / Bishop Robert Barron

Commentary Excerpts

Life Recovery Bible

The need for wise preparation and readiness

The story of the ten bridesmaids reinforces the need for wise preparation and readiness for Christ’s coming. Those who have not readied themselves for the return of Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom—by faith, commitment, and responsible living—will be left behind. For those of us who have suffered from a dysfunctional background, recovery is a very important part of that preparation.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Sunday Readingscommentary

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The Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Necessity for Watchfulness

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus gives another “Kingdom of Heaven” parable in which the focus is watchfulness and preparation, using the example of virgins waiting for the coming of their bridegroom to take them into the wedding feast. The virgins represent the Christian communities waiting for Jesus the Bridegroom to take them to the wedding feast that is the heavenly marriage supper of the Lamb and His Bride. It is the wise virgins who are prepared to greet the bridegroom. Like the other “Kingdom Parables,” Jesus’ teaching concerns those in the Kingdom of the Church who have faith in Him, the Divine Bridegroom, as Lord and Savior. These are the ones, throughout the generations of the Church, who have waited faithfully for the Second Advent of the Christ. Jesus’ warning is to be prepared and vigilant because you do not know the day or hour when He will come for the Church as a whole and for you as an individual.

Exploring the Text

Covenant marriage

Covenant marriage is one of the reoccurring symbolic images the Old Testament prophets used to describe the covenant people’s relationship or lack of relationship with Yahweh (see Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets).  Jesus uses the same imagery in this parable.  The Greek word that describes the ten women in the parable is “parthenos,” which means “virgin,” an unmarried maiden in a state of bodily integrity.  It is the same word used for the Virgin Mary in Matthew 1:23 and in the Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14 for the future Davidic maiden who will bear the Messiah (quoted in Mt 1:23 and applied to Mary).  Jesus’ teaching is another “Kingdom of Heaven” parable, and the focus is watchfulness and preparation.  Like the other “Kingdom Parables,” it concerns those in the Kingdom of the Church who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior (the divine Bridegroom) and, throughout the generations of the Church, have waited faithfully for the Second Advent of the Christ.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Why Jesus told this parable

Jesus told this parable to encourage the citizens of His Kingdom of the Church not to be discouraged if His promised return seems delayed for a long time.  St. Peter advised the faithful in his second letter to the universal Church, But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard delay, but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance  (2 Pt 3:8-9).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The symbols in the parable

The virgins in the parable are waiting for the bridegroom to take them to the marriage feast.  In the Greek text, the word for marriage is plural, gamos.  As in all parables, the elements in the parable are symbolic.  In the Christian tradition:

  1. Christ is the Bridegroom and His Church is His pure, virgin Bride (see Mt 9:15; Jn 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:21-33; Rev 21:2, 9 and 22:17).
  2. The ten virgins represent the Christian communities of the Church (Eph 1:6; 5:27; Rev 19:7).
  3. The burning oil lamps represent God the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:7; 3:16; Acts 2:3-41 1 Thes 5:19).
  4. The wedding banquet is the heavenly wedding supper of the Lamb and His Bride at the end of time (Rev 19:6-9).

The virgins represent the Christian communities waiting for Jesus the Bridegroom to take them to the wedding feast that is the heavenly marriage supper of the Lamb, described by St. John in the Book of Revelation.  John wrote: Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory.  For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.  She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment (the linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones).  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7-9).  Our Eucharistic banquet looks forward to this event.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The oil lamps

In the parable, all the virgins have oil lamps which they must keep burning as they await the coming of the Bridegroom.  The flames of the oil lamps represent the spiritual light of the Holy Spirit giving life to the Church.  Fire is a symbol of the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions in both the Old and New Testaments.  In the Exodus out of Egypt, the fiery pillar of cloud represented the presence of God guiding the children of Israel on their journey.  And in the Jerusalem Temple, the seven burning oil lamps of the golden Menorah (lampstand) represented the presence of God’s spirit within the Sanctuary.  In the New Testament, St. John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Christ who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lk 1:17; 3:16).  Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said: “I came to cast fire upon the earth and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49).  On the Jewish feast of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus’ Ascension to the Father, God the Holy Spirit possessed the New Covenant community praying in the Upper Room in the form of tongues of fire (Acts 2:3-4).  And St. Paul warned “do not quench the Spirit,” meaning quenching the fire of the Spirit in the Christian’s or the Church’s life (1 Thes 5:19; also see CCC 696).

All ten virgins carried oil lamps.  Oil lamps were the common means of lighting for centuries (see Ex 25:31, 36-37; 27:20).  Clay lamps filled with olive oil with a wick inserted into the oil-filled reservoir and carried in the hand were the most common.  The wicks were trimmed occasionally to keep the flame burning brightly.  The lamps burned so long as there was a wick and sufficient oil.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The period of betrothal

The ten maidens are betrothed virgins awaiting their wedding to the Bridegroom.  It was the practice for a Jewish man to announce his betrothed to a girl after signing the marriage contract, but the actual wedding did not take place until the bridegroom had prepared a home to receive his bride.  The period of betrothal could take as long as a year.  In the meantime, the bride prepared herself for the coming of the bridegroom when he would take her to her new home where they celebrated the wedding with guests in a feast.  Jesus promised that He would return to take His Bride, the Church, to His “house” in Heaven.  Jesus told His disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:2b-3).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The delay of the bridegroom

In the parable, the bridegroom is delayed in his coming.  This delay is similar to the delay of the return of the Master in the Parable of the Wise and Faithful Servant and the warning to “stay awake” to be ready for the Master’s return in Matthew 24:42-44.  It is a reminder that we do not know when Christ, our Bridegroom, will return (Mt 24:36, 44).  Notice the contrast between the virgins in the parable.  Five of the ten virgins are prudent and watchful.  They are the Christian communities or individual Christians who are vigilant in awaiting Christ’s return and maintaining the purity of their souls.  They keep their lives right with God in obedience to Jesus’ teachings and commandments in preparation for the “Parousia” (coming) of the Christ.  However, only half the virgins/Christian communities are prepared for the coming of the bridegroom.  The ill-prepared virgins are the Christian communities and individuals who have neglected their purity and vow of obedience.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The ill-prepared virgins

The ill-prepared virgins miss the coming of the bridegroom because they waited too long to restore their oil, representing their spiritual purity, and they cannot enter the wedding feast.  See the teaching in Matthew 22:11-14 and the parable of the wedding guest who was also not prepared because he was not dressed in the garment of grace and was cast out into the “darkness.”  Like the door of the Ark that closed at the coming of the flood judgment, the door to the Kingdom of Heaven will be closed to those who do not prepare for the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church.  At the moment of His coming, it will be too late to repent covenant failures, personal sins, and neglect of the poor.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' warning

The warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 7:21-23 is repeated in this parable—not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” will enter the gates of Heaven, but only those who do the will of God the Father.  Jesus’ response to those who failed in their obedience to be prepared for His coming is that He never knew them.  “Knowing” someone intimately in the Bible is either through sexual intimacy or the intimacy of a covenant relationship.  Jesus’ rejection of the foolish virgins/failed Christians is because they never fully committed to the intimacy of covenant union with the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Instead, they went their own way with their own interpretations of what obedience meant.  His warning is, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour of His coming!”

Jesus repeats the warning He gave in His judgment discourse in Matthew Chapters 23-25: be prepared and vigilant because you do not know the day or hour when He will come for the Church as a whole and for you as an individual.  St. Peter described the day of the Lord’s Second Coming this way, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar, and the elements will dissolve by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out (2 Pt 3:10).  Will you be found to be among those who are prepared to receive the divine Bridegroom?

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
John Melhuish Strudwick, The Ten Virgins, c.1884 (?), Oil on canvas

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas used in his commentary:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 25:1-13

TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9. But the wise answered saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxviii.) In the foregoing parable the Lord set forth the punishment of the man who beat, and was drunk, and wasted his Lord’s goods; in this He declares his punishment who profits not, and does not prepare for himself abundantly the things of which he has need; for the foolish virgins had oil, but not enough.

HILARY. Then, because all this discourse is concerning the great day of the Lord, concerning which He had been speaking before.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xii. 1.) By the kingdom of heaven is meant the present Church, as in that, The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. (Matt. 13:41.)

JEROME. This parable of the ten foolish and the ten wise virgins, some interpret literally of virgins, of whom there are according to the Apostle some who are virgins both in body and in thought, (1 Cor. 7.) others who have preserved indeed their bodies virgin, but have not the other deeds of virgins, or have only been preserved by the guardianship of parents, but have wedded in their hearts. But from what has gone before, I think the meaning to be different, and that the parable has reference not to virgins only, but to the whole human race.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For in each of the five senses of the body `there is a double instrument, and the number five doubled makes ten. And because the company of the faithful is gathered out of both sexes, the Holy Church is described as being like to ten virgins, where as bad are mixed with good, and reprobate with elect, it is like a mixture of wise and foolish virgins.

CHRYSOSTOM. And He employs the character virgins in this parable to shew, that though virginity be a great thing, yet if it be not accompanied by works of mercy, it shall be cast out with the adulterers.

ORIGEN. Or, The understandings of all who have received the word of God are virgins. For such is the word of God, that of its purity it imparts to all, who by its teaching have departed from the worship of idols, and have through Christ drawn near to the worship of God; Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bridea. They take their lamps, i. e. their natural faculties, and go forth out of the world and its errors, and go to meet the Saviour, who is ever ready to come to enter with them that are worthy to His blessed bride the Church.

HILARY. Or, The bridegroom and the bride represent our Lord God in the body, for the flesh is the bride of the spirit. The lamps are the light of bright souls which shine forth in the sacrament of baptismb.

AUGUSTINE. (Lib. 83 Quæst. q. 59.) Or, The lamps which they carry in their hands are their works, of which it was said above, Let your works shine before men. (Mat. 5:16.)

ORIGEN. They that believe rightly, and live righteously, are likened to the five wise; they that profess the faith of Jesus, but prepare themselves not by good works to salvation, are likened to the five foolish.

JEROME. For there are five senses which hasten towards heavenly things, and seek after things above. Of sight, hearing, and touch, it is specially said, That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled. (1 John 1:1.) Of taste, Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Ps. 34:8.) Of smell, Because of the savour of thy good ointments. (Sol. Song, 1:3.) There are also other five senses which gape after earthly husks.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, by the five virgins, is denoted a five-fold continence from the allurements of the flesh; for our appetite must be held from gratification of the eyes, ears, smell, taste, and touch. And as this continence may be done before God, to please Him in inward joy of the conscience, or before men only to gain applause of men, five are called wise, and five foolish. Both are virgins, because both these men exercise continence, though from different motives.

ORIGEN. And because the virtues are so linked together, that he who has one has all, so all the senses so follow one another, that all must be wise, or all foolish.

HILARY. Or, The five wise and five foolish are an absolute distinction between believers and unbelievers.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) It is to be observed, that all have lamps, but all have not oil.

HILARY. The oil is the fruit of good works, the vessels are the human bodies in whose inward parts the treasure of a good conscience is to be laid up.

JEROME. The virgins that have oil are they who, besides their faith, have the ornament of good works; they that have not oil, are they that seem to confess with like faith, but neglect the works of virtue.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, The oil denotes joy, according to that, God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness. (Ps. 45:7.) He then whose joy springs not from this that he is inwardly pleasing to God, has no oil with him; for they have no gladness in their continent lives, save in the praises of men. But the wise took oil with their lamps, that is, the gladness of good works, in their vessels, that is, they stored it in their heart and conscience, as the Apostle speaks, Let every man prove himself, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another. (Gal. 6:4.)

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, The oil denotes charity, alms, and every aid rendered to the needy; the lamps denote the gifts of virginity; and He calls them foolish, because after having gone through the greater toil, they lost all for the sake of a less; for it is greater labour to overcome the desires of the flesh than of money.

ORIGEN. Or, The oil is the word of teaching, with which the vessels of souls are filled; for what gives so great content as moral discourse, which is called the oil of light. The wise took with them of this oil, as much as would suffice, though the Word should tarry long, and be slack to come to their consummation. The foolish took lamps, alight indeed at the first, but not supplied with so much oil as should suffice even to the end, being careless respecting the provision of doctrine which comforts faith, and enlightens the lamp of good deeds.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) For there die of both kinds of men in this interval of time before the resurrection of the dead, and the Lord’s coming shall be.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) To sleep is to die, to slumber before sleep is to faint from salvation before death, because, by the burden of sickness we come to the sleep of death.

JEROME. Or, They slumbered, i. e. they were dead. And then follows, And slept, because they were to be afterwards wakened. While the bridegroom tarried, shews that no little time intervened between the Lord’s first and second coming.

ORIGEN. Or, Whilst the bridegroom tarried, and the Word comes not speedily to the consummation of this life, the senses suffer, slumbering and moving in the night of the world; and sleep, as energizing feebly, and with no quick sense. Yet did those wise virgins not quit their lamps, nor despair of hoarding their oil.

JEROME. The Jews have a tradition that Christ will come at midnight, in like manner as in that visitation of Egypt, when the Paschal feast is celebrated, and the destroyer comes, and the Lord passes over our dwellings, and the door posts of each man’s countenance are hallowed by the blood of the Lamb. Hence, I suppose, has continued among us that apostolic tradition, that on the vigil of Easterc the people should not be dismissed before midnight, in expectation of Christ’s coming; but when that hour has past over, they may celebrate the feast in security; whence also the Psalmist says, At midnight did I rise to praise thee. (Ps. 119:62.)

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, At midnight, that is, when none knew or looked for it.

JEROME. Suddenly thus, as on a stormy night, and when all think themselves secure, at the hour when sleep is the deepest, the coming of Christ shall be proclaimed by the shout of Angels, and the trumpets of the Powers that go before Him. This is meant when it says, Lo, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.

HILARY. At the trumpet signal they go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, for then shall the two be one, that is, the flesh and God, when the lowliness of the flesh shall be transformed into spiritual glory.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, that the virgins go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, I think is to be understood that the virgins themselves constitute her who is called the bride; as we speak of the Christians flocking to the Church as children running to their mother, and yet this same mother consists only of the children who are gathered together. For now the Church is betrothed, and is to be led forth as a virgin to the marriage, which takes place then when all her mortal part having past away, she may be held in an eternal union.

ORIGEN. Or, At midnight, that is, at the time of their most abandoned carelessness, there was a great cry, of the Angels, I suppose, desiring to arouse all men, those ministering spirits crying within in the senses of all that sleep, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. All heard this summons, and arose, but all were not able to trim their lamps fitly. The lamps of the senses are trimmed by evangelical and right use of them; and they that use their senses amiss have their lamps untrimmed.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or, All the virgins arose, that is, both elect and reprobate are roused from the sleep of death; they trimmed their lamps, that is, they reckon up to themselves their works for which they look to receive eternal blessedness.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) They trimmed their lamps, that is, prepared to give an account of their deeds.

HILARY. Or, the trimming their lamps is the return of their souls into their bodies, and their light is the consciousness of good works that shines forth, which is contained in the vessels of the body.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because the works which appeared outwardly to men to be bright, are dimmed within at the coming of the Judge. That they then beg oil of the wise virgins, what is it but that at the coming of the Judge, when they find themselves empty within, they seek for witness from without? As though deceived by their own self-confidence, they say to their neighbours, Whereas ye see us rejected as living without works, do ye witness to our works that ye have seen.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) From habit, the mind seeks that which uses to give it pleasure. And these now seek from men, who see not the heart, witness to God, who sees the heart. But their lamps go out, because those, whose good works rest upon the testimony of others, when that is withdrawn, sink into nothing.

JEROME. Or, These virgins who complain that their lamps are gone out, shew that they are partially alight, yet have they not an unfailing light, nor enduring works. Whoso then has a virgin soul, and is a lover of chastity, ought not to rest content with such virtues as quickly fade, and are withered away when the heat comes upon them, but should follow after perfect virtues, that he may have an enduring light.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or otherwise; These virgins were foolish, not only because they departed hence, lacking store of mercy, but because they deemed to receive it from those of whom they importunately begged it. For though nothing could be more merciful than those wise virgins, who for this very mercifulness were approved, yet would they not grant the prayer of the foolish virgins. But the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; hence we lean that none of us shall be able in that day to stand forth as patron1 of those who are betrayed by their own works, not because he will not, but because he cannot.

JEROME. For these wise virgins do not answer thus out of covetousness, but out of fear. Wherefore, each man shall receive the recompense of his own works, and the virtues of one cannot atone for the vices of another in the day of judgment. The wise admonish them not to go to meet the bridegroom without oil, Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

HILARY. They that sell are the poor, who, needing the alms of the faithful, made them that recompense which they desire, selling in return for the relief afforded to their wants, a consciousness of good works. This is the abundant fuel of an undying light which may be bought and stored up for the fruits of mercy.

CHRYSOSTOM. You see then how great merchants the poor are to us; but the poor are not there, but here, and therefore we must store up oil here, that we may have it to use there when occasion shall require.

JEROME. And this oil is sold, and at a high cost, nor is it to be got without much toil; so that we understand it not of alms only, but of all virtues and counsels of the teachers.

ORIGEN. Otherwise; Notwithstanding they were foolish, they yet understood that they must have light to go and meet the bridegroom, that all the lights of their senses might be burning. This also they discerned, that because they had little of the spiritual oil, their lamps would burn dim as darkness drew on. But the wise send the foolish to those that sell, seeing that they had not stored up so much oil, that is, word of doctrine, as would suffice both for themselves to live by, and to teach others, Go ye rather to them that sell, i. e. to the doctors, and buy, i. e. take of them; the price is perseverance, the love of learning, industry, and toil of all who are willing to learn.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or we may suppose it not meant as advice what they should do, but as an indirect allusion to their fault. For flatterers sell oil, who by praising things false, and things unknown, lead souls astray, recommending to them, as foolish, empty joys, and receiving in return some temporal benefit. Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves, i. e. Let us now see what they can profit you who have used to sell you their praise. Lest there be not enough for us and you, because no man is profited in God’s sight by the testimony of others, because God sees the heart, and each man is scarce able to give testimony concerning his own conscience.

JEROME. But because the season for buying was now past, and the day of judgment was coming on, so that there was no room for penitence, they must not now lay up new works, but give an account of the old.

HILARY. The marriage is the putting on of immortality, and the joining together corruption and incorruption in a new union,

CHRYSOSTOM. That, While they went to buy, shews that even, if we should become merciful after death, it will avail us nothing to escape punishment, as it was no profit to the rich man, that he became merciful and careful about those who belonged to him.

ORIGEN. Or, He says, While they went to buy, because there are men to be found who have neglected to learn any thing useful, till when, in the very end of their life, when they set themselves to learn, they are overtaken by death.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or otherwise; While they went to buy, that is, while they turned themselves to things without, and sought to find pleasure in things they had been accustomed to, because they knew not inward joys, came He that judges; and they that were ready, i. e. they whose conscience bore witness to them before God, went in with him to the wedding, i. e. to where the pure soul is united prolific to the pure and perfect word of God.

JEROME. After the day of judgment, there is no more opportunity for good works, or for righteousness, and therefore it follows, And the door was shut.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) When they have been taken in who have been changed into angelic being (1 Cor. 15:51), all entrance into the kingdom of heaven is closed; after the judgment, there is no more place for prayers or merit.

HILARY. Yet though the season of repentance is now past, the foolish virgins come and beg that entrance may be granted to them.

JEROME. Their worthy confession calling Him, Lord, Lord, is a mark of faith. But what avails it to confess with the mouth Him whom you deny with your works?

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Grief at their exclusion extorts from them a repetition of this title of Lord; they call not Him Father, whose mercy they despised in their lifetime.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) It is not said that they bought any oil, and therefore we must suppose that all their delight in the praise of men being gone, they return in distress and affliction to implore God. But His severity, after judgment, is as great as His mercy was unspeakable before. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not; by that rule, namely, that the art of God, that is, His wisdom, does not admit that those should enter into His joy who have sought to do in any thing according to His commandments, not as before God, but that they may please men.

JEROME. For the Lord knoweth them that are his, (2 Tim. 2:19.) and he that knoweth not shall not be known, and though they be virgins in purity of body, or in confession of the true faith, yet forasmuch as they have no oil, they are unknown by the bridegroom. When He adds, Watch therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour, He means that all that has been said points to this, namely, that seeing we know not the day of judgment, we should be careful in providing the light of good works.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) For indeed we know the day and the hour neither of that future time when the Bridegroom will come, nor of our own falling asleep each of us; if then we be prepared for this latter, we shall also be prepared when that voice shall sound, which shall arouse us all.

AUGUSTINE. (Ep. 199. 45.) There have not been wanting those who would refer these ten virgins to that coming of Christ, which takes place now in the Church; but this is not to be hastily held out, lest any thing should occur contradictory of it.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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