Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

From Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 25: 1-13

Weddings, of course, are occasions of celebration, but judgment is also present as Jesus made clear in the parable of the king who invited all to the banquet to celebrate the wedding of his son (Matt. 22:11–14). The parable of the bridesmaids, therefore, is at once an invitation to a celebration and a judgment against those who are unprepared. The wise bridesmaids rightly celebrate with the delayed groom because they had prepared for a long night of waiting. The bridegroom arrived at an unexpected time. The foolish bridesmaids failed to understand that in a time when you are unsure of the time you are in it is all the more important to do what you have been taught to do. In the dark you must keep the lamps ready even if they are not able to overcome the darkness.

 Some may think Jesus’s parable to be quite unfair to the bridesmaids who had not prepared ahead. Those who stress compassion as the hallmark of what makes Christians Christian cannot help but think that the bridesmaids with the oil should have shared with those without. But if they had shared their oil when the bridegroom had come, there would have been no light. Those who follow Jesus will be expected to lead lives that make it possible for the hungry to be fed and the stranger welcomed, but the practice of charity requires a community prepared to welcome Christ as the bridegroom, for he alone makes possible hospitality to the stranger in a world where there will always be another stranger needing hospitality.

 ©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.