|John Atterberg ’99 M.A.
It seems strange that the wise virgins in this parable would not share their oil with the ones who were unprepared. They were all waiting for the same bridegroom, all celebrating the same event. Some were unprepared, sure, but does that warrant the harsh denial of shared resources from their friends and harsher still rebuke from the bridegroom who refuses to even acknowledge them?
This is always my first reaction when I hear this gospel passage. The virgins who have oil for their lamps even reply with, “go buy your own!” This seems like the opposite of how we should support and encourage each other in our spiritual lives. But the way I make sense of this is by imagining that the oil for the lamps in this metaphor is something that, in fact, cannot be shared. Having the oil ready for the bridegroom’s arrival represents our own individual spiritual preparation. We know that Christ will come again in glory and we know that our own lives on earth will someday come to an end. Are we prepared? Is there anyone else who could possibly do that for us or give that to us if we hadn’t already done it for ourselves?
I think that the final arrival of the bridegroom is a moment when we can only look inward to see if we are prepared for our Lord. But until that moment comes, we actually can encourage and support one another in our spiritual lives. Let us all have our lamps ready! And plenty of oil!