It would be wasteful to explain the difference between wisdom and foolishness when each of us has experienced both, and each of us knows well the difference. How many times have any of us caught ourselves saying, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” That is a wisdom which has learned its lesson from foolishness. As the adage goes, “Experience is a tough teacher; she gives the test first and the lesson later.” Sometimes, however, the distinction between foolishness and wisdom is a fine line that revolves around expectations. Childbirth is a good analogy. The doctor gives a due date and life centers on that date, but suppose baby decides to come early? Expectation should lead to preparedness.
In today’s parable, though, Jesus begins by telling us that half of them were foolish and half of them wise before He tells us “why” they were foolish or wise. In other words, their being foolish or wise was not dictated by their actions. Rather, their actions come out of their being foolish or wise. That puts a drastically different focus on the story, which might help explain the rather difficult and harsh ending.
In terms of today’s Gospel, Jesus is sharing a parable that is an analogy for the coming of the Kingdom, a date and time which is unknown to all but the Father (Mt. 24:36). He tells us at the beginning: “The Kingdom of Heaven will be like 10 virgins… five of them were foolish and five were wise.” We don’t need to know all the details pertaining to the wedding feast or what the role of the virgins with their lamps was. It is enough for us to know that they knew what was expected of them in the same way that each of us knows—or should know—what is expected of us by God in living our lives of Faith. Just as ignorance does not excuse the foolishness of the virgins who were not properly prepared, so neither does it excuse us. I know what God expects of me. I may not, and don’t, know the day or the hour of His return but I do know that He expects me to be prepared. Likewise, my final hour may come unexpectedly but I know that it will come. That is the key point. I KNOW! Presumption is the sin of knowing the Truth and ignoring it, thinking that the Mercy of God will overshadow my sinfulness. God’s Mercy is abundant but we must desire it in the same way the psalm says, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, My God.”