Neither a Crammer nor a Borrower be – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Matthew 25:1-13, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In biblical times, weddings were a huge celebration in the entire village. After the wedding rite in the synagogue, the new couple is paraded back to the house. Tradition dictated that you took the longest, most roundabout route home, so

that the whole town could cheer its newest couple. There was a Jewish saying, “Everyone from six to 60 follows the marriage drum.” Even the strictest rabbis suspended school just to participate in the celebration. No wonder we often read “wedding feast”, not just “wedding”.

The say before the wedding, a few single ladies (not necessarily ten) were assigned to the bride. Handpicked from her dearest friends, they helped make her beautiful, treating her a like a princess. But their most important mission was to watch out on the road for the groom’s best friend, because anytime now, he would come announcing “the bridegroom is coming, the bridegroom is coming!” whereupon the ladies were to meet the groom halfway down the road as he made his way to the bride’s house in song and dance. Upon reaching the house, the wedding feast began in earnest. But nobody knew when the groom would arrives except his best friend. It was like a ritualized guessing game. Similar to how we play funny games at wedding receptions today. So if the groom came in the night, the ladies had to be prepared even then, with lamps lit and ready.

The happiest and most meaningful moments of the feast took place in the first hours after the groom came into the house to meet his future bride. It was the only time when family and close friends would party together. So no serious friend of the couple missed out on this by either absence or tardiness.

Well in the Gospel today, five of ten girlfriends missed out on the happiest hours of their best friend’s wedding. They knew full well what they were supposed to do. But they were, as the Gospel says, “foolish”. So regardless of their cramming and scrambling, they were shut out.

Lesson number one: “cram” does not pay. There are things in life that just cannot be obtained at the last minute, not especially after we have squandered past opportunities. Life is such that there are certain things that can no longer be obtained at the eleventh hour. Or, more seriously, life is such that there are certain relationships that can barely be restored at the eleventh hour. There are just certain doors that can no longer be opened, especially when they had been kept open for us, but we bided our time and never entered any of them.

Lesson number two: there are certain things that just cannot be borrowed from others. I have a classmate who now runs motels, gambling joints wnd massage parlors in my hometown. He inherited his father’s gritty businesses, but he doesn’t have to work a day in his life anymore. He’s one of those guys who lounges by the pool, smoking cigars while waiting for the money to roll in. Whenever we would bump into each other, he’d always say while pointing to the sky, “Father! Connection ha? Connection!” Maybe his shorthand for “Arnel, you’re my connection to God. Put in a good word for me whenever you pray.” I knew he meant it as a joke. But I also knew the joke came from a real sliver of hope that by being connected with me as a priest, who he believed to be connected to God, then his redemption was assured. By transitive property of equality, that is if a=b and b=c, then a=c. Well, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t borrow a relationship with God from somebody else’s relationship with God. Conversion isn’t obtained by proxy or stand-in or surrogacy.

When we stand before God at the end of our journey, we will be judged according to the good we have done to others and not what good others have done on our behalf while we remain unconverted.

Let us pray therefore in this Eucharist that we gather two vital lessons from the story of the foolish virgins – that when it comes to matters of salvation, there are things which cannot be obtained at the last minute and certain things in life just cannot be borrowed from others.

Knowing this, let us pray even harder that in God, may nothing ever be too late and in his generosity, may we never have to pay or borrow any goodness from him because he has always given goodness free of charge.

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