I enjoy reading mystery novels. The best of them gives misleading cues causing the reader to be misdirected as s/he tries to figure out the who, what, why’s of the story line. The worst of these kinds of stories are when the author gives few, if any, clues which causes the reader to keep pushing forward in the hopes that there will be some unraveling of the mystery. Usually when I am confronted by that type of author, I will read the last chapter of the book first so that I get a sense of what I am looking for throughout the narrative as the author unfolds the story.
The gospel story we hear today is one of those mis-directional stories. As Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish. It seems the obvious division between the two groups is that the wise came prepared with extra oil for their lamps, while the foolish ones didn’t. However, pay close attention to the end of the story. The bridegroom arrives later than expected and the foolish virgins are more concerned about making sure that they have enough oil in their lamps than about greeting the bridegroom. The wise virgins advise them that they should go to the market to purchase the oil. The gospel tells us that it was midnight when the bridegroom arrived. In a time when there was no electrical service, who would be up at that hour of deep darkness to sell oil to anyone? Yet off ran the foolish virgins to the market while the chief reason for the gathering; the bridegroom; passes by to enter into his wedding feast. On his arrival all those who gathered with him also enter the wedding hall and then the door was locked. When the foolish return (and we never know if they got any oil or not) they attempt to enter but are sent away.
When we get caught up in worrying about how others think of us, we take our eyes off what matters most and often times like the foolish virgins, can get misled into chasing after things that really do not matter. Those foolish virgins could have (and should have) stayed close to the wise virgins, sharing the light that their lamps provided. They would have been there when the bridegroom arrived, they would have entered into the feast with everyone else.