Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
An Alpine valley, seamed by majestic mountains. A foaming waterfall tips icy water into a creek whose winding path mimics the general course of the valley. Leaning over the railing of an observation point and staring into the ever-changing patterns of relentlessly flashing water and sparkling reflections, I once more realize: everything has a meaning, and every meaning can be an image for higher meanings. God created this forceful and yet peaceful scene for a reason, like an artist who expresses something with each stroke on the canvas. This scene of water and rock speaks of life and drama and power. Maybe it is not our mind that associates these glorious ideas with specific sceneries like this one; maybe each aspect of creation was in fact designed to express this glory; maybe our minds, rather than to associate creation with glory, discover glory in it. For there can be no doubt that the Creator crafted each part of our world intentionally. When we contemplate it, we can look deep into the Creator’s heart, like when we interpret a piece of art by considering the life of the artist.
In this light, Jesus’ parables are more than didactical tools. They can also be considered the interpretation of a piece done by the artist himself. Of course, Jesus mainly wants to teach us a spiritual meaning through everyday experiences in His parables. But, as we grow in intimacy with Him, we can also start to see the everyday things through His eyes and discover God's art.
In today's Gospel, Jesus elaborates His message around lamps. Like yesterday His point is to encourage us to prepare for His coming. The shining lamps stand for the virtues with which we want to present ourselves then, the oil is the perseverant dedication in order to grow in these virtues by living accordingly.
But again, it strikes me that He who chose the little flame of a lamp as an image to convey His message, He is the very creator of all flames. I wonder if Christ might see the world actually the other way round: We comprehend easily the workings of a flame and have experienced its usefulness; based on that, we can make out the dynamics of spiritual realities thanks to Jesus’ explication. He, on the other hand, created the world seeking above all to reflect and share His glorious love; based on that fundamental design He created water, fire and all the rest. So, I imagine, when God sees water He sees mainly what it means: life, flow, revivement… When He sees a flame He sees responsibility, power, sacrifice… Jesus’ parables therefore turn out to be incredible insights into God's design of the world and into how the external stuff really is full of deeper meaning. It is full of God's "smiling glory."
In that light, we can do two things with each parable: First of all, learn the lesson that Jesus is teaching. And then we can, as is the case with each word in Holy Scripture, try to know God's heart better by seeing all things as He sees them.
Jesus, You see the world, and You see it deeply as it is. Thank You for explaining it to me in the simple strokes of Your beautiful parables. Allow me also to see as You see, to learn how the deep, hidden things are even more real than the more evident onces. Grant me thus that I see You in all things, in my everyday tasks. I invite You, Lord, to make Yourself present in today's tasks, to accompany me, nudge me, smile at me in every possible moment. Teach me to recognize Your smile and your glory - so that I can smile back!