We have heard Moses give us the Ten Commandments, Jesus offered the beatitudes and in Matthew’s gospel, he tells us about the bridesmaids who were waiting for the bridegroom. They all had lamps, some of them had oil for the lamps and some didn’t. When the bridegroom arrived suddenly, those with oil were able to light their lamps and accompany him. The others were out of luck and couldn’t do much of anything at all.
Jesus uses this parable to tell us that we need to be ready—not necessarily for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, or for Jesus’ second coming, but simply ready in our lives for what is going on around us. I think of this when I am at the store, or walking around downtown, or simply driving on the roads around town. We never know what we are likely to encounter when we are living our lives. Sometimes it is a beggar on the street; sometimes it is somebody in serious trouble who needs our help. What this parable is telling us is to be ready to do whatever it is that is needed to help people in their lives.
Our local paper had a column every week called Random Acts of Kindness, where people tell stories about how strangers helped them out of some kind of trouble. They always do this to show their appreciation for what random strangers have done to help them. Often, they don’t know the names of the people who have helped, they just are pleased that somebody cared at a moment in time when they needed help. I suspect that a lot of the help that is provided to people on a day to day basis goes largely unreported and just anonymously helps whoever needs it. I think that is what God has in mind for all of us as we live our lives.
Families are one place where help is often provided. We are more familiar with each other’s needs in our families. For people whom we don’t know at all, we need to be able to see the sometimes subtle signs that help is needed. When we are able to do that, the Kingdom of Heaven comes a little nearer. I think that is what Jesus is trying to teach us not only with his parables, but with his life.