The usual pledge in a wedding vow is “for better or worse”. When Jesus uses the imagery of bridesmaids waiting for the groom, he is basically saying things will take a turn for the worse, then get better for those who have been able to keep their light shining.
He had just told his disciples that Jerusalem was bound to be destroyed and that there would be great calamity in the land. Then he tells the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. In the parable is he talking about the end of the world, the end of Judea or any major calamity?
Too often we look for secret knowledge when what is being offered is spiritual wisdom. Jesus offers spiritual wisdom in parables.
He tells us that life will become worse before it gets better. This happens time and time again simply because we have to be truly motivated to change major aspects of our society. We apply “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to the system, ignoring the broken lives the system creates. Only when the system itself breaks down are we finally motivated to change it.
Those who have the kingdom of heaven, Jesus would say, are able to keep a vision of a better world throughout the calamitous change. They work to bring about a world of grace and equity even before the societal systems break down. During the collapse, in the midnight hour, they still see the vision clearly.
When we face our midnight hours we do well to keep the light of faith’s vision strong.