People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’

Introduction 

The Gospel reading here is the Gospel for the Memorial of the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita. Her story is worth reading. She suffered greatly in her life. It was the gift of faith that helped her to understand the meaning and significance of her suffering. She offered up prayers of thanksgiving for those who had abducted her and sold her into slavery. Their actions led her to a point in her life when she was saved and she recognised Jesus as her saviour. She lived her life of faith as a wise bridesmaid. 

The title for this Enquiry comes from a song written by Curtis Mayfield, a member of The Impressions. Many years ago, I started to teach People Get Ready to some students so that we could sing it at Mass because it captured for me the essence of the story that Jesus told and that you are about to read. A Gospel-influenced song, it was chosen by Martin Luther King Jr as the anthem of the civil rights movement he led in the US. 

So the song and the Gospel are about freedom from the slavery of sin in all its forms. And this Enquiry gives us the opportunity to reflect, to discern and to act on our judgment, made with the truth of faith, and so to experience the joy of the Gospel in communion with Jesus and his followers. 

The Gospel 

Jesus told his disciples the following parable: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to wait for the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The five foolish bridesmaids took their lamps, but they did not take more oil for the lamps to burn. The wise bridesmaids took their lamps and more oil in jars. Because the bridegroom was late, they became sleepy and went to sleep.

“At midnight someone cried out, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come and meet him!’ Then all the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready. But the foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ The wise bridesmaids answered, ‘No, the oil we have might not be enough for all of us. Go to the people who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“So while the five foolish bridesmaids went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Then the door was closed and locked.

“Later the others came back and said, ‘Sir, sir, open the door to let us in.’ But the bridegroom answered, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t want to know you.’

“So always be ready, because you don’t know the day or the hour the Son of Man will come. (Matthew 25:1-13 – New Century Version)

The Enquiry

See

  • Take some time to become familiar with the elements of the story. Jesus is a master storyteller. He tells his listeners a story about a grand wedding. Have you ever been to a wedding as grand as this one with ten bridesmaids? 

  • Is this a story about us being married to God and going to live in heaven? Or is it a story about our part in the story of salvation? Why are five bridesmaids admitted and five are left out “in the cold” so to speak? Do you see the Church as the bride?  

  • Does Jesus tell the story to remind the chosen that they have to be generous? Or does he tell the story to remind us to be prepared for the moment of passing over from time to eternity? How easy is it to be like the five foolish bridesmaids who did not prepare well for the wedding? 

Judge

  • What do you make of this story that Jesus tells? Where do you place yourself? Are you one of the five wise bridesmaids? Or one of the five foolish bridesmaids? How do you feel about this?  

  • What does your faith tell you about heaven and how to get there? What does Jesus reveal to you through this story that gives you hope, or causes you to worry about your destiny?  

  • Joseph Cardijn taught the leaders of the YCW that they can experience their temporal destiny and their eternal destiny in this life through being faithful to Christ. How does this truth fit with your experience of being a Christian? What does Jesus’ story add to your understanding of your place in the world?   

Act

  • As you stand here waiting for the bridegroom to arrive, what needs to change in your personal circumstances and/or in the world around you so that you and others are not caught unawares (as happens in the story Jesus tells)? 

  • What small action can you take that will help you and others be prepared for the coming of Christ? When and where will you carry out the action and how often? 

  • Who can you involve in your action and how and when will you get them to participate in your action?

Author: Pat Branson 

Image source: Flikr

Photographer: Elvert Barnes


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