Daily Reflection
August 30th, 2002
Tamora Whitney
English Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
1 Corinthians 1:17-25
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 10, 11
Matthew 25:1-13

At first I thought the readings for today were contradictory.  In the first reading itís said that the wise, the learned, are doomed.  In the gospel, the wise virgins are the ones who are saved.  You would think wisdom would be a good thing.  The men in the first reading, the ones who are doomed, are learned.  They are well-read.  They have done their homework.  But they have no flexibility.  They are doomed because they cannot accept the Messiah.  His coming does not look like anything they expected, and they canít change their ideas. 

The Jews were Godís chosen people.  Their whole history should have been preparation for the coming of Jesus, but despite their knowledge of the prophecies, He didnít look like they expected.  The signs they looked for were not the ones they got.  A God who suffered and died on a cross seemed to actually negate His diety, not prove it.  The Greeks looked for wisdom, and their view of God was void of emotion.  Jesus, who had compassion, did not look like their image of God.  To both these groups, their preconceived notions kept them from seeing and accepting the Messiah. Even though they had the information, they could not use it.

The virgins in the gospel are wise in a different, more flexible way.  The wisdom in the two readings is the difference between what my grandmother calls Ďbook sense and common sense.í  Book-learning is fine, but if you have no common sense, you canít really do anything with it.  The wise virgins in the gospel were prepared.  I have friends in Mensa who could probably tell you the burn ratio of the oil and exactly how long it should last given certain conditions, but this information is worthless if you donít have extra oil whenever it runs out.  The girls who are wise are the ones who are prepared.  They came to meet the bridegroom, but they were not sure exactly when he would come.  All the girls had lamps in case he came at night, but some did not bring the extra oil in case of delay.  Those girls, then when it was too late, sought to get their extra provisions.  When you need the oil, itís often too late to run to the store and get it.  Then you miss out on what you needed to see.  

Having  knowledge is important, but knowing how to use it is the most important thing.  The learned Jews and Greeks in the first reading missed out because they could not apply their knowledge to the current situations.  The little girls in the gospel do not have a lot of education, or even a lot of experience, but they are prepared for the unexpected. And when the bridegroom comes they are ready to go with him.  The foolish girls say, ďwait while I go buy more oil.Ē  But by then itís too late.  They need their oil right then to go with him to the wedding and the party.  When the doors are closed they donít open again.

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