Matthew 25:1 NRSV
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
There was a time when the thought of death would send my stomach into a tight ball of nerves, icy fear slithering its way up and down my spine. As a child I used to lay awake at night fearful of what would happen should I pass away. It was not so much the physical act of dying that scared me. Instead, I feared that in place of the glorious peace promised throughout scripture for all who enter the heavenly Kingdom of GOD post earthly intermission would be nothingness. I feared that my lifeforce would dwindle into a state of nonexistence. The threat of having no consciousness of my own state of being petrified me the most. Not only would I physically cease to be, but I would not even be aware that I had passed from life and into a void of nihility.
Precocious childhood thoughts aside, it is this reality of consciousness that I find most intriguing when reading Matthew 25. In this passage there seems to be a forceful push by way of the narrator, Jesus Himself, to awaken His captive audience to the need to be more fully conscious - that is, to be more fully aware and vigilant. If one is conscious of something, does not that consciousness denote a degree of responsibility? Jesus seems to believe so.
At the start of Matthew 25, the ten virgins are united in their sameness of cause and interest. This hub of consciousness leading them to all seek the same end does not presuppose that they are all wise enough to prepare for the journey ahead. Though they begin in the same place, what will be their story once the bridegroom arrives? In like manner, though we are all sharing this earthly real estate at the moment, what will be our story once Jesus returns? Do our lives heed the warnings to be more vigilant, wise, and prepared - that is, to fully live into the call of consciousness once we are born? Are we prepared enough to fully withstand the pitfalls of sleepwalking through life?
Art: Megan Kenyon | "Listen and Lament" | mixed media collage on paper | 2020