Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr – Readings

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10:17-11:2, Psalm 30, Matthew 25:1-13

The Gospel reading comes from Matthew’s account of the end times where Jesus speaks of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and mingles it with images about the Second Coming of Jesus for the General Judgement. This section also contains three important parables linked to the Final Judgement.

We have the first of these parables as our reading for today’s feast. Not surprisingly, it is the parable of the ten bridesmaids, often referred to as the Ten Virgins. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God (he uses the word ‘heaven’) can be compared to ten bridesmaids going out to welcome the bridegroom at a wedding.

Five of them were sensible and had foresight, and the other five were foolish. The sensible ones took a reserve of oil for their lamps, while the foolish ones did not. Then the groom took much longer to come than expected, and all the bridesmaids became heavy-eyed and sleepy.

At midnight the call went up:

Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.

But as the bridesmaids trimmed their lamps, the foolish ones realised all their oil was used up. They asked the sensible young women to share some of their oil. They were refused on the grounds that, if they did, all of them would end up with not enough oil. The foolish bridesmaids were told to go to the “dealers” and buy oil for themselves.

But, while they were gone, the groom arrived and those who were ready went into the wedding hall with him. And the door was locked. When the foolish bridesmaids arrived, they begged for the door to be open:

Lord, lord, open to us.

But he answered with one of the most chilling statements in the Gospel:

Truly I tell you, I do not know you.

The moral is then given:

Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

We know that in the very early Church many believed (and it is reflected in the earliest letter of Paul) that Jesus would come again during the believers’ lifetime. Even in our own days, there are preachers who talk about the imminence of the ‘end times’. Or, there are people who work on the principle of ‘eat, drink and be merry’, and straighten things out just before the end comes.

Jesus is warning that this is not a very good idea. We do not know when the Bridegroom will come. We have no idea when life on our planet will come to an end. Even more practically, we do not know when our own time on this earth will terminate. The point of these Gospel texts is that, whenever it happens, we be ready, that our lamps are burning bright.

This is not a question of piling up good works and putting them into some celestial account. It is clear from the Gospel that God does not work that way. What is important is, that at any given moment, we are in a right relationship with God.

And how do we do that? We do it by seeking, finding and serving God in every experience of every day, finding and loving God in every person that comes into our life. Sometimes we will fail, but we just turn round and start all over again. What is most important is where we are when he calls us. Strangely enough, we guarantee the future by focusing on the present, on the here and now.

Lucy was just such a faithful virgin who had consecrated her whole life to God and in bringing others to know and love him, and unhesitatingly gave that life back to God.

The short First Reading is from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. In the passage he is speaking of people who put themselves in competition with him in preaching the Gospel. If people are to boast, he says, they are to boast of what the Lord does through them rather than boasting of achievements as purely their own:

For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved but those whom the Lord commends.

Lucy did heroic things, but she would ascribe them to the Lord to whom she had committed herself as a bride. It is clear that the Lord was with her when efforts to put an end to her life were foiled.

Later in the passage, speaking to the Christians of Corinth, Paul says:

I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Lucy, too, knew only one spouse, her Lord Jesus. She was married in virginity and chastity to him as a sign of total commitment to him. We, too, may ask ourselves to what extent we have become bound and committed to Jesus and his Gospel.

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