The parable of the ten girls

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“The Kingdom of Heaven is similar to ten young women invited to a wedding...” This very positive comparison with marriage proves that Jesus did not imagine this parable to worry us; he invites us to transport ourselves already at the end of the journey, when the Kingdom is accomplished and he tells us “It will be like a wedding evening”: at the outset, we can therefore already infer that even the last word “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour” should not frighten us, this is never Jesus' purpose. It's up to us to decipher what she means.

It is a parable, that is, it is the final lesson that counts. This is not an allegory, so there is no need to look for correspondence between every detail of history and concrete situations or people. Finally, let us not scandalize at those foresight who refuse to share, it is not a parable about sharing.

All these precautions taken, it remains to discover what can mean this famous last sentence “Watch so”. To begin with, let's take over the elements of the parable: wedding, an invitation; ten young girls, five of them are carefree, five are foresight; the foresight women have oil in reserve, the carefree took their lamp without taking oil... But it is true that an oil lamp without oil is no longer an oil lamp... It is also foolish 1 Put a lamp under the bushel: “A lamp shall not be lit to put it under the bushel; they put it on the floor lamp, and it shines for all who are in the house” (Mt 5:15).

The husband is slow to come and all our little world falls asleep, the foresight like the others: it can be noted in passing that this sleep is not criticized to them, which proves that the word of the end “Watch” does not prohibit sleeping, which is paradoxical to say the least! The husband ends up arriving anyway and we know the rest: the foreigners enter the wedding hall, the carefree are closed the door with this phrase of which we cannot tell if it is hard or saddened “I do not know you” tells them the husband. And this famous conclusion: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.”


Curious thing, Jesus has already dealt with about the same theme in another parable, that of the two houses: one is built on rock, the other on the sand. “The rain fell, the torrents came, the winds blew”: one of the two resisted, the other has collapsed; until then nothing surprising, one could have expected it; but behold, Jesus explains: he who built on the rock is “every man who hears the words I have just said and puts them into practice...”; what are these famous “words he just said”? We are in chapter 7 of Saint Matthew; a few lines before we read: “It is not by saying to me 'Lord, Lord', that one will enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but it is by doing the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, is it not in your name that we prophesied? in your name that we have expelled the demons, in your name that we have done many miracles? ' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Step away from me, you who commit evil” (Mt 7,21-27).

And Jesus continues: “Thus, he who hears the words that I say there and puts them into practice is comparable to a man foreseeing 2 who built his house on the rock...”. In the parable of the two houses, the bond is clear: “I do not know you, for you commit evil”; in other words, “you do very beautiful things (prophecies, miracles...) but you do not love your brethren”; here, in the parable of the ten virgins, it comes back to the same: it is “I do not know you, you are not the light of the world... you are called to be, but there is no oil in your lamps.”

Both times, Jesus uses the same formula “I do not know you”: it is not a verdict without call, it is a sad observation: “I do not know you yet”, “You are not ready for the kingdom yet, you are not ready for the wedding”; it must undoubtedly be heard in the sense of “I do not recognize you”: you do not look like me, you are not in communion with me.

The rapprochement with the parable of the two houses can still enlighten us: this was the conclusion of the speech on the mountain in which Jesus proclaimed “You have learned that it has been said: 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ' Well! I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may truly be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he raises his sun upon the wicked and on the good, he makes rain fall upon the righteous and on the unjust... You therefore will be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:43 -48).

“To watch” means living day by day this resemblance to the Father for whom we are made: it is to love like him; impossible thing, are we tempted to say... fortunately this resemblance of love is a gift; as the other readings of this Sunday have told us, we only need to desire it; to seek it, as the psalm says” God, you are my God, I seek you from dawn”; to go to meet this Wisdom of which the first reading spoke to us, that which results in goodness, law, justice. Ensuring, in the end, is always ready to receive it. This encounter of the husband is not at the end of time, at the end of each person's earthly history, but at every day of time; it is every day of time that he models us in his image.



1- “Insane”: it's a matter of consistency.

2-The Greek word that was translated into French as “foresight” is the same in both parables (Mt 7,24//Mt 25,2).


“There are many ways of considering the passing time; for a Christian it can only be positive: it is the time that prepares the coming of the Lord, “the coming of the Son of Man”. Johann Sebastian Bach dealt with this theme in a choir entitled “The Watchman's Choir”, which is in fact a variation on the parable of foresight girls and carefree girls; he starts with a very cheerful dance step on a somewhat high register: you recognized them, they are carefree young girls; then, below, seriously intervenes the music of the song “Adoro te devote”: they are the foresight virgins meditating; finally, at the pedal board, a steady rhythm, supported, symbolizes the time that passes.

“Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour”: No one can fill my lamp in my place. It is my freedom and my responsibility.

Comment by Marie-Noëlle

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The other homilies of Father Christophe Hermanowicz

Une réflexion sur « The parable of the ten girls »

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