Today's Gospel (Matthew 25: 1-13) is a very apt one for those of us living in the path of Hurricane Irene. In this parable, Jesus speaks of ten virgins (bridesmaids) who are waiting for the arrival of the groom. In those days of no means of instant communication there was no way of knowing exactly which day or hour someone would complete a trip. So part of the duties of bridesmaids was to wait for the groom and accompany him into the feast, announcing his arrival to the guests so that they could gather for the celebration. And since there were no "streetlights", these girls would also have oil lamps to light the way through the streets. As they awaited his arrival, the girls would have to keep trimming the wicks of the lamps to prevent burning excessive oil. By keeping the wicks small and using just a little oil, they would have enough to light the way for the groom when he arrived. The foolish girls, who fell asleep and did not tend their lamps, were running out of oil by the time the groom arrived and were not ready.
There has been a lot of talk about being prepared, what provisions people should have "just in case" there is a direct hit. Some are heading the warnings, others seem to take pride in defying both civil authorities and common sense. All the news reports seemed geared to dwell on a "worst case" scenario, warning people of the coming disaster, and it seems as if the entire east coast of the United States is focused on the potential paths and possible results of the storm. There are reports of shortages of batteries, generators, plywood and food, as people are now trying to make sure they are ready to make it through the next few days. And I am sure that there will still be those who will not have the necessary items and will be expressing anger and resentment at others who are better prepared.
The hurricane is definitely coming, even though some think it will be "much ado about nothing". They will refer to previous warnings of ,monster storms that turned out to fizzle before arriving. And when it hits and there is widespread damage, we will find some who, after neglecting the warnings, need to be rescued, putting others' lives in jeopardy. This is, indeed, the height of foolishness!
The bottom line is - get ready now - and not just for Hurricane Irene. The reality is that many people will die even before Irene hits. Each day it is estimated that 153,400 people die. Some of them will be people from your hometown, people with whom you work, people in your own family. One day each one of us will be part of that daily statistic. The hurricane will hit within two days, and I hope you are getting ready for it. But what if today is the day you will be one of the 153,400? Are you ready?