Five foolish and five wise - and the only thing that separates the two in Jesus' story is that the wise had extra flasks of oil and the foolish did not. A costly mistake. The foolish lose out on the Wedding feast they had been waiting for. "The door was shut." And when the come late, asking for admittance, all they hear is: "I do not know you." So what does the extra oil stand for? What is Jesus tell us that the wise have and the foolish lack?
We could speculate on all kinds of things, but better than guessing is to go to the Scriptures and chase down "oil." Images begin to coalesce.
Noah putting forth his hand from the ark and taking in the dove, with an olive branch in its mouth - sign that the judgment had passed and that it was safe to leave the ark. Olive branch, olive oil. Water and a dove.
The anointing of Saul - oil poured by old Samuel upon the young man's head and the Spirit suddenly coming on him in power and he prophesying, so that they asked: "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Isaiah uttering the prophesy: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."
And all the images uniting as Jesus stands in the water, and the Spirit descends "like a dove" "anointing" him. Thus He enters His office as Christ! When we speak of our Lord as the "Christ" we are calling Him the Anointed One, and confessing that the Spirit of God rests on Him.
From start to finish the Bible unites Spirit and oil together; so much so that the verb used of pouring out oil is also the verb used of pouring out the Spirit: "anoint!"
So the five wise virgins were those who kept by them the supply of oil, that is the supply of the Spirit? What does that mean in practical terms?
We know that in Baptism God richly pours out His Spirit on His people: "Be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit - the promise is for you and your children." Acts 2. But the sad fact is that our lives are very much jars of clay, cracked pots. The Spirit poured in only once, drains out. He must be constantly and freshly poured into us if the lamp of faith is to keep burning bright in our lives. Thus Paul writes: "Be [being] filled with the Spirit!" Eph. 5:18
But where is He being poured out? Where are the extra flasks filled with the oil of the Spirit we'll need for our faith to burn brightly until the Day of Christ's return?
In the Church! The full flasks are simply the means of grace - the Word and the Sacraments of Jesus. To live our lives near them, constantly being replenished by them, letting the Spirit be poured into us - that is to be a wise virgin.
To say: "O, I'm a Christian" and then wander away from them, not to give a listen to Jesus' words, not to come often to hear His absolution, not to eat often of His body and blood, is to live foolishly indeed. For what was once poured in, drains out through the cracks of our lamp, drains out through our sin. That's to live in the danger of being caught out empty on the Last Day!
So when the Lord says: "What I say to you, I say to all, watch!" He is urging us to camp out by the spiritual flasks of the Church.
The flasks of the Church are truly full to overflowing, for they are supplied from the Lord Jesus Himself, who fills them to the brim with His Spirit and His life. This is the life He came from heaven to give us. This is the life He brought into our flesh and blood when He assumed it from Mary's womb. This is the life He died on the cross to pour out into us - the gift of forgiveness, the Life of the Trinity, the Joy that is the Holy Spirit, the Peace and the Love that the Spirit brings with Him because that's who He is. All of these located for us richly in the flasks of the means of grace.
But no one else can camp out at the means of grace for you - no one else can receive the Spirit for you, and so no one can believe for you. So the wise cannot give their flasks to the foolish - impossible. Each must have their own. So it's not a matter of your mother being in church or your sister or your father or your brother. It's a matter of YOU being where the flasks are full and letting the overflow keep your lamp of faith burning bright.
Thus the only way to be prepared for that day is to make a habit of truly listening to His Words, to make a habit of hearing the absolution and trusting it, to make a habit of coming to His altar and letting Him give His body and blood into you for the forgiveness of all your sins; this is how you "watch." This is how you can have the certainty Paul spoke in our second reading (1 Thes. 5:1-111) that "God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we might live with Him." Thus you'll be a people prepared and ready for whenever your Lord shall return and with joy, your lamp of faith will burn brightly in the night as you greet him and enter with Him into the feast of joy that never ends. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.