Sand in an Hourglass

Nov 26, 2023

Today’s reflection is shared by Fr. Michael Schleupner, who frequently offers spiritual direction on our directed retreats. Let’s read his insights about the following lesson from Scripture:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. ~Matt. 25: 1-13

Sand in an Hourglassnew year, resolution

There is a story about a little, seven-year-old girl who lived near the beach. Her grandfather also lived nearby, and she loved him very much. He had a beautiful hourglass, and this little seven-year-old liked to turn it upside down and watch the sand steadily flow from the top glass bub though the narrow opening into the bottom bulb. Her grandfather once told her that the hourglass reminded him of time – that time was limited and precious. Well, this particular year, Christmas was coming.

This little girl’s mother told her that her grandpa was in the hospital and was very sick. He might even die. The little girl asked what that meant. And her mother explained that life was something like grandpa’s hourglass and that there was very little sand left in the top bulb to flow into the bottom. Her mother suggested that she make a special Christmas gift that they could take to Grandpa. So, the little girl excitedly went to work on her gift.

When they got to the hospital, she gave her grandpa a somewhat heavy, wrapped box – the size of a shoe box. He slowly unwrapped it and looked inside and just smiled. He immediately understood. His little granddaughter had filled the box with sand.

The Story of the Bridesmaids

Well, if it were only that easy! If only we could extend our days and time by adding more sand to our hourglasses! But, of course, we cannot!

Today’s parable of the bridesmaids addresses this very issue. There are three important lessons.

Lesson 1: Prepare

First, each of us must prepare for the moment when we will meet God face to face. We must do this for ourselves. No one can do it for us. We see this in the refusal of the five wise bridesmaids to share their oil with the others. This is not an issue of being selfish. Instead, it is about being prepared. These bridesmaids did not share their oil because they could not share this kind of oil. This is the oil of personal preparation, the oil of who we have become as persons in the course of our lives. We can encourage one another, but ultimately each one of us must do this preparation for ourselves.

Lesson 2: Watch the Time

The second lesson is to watch the time. There are only so many grains of sand in the hourglass. We see this in the inability of the five foolish bridesmaids to go and buy oil for themselves. Obviously, it was midnight, and the markets were closed. And that is exactly the point: it was too late! The moment had come, the groom and bride were arriving, and there was no more time to prepare. This will be true for each one of us at some moment. So, we need to watch the time and be ready today. We need to live as if today were our day to meet the Lord face to face.

Lesson 3: Be a Light

And then the third lesson is that we must be about light. Psalm 36 in the Old Testament praises God by saying: “In your light we see light.” The idea is that we need to allow ourselves to be drawn into the light of God.

And then, with this light, we can see light in the world and bring light to one another. “In your light we see light.”

This is the significance of the oil lamps that the bridesmaids are to keep burning brightly. We also are to bring light to our world.

This is a helpful way for understanding the kinds of things we are to do, like here in November, being thankful for those who have been in our lives and have died, or making sure that we are thankful for something each day. We are to keep our lamps burning brightly and be light for our world.


1. Prepare.
2. Watch the time.
3. And be a light.

Valuable reminders in today’s gospel story!

~Fr. Michael Schleupner

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