21st Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 21 August 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 66: 18-21; Responsorial: Psalm 117; II: Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13; Gospel: Luke 13: 22-30
The Gospel for this summer Sunday of Ordinary Time shares the lesson of the narrow gate. The intensity of Jesus as his final journey to Jerusalem draws near is increasing. Our Savoir travels through the Judean towns and as he does he is asked a question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few? He does not directly answer the question but says: “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” [Bible quotes from the Revised Catholic Version]. This familiar Gospel lesson seems to indicate that to assume entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is not wise. And that is certainly an important and valid point. But a careful reading of the entire lesson would help us realize there is so much more to the words of Jesus.
Christ says how so many will tell the Lord they sat at table with him and were present when he spoke. The response of Jesus makes painfully clear that they may well have been the case. But He did not know them. They were in essence, in reality, spectators. They were not disciples. They saw, they heard, they apparently shared in some activities with Christ. But they came and left. They chose not to follow Christ. They chose not to be disciples. The lesson of the narrow door or gate is not about a place or thing. It is about our relationship with Christ and whether or not we are seeking to follow, to know, to learn of Him.
Our first reading from the last chapter of the book of Isaiah affirms this truth. The prophet has been striving to bring the Hebrew people to return and follow the Lord. He has made it very plain that their presumed place as a child of God must allow the loving chastisement and discipline from God. They must enter into a growing relationship of penance and conversion as God brings them from sin to sanctification, there becoming the children of God they were meant to be. But Isaiah goes on. He tell them they will not be alone but God will bring sisters and brothers from distant lands, from peoples that they had, at times considered enemies. Isaiah was speaking of the many souls who would come and enter that narrow door as followers of God, as disciples of Jesus.
It is in our second reading from the Book of Hebrews that we find a key that can open the narrow door. It is the discipline, the chastisements from God for those who would seek His way. This is not a popular portion of Scripture when applied to our own life. As Hebrews states, we are not to disdain the disciplines of the Lord. To recognize illness or needs, sorrows are often the times and place of God’s loving discipline in our life. Perhaps we, as children need to understand certain things are simply wrong. They may hurt or even destroy part or even a whole life if pursued. It is the grace of penance and conversion that allows us the freedom to turn from such evils and turn, draw closer to God. But sometimes the disciplines, these chastisements are not about sin in our life. Sometimes hardships happen because of sin and evil in the world and God may allow us to face those realities, not from cruelty but from a love that sees us stronger, with God, than we may FEEL we are able to be. God allows these disciplines to help us bring others to His mercy and love, to help them through that narrow door. It is a very powerful part of life as we respond to these challenges, these chastistements. It is also a time when may may need to discern, am I a disciple? A follower who God may discipline and chastise as His son or daughter? Or am I more of a discipliner?
To look at it another way consider this. Am I more concerned with the evils (real or assumed) of others or am I more concerned with God’s hand at work in my life? Am I keeping my eyes on Christ as I seek to follow Him through the narrow door or am I distracted by others and their erroneous ways? Perhaps it may help if we leave the example of the narrow door and look instead at a very busy freeway that offers us a very brief, narrow door to get through IF we are going to reach our hoped-for destination. We indeed need to be aware of those around us. But if we are preoccupied with those all around our lives those distractions may cause us to miss our desitniation, or worse.
The reality of sin and evil in our world is very real. Our faith, the Church has always been and is now a target of attacks from the world. This is nothing new. This results in sometimes great suffering for the faithful. But those real sufferings are the holy graces that calls us to take up whatever crosses God allows and follow Jesus. God wants His followers, men, and women to be strong IN HIM and FOR Him. But it is not to beat into submission, with our Bibles and rosary beads, those with whom we disagree. It is not even for us to chastise and discipline others with the ways and spirits and guns of this world. It is for God to judge, chastise and discipline. It is for us to follow Christ and live redemptively, mercifully with each other, as God forgives and brings mercy into our life. There are indeed souls mired in valleys of sin and despair, trapped in cells of fear and anger. Our work, as strong, faith-filled followers of The Redeemer is to pray and act, to live in ways that bring the freedom of God’s Word, the peace and beauty of Our Lady’s rosary into those lives. The light of the Living Christ, the beauty of those fifty holy roses is the true loving discipline we both need and need to share.