Sunday, August 21, 2016

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Narrow is the Gate

Today's readings remind us that not all will be saved. God knows us and we can be very hypocritical and delusional.

In the first reading, we are reminded that God knows our works and thoughts (Psalm 19, Romans 8:27-27). God gathers all nations of every language and each will see His glory (Revelation 7:9).  God's Word will go throughout the world, even to places that have not heard of His fame or glory (Isaiah 55:11). This is fulfilled in Christ Jesus when He founded the Catholic Church.  The word "Catholic" means universal.  This Church is not a Church just for Jews, Caucasians, Africans or Asians (Galatians 3:28).  It is a Church for all peoples.  This Church will be the beacon for salvation in Jesus.  She leads us to the narrow gate which we will read in the Gospel (John 14:6).  In the responsorial Psalm, we have two options which reflect the universality of the Gospel's message:

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Praise the Lord all you nations; glorify Him, all you peoples!

God is the God of all peoples (Jeremiah 32:27). This is well reflected in our Holy Catholic Church. Just take a gander in your parish before Mass or during the Sign of Peace.  You will see faces of every race and ethnicity; of both genders and all ages.  These are the people of God from all nations who praise Him.  The Good News is reaching the world.  There is much work to be done, though. We must spread the Good News to all in every nation and now online as well.  This is why "Sacerdotus" exists online.  The Good News is exactly what it says, "Good News."  It is a message of love and mercy, not condemnation or chastisement (Matthew 25:31-46).  However, this does not mean that we should all sit and sing "Kumbaya" as if nothing wrong is going on in ourselves or the world.  We must not disdain the discipline of the Lord, as the second reading tells us.  While God is merciful and loving, this does not mean He will excuse our sins.

We must examine our conscience always and change our lives to better match the image of God we are made in (Genesis 1:27).  God allows things to happen in our lives as trials, to discipline us and form us into His image (Romans 5:4, James 1:3).  We must not lose heart.  Unfortunately, many people at times lose heart when something bad happens. They feel God has abandoned them or that God may not even exist. How many times do we see Atheists online post memes of starving African children or some other tragedy and blame God or declare "God does not exist" because these atrocities exist.  This is because they do not understand the spiritual life. They lose heart when tragedy takes place. Remember, God is the author of life.  God is the creator. While tragedies to us seem permanent because we are finite creatures stuck in space and time, this does not mean God has these limitations. God can easily restore everything, He is God. One may ask: Well, why doesn't he? The answer is simply: God respects our free will.  How will we learn if He does everything for us? How will a child learn to eat or tie his/her shoes on his/her own if we do it for him/her?  God gives us space so we can learn, but does not wander away from us.  God treats us as sons, as the second reading tells us.  Like a Father, He disciplines us but at a cosmic level.  Sometimes these cosmic "time outs" can feel horrible, but in the end, they bring joy once we open ourselves to understanding (Ephesians 1:17).

Finally, in the Gospel, someone questions Jesus about salvation: "Lord, will only a few people be saved?"  Jesus does not answer the man because the question is irrelevant.  Who cares how many will be saved?  The bottom line is that you work to be saved and focus on that (Philippians 2:12).  This is why Jesus says that the gate is narrow and that it will be difficult to enter it.  Then He says that the master of the house will lock the door.  There will be those outside asking, "Lord, open the door for us." The master will respond, "I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!"  He will say this despite the people telling him, "We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets."  These words should speak to us clearly. We eat and drink with Christ in the Liturgy of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  We listen to Him speak in the Liturgy of the Word.  Let us not be like those who ignore Him or just live out the faith as a mere obligation or cultural manifestation that we inherited from our parents. Let us not be like those concerned over whether the priest says the Mass in Latin or with certain vestments.  Let us not be those who frequent the Sacraments, but refuses to forgive or help our neighbor. God will tell us, "I never knew you." Those who try to mock God with this Pharisaic faith will be wailing and grinding their teeth in hell. We must spread the Good News and not keep it to ourselves.  We must not be ashamed of our faith (Romans 1:16).  Let us focus on Christ and ask Him to transform us so that we can pass through the narrow gate when the time comes.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


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