21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013
I would like to share with you a simple statement and then spend the rest of my homily defending it.
This earthly life would make no sense if it were merely the staging ground for the life to come. God puts us on this earth to learn how to live here so we will be prepared to live here after. If we find nothing of God's kingdom here on earth we are not likely to find a home in heaven. And as I often say to my seventh graders, there is no culture shock when you die!
Someone asked Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" Jesus doesn't answer the question directly, which seemed to create a dark and troubling scene. But He does use it to make a very important point for the questioner needs to hear what really matters in the kingdom of God.
Jesus' responds is that we are to strive to enter by the narrow gate, "for many will seek to enter and not be able." Similar words were spoken in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, "enter-by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction." Jesus cannot be accused of preaching a pie in the sky type of gospel. He is candid about the difficulties of following him and the costly nature of discipleship.
And when you stop to think about it how could it be otherwise, all worthwhile efforts and meaningful achievements involve passing through a narrow gate they require self-discipline and diligent effort. Jesus came to save us from ourselves and from our sins. He came to heal the evil in our hearts and make us different. He did not come merely to get us into heaven, he came to make of us a new creation. Such transformations cannot happen without radical change, without the pain of sacrifice and a commitment to a radical change. God's grace had been revealed to us primarily through the cross of Christ. Receiving that gift is a very serious matter. Our selfishness will not die easily. This is why Jesus said that many would try to enter the narrow gate and be unable.
"Will those who are saved be few?" Let us suppose that we are asking Jesus that question, are we looking for eternal security? If Jesus were to tell us that we assuredly would go to heaven, what would our response in life be, what would that mean to live that kind of faith? Wouldn't that kind of assurance make us self-centered and selfish? Jesus answers with the wisdom that places us in the center of the greater human family and should cause us to be less selfish, that should lead us to a concern for the welfare of our brothers and sisters even at the cost of our own self.
When so many of God's children throughout the world are hungry, lonely, and cold, how can we be so preoccupied with our own circumstances that we ignore them, or forget them? "Me-first" is no way to follow Jesus Christ. Self-centeredness is the fundamental sin whether we are Christian or atheist. It is supremely un-Christ-like for us to be more concerned about ourselves then we are about anyone else.
The primary purpose of salvation in Christ is not to save us from death and taxes, and labor, pestilence and people we don't like. Neither is it about rewarding us with a heaven where all our earthly desires and unfulfilled fantasies are finally being realized. Biblically and theologically speaking, salvation is about redemption of the earth, of time, of nations, and of all of us who are created in the image of God. This goal of salvation is compelling. Jesus said, "people will come from the East and the West, North and the South, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." Ultimately, salvation includes the whole cosmos. All will be transformed and give glory to God the Creator and Redeemer. But how can we anticipate such a hope and a promise as this for ourselves when millions of people live and die in an endless night of darkness?
However, there are those who consume themselves in providing healthcare, hope, and means to those who live in darkness. Mother Teresa is well known, but there are countless unknown individual who live her vision and give themselves to needy people the world over. Some of them can only make phone calls, write notes, or pray. How often I tell the old people in nursing home and assisted living, their duty before man and God is now to spend their time in prayer: and usually remind them to look around and they will have to decided that you can pray all day long and when night comes there is more to pray for. You will find some who weep with those who are weeping. Providing meals for those who can no longer cook for themselves. Some provide transportation or simply engage in conversation. Of course by the world standards such people are not major players -- they are not world leaders, renowned scientists, brilliant doctors, business tycoons. They are neighbors, friends, church members, individuals with nothing to give, but care and compassion. They are the last and least. In the kingdom of God, according to Jesus, the tables are turned and some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.
And once again to remind you to be Good, Be Holy, and Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words!
'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.
- "Golgotha, Rome, and Words that Mean Something"
(April 28, 2013)
- "Genesis to Luke: A Long Journey to Christmas"
(December 23, 2012)
- " 'But who do you say that I am?' "
(October 10, 2012)
- "Response to an Ancient Offense"
(September 5, 2012)
- " 'Life is here, Love is here, Challenge is here. ... The choice is ours' "
(September 1, 2012)