Twenty First Sunday
Isiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-13; Luke 13:22-30
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle
August 21, 2022
I was watching the news the other day.
The President was explaining how the new Inflation Reduction Bill was going to help people. When he finished talking reporters began to shout questions at the President. Some reporter called out, "President Biden, if China attacks Taiwan will we defend them?" I wondered what that question had to do with what the President was talking about. Today, as "Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching, proclaiming the openness of the Gospel, someone in the crowed called out, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?” When I read todays Gospel for this Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, I wondered what that person was talking about. Why do people ask those kinds of questions? I truly believe that they are simply questions of curiosity, that give us something to gossip about rather than addressing the issue at hand. In the Gospel Jesus travels to a variety of communities.
Jesus meets a wide variety of people where they are, and he teaches them in ways that inspire and challenge. Jesus' teachings inspire us to reflect on what God has promised us, as someone shouts out a question about how many people will be saved. Jesus, of course does not answer the question directly but instead gives a powerful statement and a short story in response. "Strive to enter through the narrow gate," Jesus says. Why would the gate to the Kingdom of God be narrow? Shouldn't it be wide so that many people can enter? The narrow gate is not meant to keep people out of the Kingdom but rather to require work enter the Kingdom. Although Jesus does not tell us "How many will be saved," he does affirm that not all people are willing to make the effort that is needed for entry. There is a cost, of course, to enter the Kingdom of God, and the cost of entry is love. Love of God and love of neighbors. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling to pay that cost.
However, while Jesus notes that there are those who are not willing to pay the cost of entering the Kingdom of God there are many others who are willing. "People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God." Yes, the Kingdom of God is open to all people. The ministry of Jesus was clearly inclusive of all people. However, Jesus also stresses that people must be willing to change themselves in order to live out the Gospel. Toward the end of this Gospel Jesus notes that those who lead people, especially Bishops and priests, should not assume their own privilege and position will automatically result in a place in the Kingdom. Some of the last will be first, and some of the first will be last. This Gospel gives us all much to reflect upon. It is a reminder that we must recognize our responsibility in living and promoting the Gospel. Entering the Kingdom of God is open to all, but entry is not easy. Those who are "cast out" are in such a position because of their own actions or inactions, and not because God is not open and welcoming. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves: "How do we live out the Gospel in our daily life?” "What can we do to create a Church that is more open and inclusive?" "What do you do to proclaim the Gospel to others?"