August 25, 2013 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Today’s readings begin with Isaiah’s announcement that the Lord will come to gather nations of every language – all shall come and see the Lord’s glory. Moreover, he prophesizes these, whom the Lord has gathered, will proclaim His glory among the nations.   The Psalm response for today (Psalm 117) echoes that mission, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  Thus, to be a follower of Jesus requires action on our part.  We cannot be passive.  We cannot just take comfort in saying “I am a believer” and not do anything to back up these words.

In fact, over these past few Sundays, we have been reminded that to those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.  What is this “much” we have been given?  We have been washed of our sins, given new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and called to be sons and daughters of our Father.  However, simply being a “card carrying” Christian will not guarantee us a place in Jesus’ kingdom.  We must live out our belief by putting our words into action—they do speak more loudly.  As the author of Hebrews rightly notes, this takes discipline and perseverance on our part.   St. Francis of Assisi challenges all of us:  “Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary.”

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus was asked, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”  This inquisitive person was hoping for a sympathetic answer; maybe something like, “No worries, man!  Most of you will be saved.”  Notice, though, Jesus responds by offering a challenge to His listeners to “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  Don’t seek to be mediocre.  We must strive if we desire to enter this narrow gate.  We cannot just presume we will be saved without putting some life-long effort into it.  We must witness to a “higher” culture by giving of ourselves, building up others, forgiving; and loving one another as Jesus loves us.

A favorite prayer of mine often prayed at my high school, Central Catholic, is the Prayer for Generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.  “Lord, teach me to be generous.  Teach me to serve You as You deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do Your will.”

We all know the old saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  A Capuchin priest friend of mine offers a humorous twist on this:  Often you hear people say, “I would go to church, BUT it’s boring and I don’t get anything out of it.”  Still others say, “I would like to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, BUT I am just so busy at work.”  Even others might say “I would be willing to give money to help tend to the needs of the poor, BUT I have so many bills of my own.”  Do you sense a theme here–BUT, BUT, BUT?  Just remember, you can’t get through a narrow gate with a big BUT.

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