August 25, 2019 – 21stSunday in Ordinary Time
A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (66:18-21)
Thus says the LORD:
I know their works and their thoughts,
and I come to gather nations of every language;
they shall come and see my glory.
I will set a sign among them;
from them I will send fugitives to the nations:
to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan,
to the distant coastlands
that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory;
and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the LORD,
on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries,
to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD,
just as the Israelites bring their offering
to the house of the LORD in clean vessels.
Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.
A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7,11-13)
Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.
From the Holy Gospel according to Luke (13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And 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.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”
It is common to see in the airports the x-ray and metal detector machines that each passenger must go through. Each passenger will pass these, and the nearer you are at the gate, you have to pass through the machines and by this time in a more thorough and stricter manner. Metals in the body are removed, these include, mobile phones, watches, belts and even shoes. When there will be undesirable objects like scissors, lighters or any pointed objects and even breakable items like bottles which exceed to the allowed size, are all to be surrendered. A passenger has to let go of them or take the hassle again of going back to the check-in counter.
Thus, I realized too that the more I bring unnecessary things in my flight the more it becomes troublesome for me. Besides, if I bring undesirable items too then, I am asked to let go of those things that are not allowed in the flight just for me to be allowed to board on my flight.
This realization brought me into today’s readings. So, I invite you that we see again and discover how God unfolds his invitations for us today.
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”someone asked Jesus. We could wonder why that man asked about that. Well, the path that Jesus was taking seemed too difficult for this man. This was the reason why he asked the Lord about this. Jesus’ way was totally different from the trend at that time. People believed in a God who was so far away, too powerful and almighty. Yet, Jesus presented a God who is so close with the people. The people believed in an untouchable God who burdens them with so many laws to follow. Yet, Jesus introduced to them a God who heals the broken-hearted, who favored the poor and the despised. Their world taught them that they should be above others, to be rich, famous and powerful. But then, Jesus remained humble and poor, simple and unassuming, weak and powerless.
The Lord desires that everyone will be saved, and will experience healing and peace, reconciliation and freedom. This is what we have heard from the first reading in the Book of Isaiah. It was an affirmation of God’s desire to gather every one whether Jews or Gentiles, sinner or saints, rich or poor. People from all nations will come to worship the Lord.
However, as it was at the time of Jesus, we continue to prevent the Lord from making us closer to him. Our tendency to advance our selfish desires and interests at the expense of others, stops us in allowing the Lord to work in us. Selfishness and arrogance continue to hold us back from God.
Yet, God’s salvation is offered to us freely, but not imposed on us. And so it means that salvation also requires our participation. This makes the door of salvation “narrow” because of the commitment that it entails as we live our life.
To understand this better, the Letter to the Hebrews tells us on how we could enter that narrow gate. It is simply through “discipline.” The author wants to tell us that the trials and sufferings that we endure in this life are opportunities for us to be disciplined by God. And this is where we can participate with God.
When we encounter problems and difficulties, and disappointments, particularly in your marriage, with your families, with your friends, with your studies, or work or business – do not retreat or become aggressive. Retreating or being aggrieve will do us no good. These trials are opportunities for us to build our personality, to be responsible, to grow with confidence, to be committed, to be honest, and to gain more wisdom.
But remember, in this kind of discipline, God never desires us to suffer or to be in pain. Pain and suffering are just part of this world where we are now. Yet, God, in His wisdom, uses these human experiences of pain, suffering, disappointments and fears as ways to discipline us. These are doors for us to welcome God in our life so that He may be able to bring blessings upon us, to give us His peace and freedom. Certainly, God desires that we turn to Him and become closer to Him.
Indeed, trials in life are ways for us to strip ourselves from our arrogance, to let go of our selfish desires, and to turn away from our sinful ways. These are the unnecessary baggage that will prevent us from entering the narrow gate. Yet, if we come as we are, without any pretentions and selfishness, then, we shall see that the narrow gate of Jesus is wider than us.
Thus, God’s way of disciplining us is not about punishing us and giving more pain to us, but to correct us, to mold and to form us according to His desire for us. As we become conscious of this, we will discover the wonder of the process of working with God to mold us.
Today, let us also show and express our desire for the salvation of all, the giving of peace and freedom to all as desired by Jesus. As we participate with God let us listen attentively to His voice in the scriptures, in our sacraments, in our culture, in our current events and with those who are suffering in many ways in our community. Hopefully, this will lead us to respond to God’s invitation in becoming his instruments of salvation for our brothers and sisters and of the rest of God’s creation. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR