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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time August 25, 2019

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time  August 25, 2019
by Arlenne Villahermosa last modified Aug 22, 2019 08:55 AM

Lk 13:22-30 Jesus told the crowd, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough..."

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 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."

 

 

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Reflection

The man who asked Jesus, "Will only a few be saved?" probably thought that heaven was a select club to which only members are admitted.  The man was a Jew.  As such he would have believed that only Jews would be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Gentiles had no hope of getting in.  As for sinners - forget it!  (The idea of a chosen people is a dangerous idea.  If God chooses a people, he doesn't choose them to the exclusion of others, but to the service of others.)

By the time the man had digested Jesus' answer, he was probably sorry he asked the question in the first place.  Because Jesus blew his assumptions to smithereens.  He turned everything upside down.  He said, "The first will be last, and the last will be first."  It was a revolutionary statement that shocked and outraged the Pharisees.  And Jesus didn't leave it there.  He befriended sinners and outcast.  The Pharisees saw this as a betrayal of virtuous people like themselves.  But Jesus declared that it was to seek out and save people such as these that he had come.

The world is riddled with exclusive clubs, snobbery, privilege, preference, and so on.  We wouldn't expect Jesus to go along with this.  Nor did he.  He announced the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  To those Jews who thought they could enter the Kingdom as a matter of course he said:  Produce the fruits of repentance, otherwise your privileged position would benefit you nothing.

Jesus said that conversion was a necessary disposition for entry into the Kingdom.  And he succeeded in bringing it about in the most unlikely of people.  Many sinners heeded his call to conversion, and made their way into the Kingdom.  Whereas, many religious people stubbornly resisted his call to conversion, and so excluded themselves from the Kingdom.

At the end of the day, we have to remember that salvation is not something we can earn.  It is a gift from God.  But that doesn't mean we ought not try to make ourselves worthy of the Kingdom.  We must endeavor to produce the fruits of the kingdom, namely, goodness, right living and truth.  And we must open our hearts to others, and not begrudge God's generosity to them.


(Excerpts from "New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies Year C" by Flor McCarthy, SDB, pp 284-286)

 

 

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