Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Lord, will only a few people be saved?" ... "Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough." (Lk. 13:22-30)
After reading the first and second readings for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, I was pretty pumped up.
First, God wants all of us to get to heaven, he says, I come to gather nations of every language. In the second reading, I heard, “for whom the Lord loves he discipline, like a father who disciplines his son out of love.” Yes, “I am pumped up.”
However, the gospel statement by Jesus was a bit disturbing and challenging. Someone asked Jesus, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" to enter but will not be strong enough.”
Considering this response what is a well-intentioned Christians to do? As in any exercise routine to build our body muscles, we must routinely exercise and follow a good diet. As well-intentioned Christian, we must build our spiritual muscles, which will require determination, focus, and practice.
Jesus’s warning is not about squeezing us out or denying some of us entrance into heaven but a reminder of the effort that is needed to get through. So, Jesus uses the parable of a narrow gate. It is not a locked gate but, to enter the gate, requires determination, focus and practice.
We are being reminded to build our spiritual muscles, be courageous, be selfless, be generous and merciful and follow the path of Jesus, to LOVE other people as Christ loves us.
Furthermore, if we want to be better at loving other people:
· we must put into practice acts of kindness, demonstrate care and compassion, for others,
· we should strive to make peace …. and not cause others to fall short of the grace of God,
· we must act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,
· we must not let racist thoughts and actions, prevent us from being open, accepting, and seeing Jesus in everyone we meet,
· we should stand up, let our voices be heard in support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of criticizing, categorizing, and insulting other people,
· we must share our possessions, our talents, and knowledge.
All these efforts and more, as we continue to build our spiritual muscles, require determination, focus, and practice.
Our efforts to do good and make decisions that put Jesus first in our own life and circumstances will sometime cause us to go against family, relatives, coworkers, and friends. And this is not always easy.
For example, having the courage to address institutional and structural racism is a challenge. However, if we want to live as God calls us to love Him, and others, we must accept this challenge.
When building our spiritual muscles, we gain the strength to push ourselves to do the right thing and endure the ridicule and division that may come as a result of our actions.
With this image of a narrow gate in mind, know that it is not Jesus who limits who will get through to the Kingdom of God. It is our daily actions, our determination, our focus, and our practice to follow Jesus that will determine whether we will enter the narrow gate or not.
As we go to receive the Body of Christ, let us go asking for the spiritual strength to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to love others as He loves us.
Author: Deacon Joseph Connor – is a native of New Orleans and lives in Seattle, Washington. Deacon Joseph’s ministry involves service to Immaculate Conception Church, where he is chair of the Liturgy Commission, and is a Seattle Police Chaplain. He is president of the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons.