One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 26, 2007

For the Twenty-First Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 13:22-30
Isaiah 66:18-21
Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

During the ordinary Sundays of the Church year, we follow the Lord’s public career that took place during the last one to three years of his life.
Today in his Gospel we hear that:
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went
and making his way to Jerusalem.

There on a Friday he was shoved just outside the city walls to be crucified in his love for our salvation and the glory of his Father.
On the following Sunday, outside the walls of that capital city of Israel, he rose from the dead.
Forty days later, outside Jerusalem, he ascended into the invisible glory of heaven
Ever since then, we have awaited the return of Jesus our King who will bring with him the renewal of heaven and earth.
In his New Testament, he teaches us that when he returns he will “judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
No one knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return.
How are we to occupy ourselves as we wait for him?
Today in his Gospel, he warns us not to be slack or complacent in our faith, not to presume that our place among his chosen ones is automatic.
His warning against such complacent presumption was directed first of all to Israel.
He was only repeating a warning already spoken to Israel centuries before by the prophets.
For example, the prophet Isaiah whom we heard today in the first reading, said the Lord would one day bring people from all nations to join the Israelites in the worship of God, even making non-Israelites into priests.
In the original plan of God, the only Israelites who could be priests were members of the tribe of Levi.
Isaiah foretold that God would extend the priesthood beyond the tribe of Levi, and, in fact, beyond all the twelve tribes of Israel, thus making all humanity his chosen people.
Jesus echoes the prophet Isaiah by saying in today’s Gospel that unknown foreigners would “come from east and west, and from north and south” to “sit at table in the kingdom of God” together with the ancient patriarchs of Israel.
Salvation would no longer be the automatic claim of the Israelites alone.
Jesus tells them in his Gospel today that some of them will wail and grind their teeth; they will go from being the first to being the last; he warns them they might even be thrown out and locked out.
We Christians must also take to heart these warnings from Jesus.
Today in his Gospel, he says to Jews and to Christians that we are EVILDOERS if we presume we have an automatic claim in God’s kingdom.
He says this today in answer to the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
However, the Gospel does not tell us if the questioner was a follower of Christ or not.
So both Israelites and Christians must heed the answer to the question.
Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.

Jesus then points out that we might try to stake our claim on salvation by saying, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets”.
We might even say, “We received your sacraments; we ate and drank your Body and Blood; we heard your teachings in your Church.”
Nonetheless, he pushes open the possibility that he might end up having to say to us:
I do not know where you are from;
depart from me, all you evildoers!

These are frightening warnings from Jesus himself today.
Salvation is not guaranteed by saying, “I have accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”
It belongs to Jesus alone to judge and say in the end, “Yes, you did”, or, “No, it turns out you really did not”.
This is a stern and narrow view of salvation.
However, today in his Gospel, Jesus gives us just such a stern and narrow view.
Strive to enter through the narrow gate.

With all his heart, with every fiber of his being, and with every drop of his blood, Jesus wants us “inside the gate”.
He simply warns us today that the gate is narrow.
After all he himself, like an obsessed lover, came in pursuit of us, and did not hesitate to take communion with us in the narrow and miserable gateway of our human suffering and death.
There is reason here for serious concern; but there is no room for despair.
God himself has lived and died to become for us an open gate, an open gate into himself.
God wants us inside, and the way there is his way, and none other.
He tells us:
I am the way. [Jn. 14:6]

I am the gate of the sheep. [Jn. 10:7]

The word of the Lord to the Romans [Rm. 8:28,30] says:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him,
who are called according to his purpose.
And those whom he called he also justified;
and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God the Father who loves us in Christ Jesus works for our good, calls us to himself, sets us aright, and glorifies us.
He “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” [Rm. 8:32]:
Christ Jesus, who died,
yes, who was raised from the dead,
who is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us. [Rm. 8:34]

He is the one whose return we now await.
His intercession for us gives us reason to hope.
Today within this very hour, with the Gospel and Eucharist of Christ, we are able to say to him: “We ate and drank in your presence. You taught us.”
However, we must constantly remain at his side on his way to Jerusalem, the city of crucifixion.
We must remain at peace with him, to love and serve, to walk, work and live in the way he did.
If we do, then in the end Jesus can say to us: “You have stayed faithfully at my side. Come with me into the kingdom of my Father who is your Father.”
We have plentiful reason to rejoice in his goodness, his power, and his promise— but he wants, he deserves, he requires our fidelity.

That God Be Glorified in All


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