Sunday, August 25, 2013

He is the Gate

Readings for Sunday, August 25/ 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 66:18-21
Psalm 117:1-2
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

This question posed to the Lord is an interesting one, as well as one that can have great bearing on the extent to which we work to attain our salvation. The response to this question can be summarized in three responses.

The first is one which says only a few will be saved. This view emphasizes the judgment of God, and puts a very high price on our sins and since none of us are perfect then few will get into the Kingdom. The other extreme is one which emphasizes the love of God, seeing nearly no consequences for our sins, which would in effect mean everyone goes to Heaven. We can’t be sure of either one, though, and the Lord reminds us that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with it. This is the third way – be not concerned with it but simply strive to enter the narrow gate, which will indeed be too tough for some to accomplish.

It is surely not news to anyone, especially here around Lutcher, that football season is starting back up and with that all sorts of projections and speculation. Yesterday morning I was reading the paper and saw an article about LSU and how with a few things going in their favor they might find themselves playing for a national championship this year. What struck me was that the article didn’t quote any players talking about it, but rather just the sports writer himself. On the article next to it was where you could find the players’ comments – not about championships but about drills, conditioning, plays and formations, practice, and other such details. It’s all fine and good for the sports writer to sit around and project this and that, but if the players sat around looking at each other saying “Yeh, we’re going to win the championship this year!” and how they were going to do it, then you can rest assured that they’d get their butts handed to them when it came game time. Any good coach, no matter the sport, when faced with the speculation of titles and accolades will respond “We have to take it one game at a time.” To be consumed with things down the road is to miss the road itself that leads there. And that’s what Christ reminds us of today – that if we are too focused on the details of who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, then we miss the opportunities that actually permit us to enter ourselves.

It’s not by talking about titles that they are won, but in doing the things that strengthen a person or team and enable them to attain them. Players have to know their plays, formations, and rules to the game. As Christians we must know the faith we profess, studying always to grow more knowledgeable about it so as to live it better. Players must eat right, exercise, and stay in shape. We must pray unceasingly, staying in good physical shape to be prepared whenever we are put to the test. A player knows that practice makes perfect and the same applies to us. We cannot content ourselves with being Christians only a few hours a week or when it’s convenient but must practice our faith regularly by acts of charity spread all throughout our days. We cannot focus on the end but must stand ready to act in the present, to take up the daily discipline spoken of by the Letter to the Hebrews and be able to enter the narrow gate.

In a commentary on this passage Fr. Robert Barron says that Christ calls us to enter through the narrow gate and it is narrow because it is in the shape of Christ Himself. To the extent that we conform ourselves to His – live like Him, act like Him, and serve like Him – we are able to fit through the narrow gate. And to the extent that we fail to conform our lives to His, we are unable to do so. It is by the daily commitment to prayer, study, and exercise of our faith that God whittles away at us to bring us to be more like Christ and so be able to enter the gate.

As we receive Holy Communion today, let us pray for the grace to continue to walk in that path, to be disciplined and disciples here and now so that whenever the Lord does call us home, we can be confident of our salvation and the salvation of many others who follow after us because of our witness.