August 18, 2019

O. T. XXI Sunday (August 25, 2019)

OT XXI (Aug 25) Homily on Lk 13: 22-30- one-page summary 

Introduction: As he continues his final journey to Jerusalem prepared for his suffering, and death, Jesus answers the question as to how many will be saved by answering how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door. Instead of asking how many will be saved, Jesus wants us to ask the question, “Am I prepared to be saved, choosing the narrow gate of sacrificial agape love and by loving others as Jesus loves them”?

Scripture lessons summarized:  In the first reading, Isaiah’s prophecy speaks to the Babylonian exiles returning to Jerusalem after 47 years in captivity, the younger members with their pagan wives,  telling them that salvation is not a Jewish monopoly and that is why Yahweh welcomes the pagans also into Judaism. The prophet’s great book ends as it began, with a vision of all the peoples of the world streaming toward Jerusalem, acknowledging and praising the God of Israel.   In the second reading, exploring with his readers the consequences of Christian commitment, St. Paul explains that “the narrow gate” of Jesus means our accepting pain and suffering as the loving disciplining God is giving His children. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 117) refrain,Go out to all the world and tell the Good News,” reflects the mission of God’s chosen people to be instruments of salvation to the whole world. In today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly explains that anyone who follows him through the narrow gate of sacrificial service and sharing love will be saved.   Jesus also admonishes his followers to concentrate on their own salvation by self-discipline rather than to worry about the salvation of others.

The Non-Catholic doctrine on salvation It was taught by Calvin and currently broadcast by tele-evangelists:Once saved, you are always saved,” in spite of your future sins and even apostasy. We are saved by the shed blood of Jesus when as teenager or adult we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, confess our sins and say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for sins. 

Catholic teaching on salvation: Salvation is a past, present and future event. We were saved from the Bondage of sin when we were baptized as children or adults. We are being saved at present, when we cooperate with God’s grace by loving others as Jesus did — by sharing our blessings with the needy and by getting reconciled with God daily, asking His forgiveness for our sins. We will be eternally saved when we hear the loving invitation from Jesus, the Judge, at the moment of our death and on the day of the Last Judgment, saying: “Good and faithful servant, you were faithful in little things, enter into the joy of your Master.”

 Life messages: We need to cooperate with God’s grace daily given to us: a) by choosing the narrow way and the narrow gate of self-control and self-disciplining of our evil tendencies, evil habits, and addictions; b) by loving others, seeing the face of Jesus in them, and sharing our blessings with them sacrificially; c) by obtaining the daily Divine strength to practice self-control and sharing love through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in daily prayer, in Bible reading, and in reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

O.T. 21 video sermons:

OT XXI [C] (Aug 25) Is 66:18-21, Heb 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk 13:22-30

Homily starter anecdote: # 1:  Three surprises in Heaven: Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen tells us that we will have three surprises in Heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. St. John of the Cross gives the reason why they are not there: “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on how we have loved.” The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. That is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven! Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us, simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace. In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers the question, who will be saved, when and how.

# 2: Narrow door to successful living: Thousands upon thousands of young boys grow up bouncing basketballs and dreaming of a life in the National Basketball Association – the professional ranks. But only a handful are chosen each year. Woe to the young man or young woman who is talented at sports but neglects his or her education! Thousands upon thousands of new businesses are started each year, but only a small number of people in our society become super-successful in material terms. The higher you go up the scale, the smaller the numbers become. Thousands upon thousands of young couples each year stand at the altars of churches like this one and pledge their love to one another, but, on the average, half these marriages will end in divorce. Many couples will stay together only for convenience, for appearances or for the children. Only an estimated 10% will find true fulfillment in their marriages. The door to any kind of successful living is a narrow one. That is why Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel: “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Successful living requires making hard choices. It requires dedication and sacrifice. How can Christian Faith demand any less?

 

# 3: The narrow gate of great musicians: Someone once said to Paderewski, the great pianist, “Sir, you are a genius.” He replied, “Madam, before I was a genius, I was a drudge.” He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it. It is reported that after one of Fritz Kreisler’s concerts a young woman said to him, “I would give my life to be able to play like that.” He replied, “That’s what I gave.” The door is narrow. Why should we think we can “drift” into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down.

# 4: Self-discipline: Many years ago, an editorial in the magazine, War Cry put it like this: “A loose wire gives out no musical note; but fasten the ends, and the piano, the harp or the violin is born. Free steam drives no machine. But hamper and confine it with piston and turbine and you have the great world of machinery made possible. The unhampered river drives no dynamos but dam it up and we get power sufficient to light a great city. So, our lives must be disciplined if we are to be of any real service in this world.” If you are going to walk with Jesus, there are some things you will need to leave behind.

Introduction: As he continues his fateful journey to Jerusalem, Jesus answers the question as to how many will be saved by answering how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door. Jesus explains who will be saved? How? Why? When?  Jesus clearly explains that anyone who follows him through the narrow gate of sacrificial serving and sharing love will be saved.   Jesus also admonishes his followers to concentrate on their own salvation instead of worrying about the salvation of others.

Scripture readings summarized: In the first reading, Isaiah’s prophecy speaks to the future Babylonian exiles returning to Jerusalem after 47 years in captivity, telling them that salvation is not a Jewish monopoly, and that is why Yahweh will also welcome the pagans into Judaism. The prophet’s great book ends as it begins — with a vision of all the peoples of the world streaming toward Jerusalem, acknowledging and praising the God of Israel.   In the second reading, exploring with his readers the consequences of Christian commitment, St. Paul explains “the narrow gate” of Jesus as pain and suffering, resulting from the loving discipline God is giving His children. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 117) refrain, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News,” reflects the mission of God’s chosen people to be instruments of salvation to the whole world.

The first reading (Is 66:18-21) explained:  Isaiah answered prophetically a similar question about salvation, which would be put forward some 200 years later by the Jews returning to Jerusalem in 540 BC after forty-seven years in exile.  Some of them brought back to Jerusalem their pagan wives and in-laws who had been converted to the Jewish Faith. The question was whether Yahweh would accept these former pagans along with His chosen people. The third part of Isaiah’s prophecy (chapters 56-66), answers this question.  In the prophet’s message, Yahweh declares that He is the Lord of all peoples rather than of the Jews alone.  In fact, some of these converts were to be missionaries to other pagans.  Even the hereditary posts of priest and Levite could be held by these outsiders.  (The Jewish priests were born into the priesthood.  No Jewish man born outside of a priestly family could ever dream of standing at the altar and offering sacrifice to Yahweh.  But Isaiah foresaw that even the non-Jews would be invited to join that highly restricted ministry!)

The second reading: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 explained:   The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, considering the “narrow gate theology,” gives it a different twist (Heb 12:5-7, 11-13).  For him, the road less often taken and the gate less often chosen are the paths of God’s discipline. The pain and suffering Christians experience are parts of God’s discipline, given in love. We are being disciplined by our afflictions, strengthened to walk that straight and narrow path – that we may enter the gate and take our place at the banquet of the righteous. The experience is similar to that of a child, disciplined by loving parents who desire only to help him grow, mature, and become responsible.  God’s discipline can be appreciated only by those who regard their relationship with God as that of a child to a parent (Proverbs 3:11-12). Unfortunately, we often take God’s discipline differently. Some of us meet God’s discipline with a resigned acceptance that sees no other possible course.  Others gulp it down like a bitter pill so as to be done with it as soon as possible. Some respond with self-pity, which, in the end, leads to their collapse.  Still others become resentful and turn away from God. However, there are some, who can lift their spirits above present trials and look beyond to the peace and justice (v. 11) which are the fruits of God’s discipline.

Gospel exegesis: Are you saved”? When the questioner asked Jesus “How many will be saved?” he was assuming that the salvation of God’s Chosen People was virtually guaranteed, provided they kept the Law. In other words, the Kingdom of God was reserved for the Jews alone, and Gentiles would be shut out.  The Jewish catechism, Mishnah, taught: “All Israelites have a share in the world to come.” The author of the Apocalypse of Ezra declared, “this age the Most High has made for the many, but the age to come for a few” (4 Ezra 8:1). Hence, Jesus’ answer must have come as a shock. Jesus affirms that God wants all persons to enjoy eternal life with Him. But he stresses the need for constant fidelity and vigilance throughout our lives. Thus, Jesus reminds us that, even though God wants all of us to be saved, we all need to work at it. Entry into God’s kingdom is not automatically granted, based purely on religious Faith or nationality, so we cannot presume on God’s mercy and do nothing by way of response to God’s invitation. What Jesus is saying is that salvation is not guaranteed for anyone. “Outside the Church there is no salvation” was a rallying cry for centuries.  But Jesus declares that nobody can claim that he is “saved,” possessing a “visa” to Heaven. How many will be saved in the end is a decision that rests with God and depends His Justice which includes His Mercy.  Jesus came to bring God’s love and freedom to the whole world. The message of his Gospel is that there is not a single person, people, nation, race, or class, which will be excluded from experiencing the love and liberation that God offers. Hence, the role of the Christian community, from the beginning until now has been, first and foremost, to proclaim to the whole world the Good News of God’s love for the world, and then to show this Good News to be real, reflected in the loving, sharing and serving lives of individual Christians. So, to be “saved” means to live and to die in a close, loving relationship with God and with others.

Jesus issued a series of sayings and parables that emphasized the difficulty involved in entering God’s Kingdom, and he stressed the need for constant fidelity and vigilance throughout our lives. Jesus also insisted that salvation was an urgent matter — the “narrow gate” was open now but would not remain so indefinitely (“the master of the house will lock the door”).  Then he added two conditions:  a) Eternal salvation is the result of a struggle: “keep on striving to enter.”  (The Greek word agonizomai means strenuous effort in athletic competition.  See I Cor 9:25; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7).  It is like the effort one would make in swimming against the current in a river.  A man must ever be going forward or else he will go backward.   b) We must enter through the “narrow gate” of sacrificial and selfless service. (Confer Mt 7:13-14; Jer 21:8; Dt 30: 15-20; Jos 24:15).

The narrow gate: Most cities of the ancient world were surrounded by walls that had large gates in them.  Jerusalem had about twelve gates that were large enough for two-way traffic.   People moved through these gates to do their business, to shop and to visit their friends.   These gates, however, were closed at night, in case the city came under attack by an invader.   There were also smaller gates through which individual citizens could be allowed into the city by the guards without exposing the city to danger. These smaller, or narrower gates were what Jesus was talking about. These smaller gates were like turnstiles – only one person at a time could enter through them.

Jesus repeats Isaiah’s image of a final banquet. He does not want his followers to presume they can just slip through to enter his Father’s house. Jesus is not looking for casual acquaintance from us but for real dedication. The crowd will press for entry, but the door will be too narrow to admit all. The less alert will be forced to stay outside and appeal in vain for entry. They will say that they ought to be allowed to enter because they were acquainted with Jesus during his earthly life. The irony of Jesus’ image is that the narrow gates are the proper way to enter the Kingdom precisely because they are just wide enough to receive a single person – anyone who is willing to do sacrificial service for the glory of God.  In other words, entering through the narrow gate denotes a steady obedience to the Lord Jesus — overcoming all opposition and rejecting every temptation.  It is the narrow way of unconditional and unremitting love. Mere faith in Jesus and membership in His Church by Baptism cannot guarantee salvation.  Some of the Fathers of the Church interpreted the narrow door as that small place in the heart where one says “yes” or “no” to what one knows to be true.  It is the one place through which no external force can enter to shape or coerce one’s choices. This place is what Teresa of Avila calls the “center of the soul” wherein God dwells.  That means that Jesus is the narrow gate, the way by which any person must enter the Heavenly city.

“Being saved’ is not a Protestant idea.  The Protestants, in fact, took the idea from Catholics.  But in Catholic theology, “being saved” is the end result – seeing God face to face in Heaven, and not a ready-made “passport and visa” as some of our Non-Catholic preachers claim.  Jesus explains that Salvation begins with Faith.  But it is also the result of how that Faith is lived, as is seen in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets.  Catholics, too, believe that we cannot “earn” our way into Heaven by good works (this is the Pelagian heresy, condemned by the Council of Carthage in A.D. 418), but we also believe that we must allow God to work in our lives through His grace, a grace that is reflected in our actions.

Hence, our answer to the question: “Have you been saved?” should be: “I have been saved from the penalty of sin by Christ’s death and Resurrection.  I am being saved from the power of sin by the indwelling Spirit of God.  I have the hope that I shall one day be saved from the very presence of sin when I go to be with God.”  It is through the grace of Christ that we are able to live out His life in us — a grace that is fortified every time we participate in the Holy Eucharist, are reconciled with God and meditate on His Word.  Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen says that we will have three surprises in Heaven:  1) There will be many there whom we never expected;   b) there will be many absent whom we expected to see; and c) we will be surprised to find that we ourselves have gotten in!   The real question is:  who will enter God’s Kingdom?  There is only one answer:  those who choose the narrow gate, and they will come from east and west, and will eat together, live together and enjoy God in the Beatific Vision for all eternity.

Life messages: 1) We need to make wise decisions and choose the narrow gate.  God allows us to decide every day what road we will walk down and what gate we will choose.  He encourages us, however, to choose His way:  “Choose life” (Moses – Dt 30:19-20); “Choose this day whom to serve” (Joshua – Jos 24:15); ”If God is Lord, follow Him” (Elijah – 1 Kgs 18:21); “There are two paths: one of life and one of death, and the difference between the two is great.”(Didache);   “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23).   This means a consistent denial of self and the steady relinquishing of sinful pleasures, pursuits, and interests.  St. Paul lists these sins in Galatians 5:19-21: “The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, and occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” Paul then enumerates “good works” that are representative of the “narrow road” and “narrow gate.”  These are “the fruits of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).  In other words, the “narrow road” or “narrow gate” concerns our everyday living—our relationships with God and with one another. To enter the narrow gate involves being with the blessed ones (poor, peacemakers, persecuted, etc), being salt and light consistently, following Jesus’ radical way about murder/anger, adultery/lust, divorce, truth-telling, choosing mercy over revenge, loving enemies. And it involves doing good deeds for the right reasons; it involves pursuing the Kingdom and God’s justice instead of fame and fortune; and it involves not condemning others. It involves repentance, obedience, humility, righteousness, truth and discipleship.  Hence, we are to strive to enter through the “narrow gate” by prayer and supplication, diligently seeking deliverance from those things which would bar our entrance, and acquiring those things which would facilitate our entry

2) We need to check our track daily.  The parable of the locked door warns us that the time is short.  Each day sees endings and opportunities missed. “Opportunity will not knock twice at your door.”  Remember the old “Examination of Conscience” we were asked to make at the end of each day, in which we ask God’s pardon for the faults and sins of the day?  “How conscious was I this day of God’s numerous gifts?  How well did I respond to the opportunities to bear witness and serve in Jesus’ name: to forgive, feed, clothe, and love those who entered my life?  How much did I strive today to enter through the narrow gate of sacrificial love in action?'”  We might conclude this self-examination with a short prayer: “I need you Jesus Christ.  Grant me forgiveness for my sins.  Make me a new person.  I need your Holy Spirit to direct me, to strengthen me, so that I can walk in the narrow way and choose the narrow gate.  I need you to change me from a self-centered, self-sufficient person into your wise servant.”

JOKE OF THE WEEK

1) Irish solidarity on the “wide way” to hell. The Irish pastor said, “Everyone who wants to go to Heaven stand up!” and the whole church stood up.  And he said, “And those who want to go to hell, remain standing!” At the back of the church, old Murphy remained standing.   The pastor said, “Murphy, do you want to go to hell?”  Murphy said, “No, Father… I just hate to see you go there all by yourself!”   (No offence intended to my great Irish friends!).

2) A little boy once asked his mother if people who told lies went to Heaven. She replied, “Of course not.” “Well,” he said, “it must be awfully lonesome and boring there with only God and George Washington.”

3) An open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s Gospel text was warning his congregation about the eternal damnation. “On the Day of Judgment,” he said, “there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look preacher, I got no teeth!” “Never mind,” says the evangelist, “teeth will be provided.”

Websites of the week

O.T. 21 video sermons:

YouTube presentation of God’s existence for young people

1)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=COJ0ED1mV7s

2) http://www.ucatholic.com/apologetics/the-simplest-most-direct-argument-for-gods-existence/

3) Catholics online for the New     Millennium: http://www.ecatholic2000.com/index2.html

4) Catholic expert on Islam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsFwvdPPSoQ 

 

 

25-Additional anecdotes

1) Narrow gate of football stadiums: Have you ever been among the great crowd moving toward the entrance to a big-time football game? At first the entrance seems wide and open to all, but once you begin seriously pushing and struggling to go in, you discover that the gate is not wide at all. The broad gate narrows down to a turnstile where you enter one by one, and the keeper says, “Hold your own ticket, please.” So, Jesus describes the door to the Kingdom. It begins wide and open to all – but then comes the struggle to go through the narrow door: one at a time and hold your own ticket. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

2) Narrow gate golf & basketball: Arnold Palmer, for many years, was one of America’s finest golfers. Certainly, he was our most popular golfer. Wouldn’t it be great to be a “natural” athlete like Arnold Palmer? Except that Arnold Palmer practiced golf eight hours a day, day after day after day. Being a great golfer requires commitment. Some of you who play the game are thinking to yourself that even being a poor golfer requires commitment. You don’t excel in athletics or anything else unless you are willing to pay the price. Larry Bird won the Most Valuable Player award in the National Basketball League for three years in a row. How did he achieve such excellence? Larry Bird is legendary for his dedication to the game of basketball. An opposing player tells of arriving at Boston Garden with his teammates to play the Boston Celtics several hours before an important game. There was the great Larry Bird standing at the foul line of dark, deserted Boston Garden practicing free throws over and over again. The coach of the opposing team preached a little sermon about dedication to the game using Larry Bird as the prime example. Successful living requires commitment. It requires dedication. That’s true in athletics. It is also true in business. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that it is true in our relationship with God. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

3) King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table: In the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, a vision of the Holy Grail comes to Sir Gawain. He vows to set off in search of it the very next day. All the other Knights of the Round Table vow that they, too, will go in search of the sacred chalice. But they will not journey together. As dawn breaks the following morning, each of the knights enters the forest alone, where he perceives it to be the darkest and the thickest. No knight follows a pathway. To do so would be to go where someone else had already searched. So, it is with the case of the narrow way of sacrificial service in the Christian life. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

4) The NCAA cross-country championship: Back in 1994, 128 runners lined up to compete in the NCAA cross-country championship in Riverside, California. Unfortunately, one of the turns on the 10,000-meter course was not well-marked.  Only five of the 128 runners stayed on the correct path. Mike Delcavo was the first runner to notice the problem. He began waving at the other runners to follow him, but most refused. Can you blame them? One-hundred-and-twenty-three runners took the wrong path, only five took the right one. What did the 123 think of Delcavo? He commented later, “They thought it was funny that I went the right way.” (Leadership, Summer 1994, p. 49.) We all like to think that we’re on the right path; what a rude awakening it would be to discover we aren’t, if we take the broad way leading to eternal damnation. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

5) Twenty million tons of cement. In 1974, in the wake of oil boom, the government of Nigeria decided to bring their country at a single leap into line with most developed Western nations. The planners calculated that to build the new roads, airfields, and military buildings which the plan required would call for some 20 million tons of cement. This was duly ordered and shipped by freighters from all over the world, to be unloaded onto the docks at Lagos, Nigeria. Twenty million tons of cement. Unfortunately, the Nigerian planners had not considered the fact that the docks at Lagos were only capable of handling two thousand tons a day. Working every day, it would have taken twenty-seven years to unload the ships that were at one point waiting at sea off Lagos. These contained a third of the world’s supply of cement much of it showing its fine quality by setting solid in the holds of the freighters.  Hasty transactions bring painful losses. Poor planning yields disastrous results. Building a tower before counting the cost is most unwise. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

6)  “The Road Less Traveled – Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
/And sorry I could not travel both /
And be one traveler, long I stood /
And looked down one as far as I could /
To where it bent in the undergrowth/; 
……….…………………………………….

I shall be telling this with a sigh /
Somewhere ages and ages hence: / 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

7) Carl Jung and Rabbi Zusya: In 1933 Carl Jung observed in his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, that it is no easy matter to live a life modeled on Christ, but it is unspeakably more difficult to live one’s own life as truly as Christ lived his. The question for Christians living today is not, “What would Jesus do?” for he has not left us here to live his life as a clone, but to live our own in Him. No one can do my living for me, or dying either, for that matter. God has not given my life to you or your life to someone else. No one but you will be held accountable for it. It is written of Zusya – the old Rabbi of Annitol – that shortly before his death he gathered his disciples around him and said, “When I die and stand before my Heavenly Judge, God will not say to me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Moses?’ No! God will say to me, ‘Zusya, you could at least have been Zusya … so why weren’t you?’ (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

8) Screening at the Pearly Gates: According to an anonymous storyteller, three people who died found themselves together before the Gate of Heaven. When asked by St. Peter what they had done to gain entrance, the first answered, “I was a physician and I helped many people to recover from their illnesses.” Peter admitted the doctor to Heaven and questioned the second person similarly, “Why should I let you in?” In response, she explained, “I was an attorney and I defended the rights of many innocent people.”  “Welcome to your eternal home”, said Peter. Then he put the same question to the third candidate who replied, “I was the administrator of a Health Management Organization and I managed to keep health care costs to a minimum.” After a few moments of thought, Peter decided, “You may come in,” he said, “but you can stay for only three days!” Pointed humor such as this entertains while it teaches. The story of Peter and the three potential residents of eternity illustrates the truth that earthly words and works have eternal consequences. This does not suggest that Heaven can be merited or earned by any human activity. Eternal happiness will forever remain a gracious gift of God. Nevertheless, the manner in which God’s gifts are appropriated in time and space will have a bearing on the enjoyment of those gifts within that reign that perdures beyond time and space. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

9) We aren’t told how he got back into the car later. An assistant to former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes once told how he and another coach were looking out a window one day and saw Coach Hayes slowly easing into the last empty space in the parking lot, barely wide enough for a car. But he couldn’t get out of the car once it was parked. There weren’t more than four inches alongside and he couldn’t open either door. A moment passed, and then he backed the car out. Now, as they stared in disbelief, Hayes got out of the car, walked to the rear, planted his hands on the trunk and slowly, grimly, pushed the car back into the space. We aren’t told how he got back into the car later. Maybe the cars on either side moved. I suppose if you are determined, no space is too narrow. Except one. Jesus says in our lesson for today, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able….” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

10) “I tell you, I do not know where you come from!”:  How many times have you had someone approach you and say, “Do you remember me?” You stand there and look deeply into their eyes, but for your life you cannot remember the person. You “fish” around for some hints, but there are none that make any sense. Finally, with a trace of a smile, the person says, “I was in John and Mary’s wedding party eight years ago, and you witnessed their marriage. I thought surely you would remember me.” Isn’t that presumptuous? How in the world are you supposed to remember the name of a person who was in a wedding party eight years ago? Yes, sometimes people expect that from you and me, and sometimes we expect it from others. Jesus warns those who do not do his will that he won’t recognize them on the day of the Last Judgment. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

11) “The Lady, or the Tiger?”: In The Lady, or the Tiger? Frank R. Stockton sets before the reader the dilemma of a gladiator who faces his fate in the arena standing before two doors. He must choose which of them to open. Behind one door waits a hungry tiger. Behind the other is a lovely maiden. Jesus presents us with a similar dilemma in this parable. Behind one door to the Kingdom waits the tiger of Divine wrath. Behind the other door stands the fair maiden of grace. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, envisions a crowd, clamoring at the entrance to get in. But the door will be closed and locked to them. Grace will not be granted to the multitudes battering the gates of Heaven. What is not available to the masses of seeking pilgrims can be obtained, one person at a time, if each will strive to enter by way of the narrow door. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

12) Broad gate of addictions: A guy walks into a bar, orders three shots and downs them all. “What’s up with the three shots?” asks the bartender. “My two closest buddies and I have gone our separate ways, and I miss them terribly,” says the guy. “See, this glass here is for Tom, this one’s Bob, and this one’s mine. I feel like we’re all drinking together, just like old times.” So, every day the guy comes in and the bartender sets up three glasses. Until one day, the guy asks for just two shots. “I hate to ask,” says the bartender, “but did something happen to one of your friends?” “Nah, they’re okay,” says the guy. “I myself just decided to quit drinking.”    I told you it was terrible. But I doubt that this guy really has decided to quit drinking, don’t you? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

13) 72% of Americans deserve Heaven: According to most polls, most Americans not only believe in Heaven, they believe that they someday will be there. For example, a poll conducted by USA Today sometime back showed that 72% of the people polled rated their chances of getting to Heaven as good to excellent. Interestingly enough, these same people said that only 60% of their friends will go to Heaven. I wonder why the discrepancy. 80% said they believe in Heaven, but only 67% said they believe in Hell. [Glenn Van Ekeren, Speaker’s Sourcebook II (Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1994), p. 326.] Here’s what interests me: By what authority do they assume that they are likely candidates for Heaven? Particularly if they are only nominally interested in religion as are most Americans? And, for that matter, by what authority do they believe in Heaven but not in Hell? The evangelical Christians are so obsessed by the notion of salvation by Faith that we totally ignore an entire body of Jesus’ teachings that call for commitment and sacrifice. (Rev. King Duncan). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

14) Coach Carter:  Some of you are undoubtedly familiar with the movie Coach Carter. Coach Carter is the true story of Kenneth Carter, an inner‑city Richmond basketball coach who took a ragtag group of high school players and shaped them into a tightly disciplined and almost unstoppable team of athletes. “To accomplish that, he was brutal. He pushed the boys, always to the edge of their endurance, and then a little further. Any insolence was immediately reprimanded with a crackdown of grueling drills. The slightest lateness was penalized. Backtalk was squelched beneath a mounting regimen of workouts. To show you that Carter meant business, he made headlines in 1999 for benching his entire undefeated high school basketball team due to poor academic results. When was the last time you heard of a coach doing that? Under Coach Carter’s taskmaster harshness, the boys at first withered, then flourished. [Mark Buchanan, Hidden In Plain Sight (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002), p. 60.]           Why did Carter put his players through such agony? Was it because he hated them? No, it was because he loved them and wanted the best for them. His desire was that they should be more than they were. And that is Christ’s desire for us. He wants us to be fit to share eternity with him. (Rev. King Duncan). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

15)  Narrow gate of George Foreman:  Some of you remember George Foreman. Foreman is a two-time former heavyweight boxing champion of the world. He is also an Olympic gold medalist, ordained Baptist minister, author and entrepreneur. Foreman is a colorful character who is probably better known today for his George Foreman Grill. When he won his second heavyweight world championship, at age 45, he became the oldest man in the world to win the heavyweight title. It’s quite a remarkable story. In his book, God in My Corner, he tells about that second title. He says that when he started his comeback, he had to get rid of what he called “some excess George.” He was extremely overweight. In the nearly ten years he had been out of boxing, he had ballooned from 220 to 315 pounds. And it wasn’t muscle that he gained! To get back into an exercise regimen, he started with the basics running every day. He was so out of shape that he couldn’t go far. At first, he couldn’t even make it around the block, which was about a mile. He had to stop a few times to catch his breath, huffing and puffing. “Just imagine a big, fat guy,” he writes, “gasping for air, barely able to jog around the block, who claims that he will be the heavyweight champion of the world again! I looked ridiculous to everyone who saw me. I’m sure they laughed as they peeked through their curtains early in the morning while I slowly shuffled past their houses. Only two people on this entire planet believed I could recapture the title—my wife and me.” But he had to get his weight down. He would walk and run, walk and run. Finally, he was able to run the whole time without walking. Then he began running longer distances, and with the combination of a proper diet and regular exercise, the fat continued to melt away. He kept running for the next eight months, until he finally got down to his fighting weight 229 pounds. The flab was fun to put on, he says, but hard to take off. Some of us know what he’s talking about. However, he contends, he wouldn’t have won the championship title if he first hadn’t gotten rid of that extra weight. [George Foreman, God In My Corner (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 169; cited www.kentcrockett.com.] I admire George Foreman. I admire anyone who sets a lofty goal and then gives his or her best to attaining that goal. (Rev. King Duncan). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

16) The last shall be first! Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress, was known as the “poor little rich girl.” Since her mother died when she was five, Barbara Hutton described her childhood as an unhappy one. She said, “Though I had millions of dollars, I had no mother and no home.” Nor was her adult life a happy one. She was married seven times and was a princess three of those times. A virtual recluse, she died in 1979 at age 66. A newspaper article summed up her life with the words: “Barbara Hutton died unmarried and alone, a symbol of the cliché that money does not buy happiness.” By way of contrast, consider the life of Dorothy Day. She was known as “the mother of the faceless poor of the city’s off-scouring.” She always felt she existed for a special purpose. She discovered that purpose when she became a Catholic at age 30 and dedicated her life to help the poor. Dorothy Day founded and edited the Catholic Worker newspaper, went to prison as a suffragist and pacifist, and established farm communes and hospices for the dispossessed. When she died in 1980 at age 83, Time magazine called her a “secular saint.” Barbara Hutton and Dorothy Day illustrate somewhat the proverb cited by our Lord today: “There are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word  Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

17) The Kingdom of Heaven is not a private club!
A man died and went up to heaven. St. Peter met him at the gate, brought him inside and took him on a tour of the place. At a certain point they came to an enclosure surrounded by a high wall. As they were passing it Peter said, “Keep very quiet as you pass this place.” “Why,” the man asked. “In case we might disturb those inside,” Peter answered. “Who is inside?” the man asked. St. Peter said, “Catholics. You see, they think they are the only ones in heaven. In fact, if they found out that there are others in Heaven, they would be very disappointed. In fact, some of them would probably ask for their money back!” The Kingdom of Heaven is not a private club.
(John Pichappilly in The Table of the          Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

18) The narrow door? In an interesting cartoon in the Peanuts series, Charlie Brown wakes up one morning and looks out of the window. It has snowed all night but now the sun is shining brightly, so he decides to go out skiing. Donning all the winter gear he can find; he collects his shoes and skis and makes for the door.  Unfortunately, he is unable to get through, because the clothes he has worn make it impossible to pass. He makes one unsuccessful effort after another. Finally, in desperate frustration, he screams at the top of his lungs: “Will someone please tell me what I have to do to get through this door?” Charlie Brown typifies those who would like to make it to Heaven but are reluctant to shed the unnecessary attachments that impede their passage. So like Charlie, we end up standing at the front door of Heaven screaming. The door of Heaven is narrow only for those who are too “bundled up.” (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

19) The narrow gate of St. John Mary Vianney. One of the greatest examples for entering through the narrow gate to holiness was John Mary Vianney. He was the last in his class. In French and Latin, he was the last student. He failed in Theology studies. So, he was asked to leave the seminary. After that he was taught Theology privately and was ordained in 1815. Three years later he was appointed to the parish of Ars, a parish, where practically no one went to church. In a few years people began to come on pilgrimage to Ars. He became the most sought-after spiritual advisor. It is an example of last being first. John Mary Vianney was last but now he is the patron of parish priests. What has caused the miracle? The gracious touch of the Lord. This miracle will happen to anyone who tries to enter by the narrow gate; who disregards the standards of the world and set his goal on high. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

20) The narrow way on highway: I think of what happens on the freeway or expressway when there is a bad accident. The police close off three lanes; only one single lane is open, which is like the narrow door. All the traffic slows down and at times comes to a complete stop because of the bottleneck. As I think of the narrow door Jesus refers to, I see people all bunched up like cars on the freeway, moving very slowly, trying to squeeze through the one open lane. Drivers are upset. They are fussing and fuming and making obscene gestures at each other. Cars and tempers are overheating. The bottleneck is a pain in the neck. Sin is like the accident on the freeway which causes all the trouble. This is not an inviting scene but is an image of what it means to get to Heaven. I realize that only one person has to get to that door. That person is Jesus Christ. And through that door he has passed in the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection. We do not have to force our way through that door. All we have to do is make sure we are united with Jesus, who is the door to heaven. (Charles Miller C.M. in Sunday Preaching.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

21) Joe Rosenthal: Monsignor Arthur Tonne tells an interesting tale. Most people have seen the famous photo of Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. It pictures United States Marines raising the American flag on a hill in bloody Iwo Jima during World War II. Many of us too have stood mesmerized by the equally famous heroic size bronze likeness of the scene sculpted in Washington DC. What is little known is that the photographer Mr Rosenthal was a convert to the Church from Judaism. For his conversion, he was shunned by fellow Jews for abandoning the Faith of his people. But Rosenthal was not intimidated. He wrote, “The day before we went ashore on Iwo Jima, I attended Mass and received Holy Communion. If a man is genuinely convinced of the truth and still neglects it, he is a traitor and that goes not only for my Jewish friends who do not attend synagogue each Saturday but also for my friends who miss Mass each Sunday.” The Teacher was pulling himself through the towns and villages of Palestine. Busily He was teaching all the time. His destination was Jerusalem. There He would keep His long-planned rendezvous with death. He was asked by someone, “Lord, are those to be saved few in number?” The exhausted Christ, desperately needing a shower and a cold drink, ignored the query. Oftentimes the question put to Him did not touch on His syllabus. But He took advantage of the well-intentioned question to say in effect, “The door to the kingdom is unlocked. Keep in mind it is not wide, but it freely swings open on well-oiled hinges. Those willing to exert themselves will walk right in. No people at any time need stand outside with their noses pressed against the glass door wistfully looking in.” (Father James Gilhooley). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

22) Which way shall I go?
“To every person there opens a way;
A high way, a middle way, and a low way.
And the high soul takes the high way;
And the low soul takes the low way;
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every person there opens a way
A high way, a middle way and a low way.
And every person decides
Which way his soul shall go.”
Paraphrase of the poem by John Oxenham (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

23) Display of universal unity: Each time the Olympics are convened, the opening and closing ceremonies of the games are marked by an International cavalcade of athletes; men and women from nations all over the world march together in a spectacular and diverse display of universal unity. For the duration of the games, all share one vision and one goal and the whole world unites in looking on in admiration and appreciation. In today’s first reading, the late sixth or early fifth century B.C.E. prophet, Trito-Isaiah wished to offer his contemporaries a similar experience; he envisioned a great parade of nations on pilgrimage to Jerusalem where they would unite in praising and glorifying God. (Sanchez Files).(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

24) ‘Man, how good is your cotton?’” Several cotton farmers were whiling away a winter afternoon around the potbellied stove. They soon became entangled in a heated discussion on the merits of their respective religions. The eldest of the farmers had been sitting quietly, just listening, when the group turned to him and demanded, “Who’s right, old Jim? Which one of these religions is the right one?” “Well,” said Jim thoughtfully, “you know there are three ways to get from here to the cotton gin. You can go right over the big hill. That’s shorter but it’s a powerful climb. You can go around the east side of the hill. That’s not too far, but the road is rougher and difficult. Or you can go around the west side of the hill, which is the longest way, but the easiest.” “But you know,” he said, looking them squarely in the eye, “when you get there, the gin man won’t ask you how you came or what religion you believe. He just asks, ‘Man, how good is your cotton?'”(Fr. Lakra). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

25) The narrow gate: St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is meant to symbolize the Church as a whole, literally built right on top of Peter, who is buried underneath the main altar where the nave and the transept intersect. The central aisle, called the nave, comes from the Latin word for boat. The Church is Peter’s boat. But to enter the Church, you have to go through the front door, and over the front door, in the pendentive, stands the Resurrected Christ. To enter into the Church, you have to go, in a sense, through Christ. And right underneath Christ is the balcony from which the Pope gives his solemn blessings, symbolizing that the Pope literally stands under Christ, stands under his authority and speaks to us for Christ. To be saved, we have to enter through this narrow gate who is Christ into his Church and remain in his Church. Peter’s barque or boat is like Noah’s ark and we have to enter and stay in that ark in order to be saved. (Fr. Roger J. Landry). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)  L/19

 

   

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C(No. 43) by Fr. Tony:akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only atakadavil@gmail.com. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony or under CBCI or in the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.