A Reflection on the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 21, 2022
Reading I: Isaiah 66:18-21
Responsorial Psalm 117:1, 2
Reading II: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
In the first reading, we hear the prophetic proclamation of Isiah speaking of the Lord’s ability to bring all nations to the knowledge of eternal Glory.
The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews goes on to exhort those with the knowledge of the Lord to not lose faith or hope. Faith in what the Lord has promised and put into place by the passion and resurrection of Jesus and hope that we will share in that promise. Knowing that, yes, there will be trials and tribulations in our lives that will strain our faith and even diminish our hope.
I have to admit, I have learned the most from my mistakes, and with mistakes always comes some penance. Penance is a time to reflect and study the cause and effects of my mistakes. It’s also a time to seek forgiveness, especially if we have offended or hurt those who love us. But most of all, it’s a time to develop discipline so that we avoid making those same mistakes in the future.
With God, there is no difference; He knows our human condition and accepts us even when we make mistakes. This is to be expected since God loves us, and with love comes the need for discipline. What parent who loves their child would not also discipline them because with discipline comes peaceful fruit and righteousness?
These two readings play as an introduction to the main subject of the Gospel. Because in today’s Gospel, somebody in the crowd asked Jesus this question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” In this context, it is a silly question. Wouldn’t it seem more important to ask, “am I going to be saved?” Now Jesus did not give a number of those who will be saved; He didn’t even really answer the man’s question, but he did say: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…”
In other words, he is answering the more important question, “How can I be saved?” He is giving each of us a chance to be a part of the salvation He promises.
Who and how many will be saved is not for us to know because God is in charge of the final judgment; why should we try to decide who will be saved? We, as disciples of Jesus, must not be judgmental about who we think will go through the narrow gate; our vision of God must not be narrow-minded or limited. We must see with a wide-angle lens that God’s salvation is open to all, as spelled out in the first reading.
God’s salvation is unbounded, and it reaches out to those whom we may not only distrust but also sometimes even despise. Therefore the question remains, how can I enter through the narrow gate? How can I be saved? The first is, Be a Friend of God. There are only two kinds of people in this world: those who God is using for His purposes and those who are using God for their own purposes. One is serving God, and the other is serving their own desires.
So, therefore, for us who are trying to become friends of God, let us try to do what God expects of us. Let us enjoy this life, the life that He has given us. Let us live this life to the max; this means we should want to help others as God has used others to help us. We are not to live for ourselves but for God and respond to His call and purpose.
Let us also follow the advice of our second reading: We should be happy if we experience discipline, trials, and scourges; this means God loves us. Remember also that what others say cannot be the measure of what is ethical, moral, or right even if it is legal. There are laws made by man, set in place by the majority’s view, which is not necessarily the view of God.
The second is to put your Trust in God and walk in His Ways, that is, live a life dedicated to His laws and moral standards. Entering through the narrow gate means entering through God’s precepts, abiding by His rules and standards.
I recently read a poem about the difference between Winners and Losers, which may have an underlying message to help us understand how to enter through the narrow gate.
Winners vs Losers
The winner is always a part of the answer
the losers is always part of the problem.
the winner always has a program.
the loser always has an excuse
the winner says,” let me do it for you,”
the loser says, “that’s not my job.”
the winner sees an answer for every problem.
the loser sees a problem for every answer.
the winner says, “it may be difficult, but it is possible.”
the loser says, “it may be possible, but it’s too difficult.”
A winner listens.
the loser waits until it’s his turn to talk
when a winner makes a mistake he/she says, “it was wrong,”
when a loser makes a mistake, he says, “it wasn’t my fault.”
a winner says, I’m good, but not as good as I could be
a loser says, “I’m not as bad as a lot of people”
a winner feels responsible for more than his job,
a loser says, “I only work there”
As I reflect on this poem, it points out that winners know the virtue of perseverance, which they gracefully blend with the lessons they learned from their mistakes. They are not necessarily people who have the best of everything but make the best of everything.
Losers, on the other hand, take the path of least resistance. These people might have talent and a lot of skills, but their losing attitude and personal agenda get in the way of success. When the work gets tough, they either stop or quit, usually because they think of themselves only. This is where discipline is necessary. We must always strive to constantly work for the good of God, to be a winner for Him. So, let us trust in God and walk in His ways. Then we will realize that we can do all things through Christ Jesus, who gives us the strength to enter through the narrow gate.
God’s abundant blessings,
Deacon Jeff Borski