Homily 21st Sunday C
THE QUESTION ON SALVATION: ENTER BY THE NARROW GATE.
Dear brethren in Christ, today’s 21st Sunday C liturgy brings us to the question of salvation. God’s plan of salvation involves two fundamental points: (1) Firstly, salvation and the Kingdom of God are open to all men (1st reading and Gospel); (2) At the same time, the gateway to the Kingdom of God is narrow and is impenetrable for some who are cast out. In order to enter the Kingdom of God and thus be saved, one must pass through the narrow gate of self-abnegation, sacrifice and self-giving for love, imitating Christ’s example. Salvation requires not only faith, but a firm commitment to live one’s faith with works and the daily struggle towards personal conversion, for love of God and of others, for only then, through interior purification could one arrive at glorification (Gospel and 2nd reading).
1. In the 1st reading, Isaiah 66:18–21 announces that God will “come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory… and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.”
- Here, Isaiah proclaims how God will gather all nations to form the New People of God, which is the Catholic Church, as a depositary and the sacrament of universal salvation to all humanity.
- This is the reason why the Church has always encouraged all her faithful to put their part in the evangelization of the society with their struggle to live their faith coherently and with their good example and personal apostolate to make the Gospel known to every creature, bringing them closer to Christ and His True Church: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News (Resp. Psalm).
- God’s plan of salvation is open to all humanity and for this He founded His Church in Jesus Christ, His Son. At the same time, God counts on each one of us, Christians, to make Christ, His Church and His Gospel be known to all people and to all nations.
2. God’s plan of salvation is universal. However, God also counts on man’s freedom and correspondence.
2.1. We read in the Gospel of St. Luke 13:22–30
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
- God could only save those who want to be saved. God’s gift of freedom to man is so sacred that He could not violate it, and can not impose Himself to man. God cannot force man to love him, for love is a free human action. In order to be saved, man must freely accept, believe, follow and love God. And this requires sacrifice, struggle, effort, self-renunciation, self-abnegation -the same virtues which God lived in order to save man-, and this is what Jesus meant when He said: ““Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
- With these words, we clearly see that a mere acceptance of Jesus as our Saviour and Lord or a mere fiduciary faith (the Protestant “sola fide”, “faith alone”) does not hold up: this position is not scriptural. Nor does the Protestant position, “once saved, always saved” add up: it is a false and presumptuous assurance of salvation.
- Salvation is not a mere emotional matter. One has to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, as St. Paul himself said (cf. Phil 2:12.13).
- Salvation is an ongoing process: one can lose it (Matt 6:14-15, Matt 7:21, Matt 24:44-51, Matt 25:31-46, Mark 11:26, Luke 10:16, John 14:21, Rom 11:22, Rev 21:8, 21:27). It is not enough to say, “Lord, Lord, I believe in you, you are my Lord, I am born again, I have shared meals with you…and so on…” “Depart from me. I do not know where you are from. And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.”
- Rather, we need to struggle by overcoming and rejecting all things which separate us from God and from others: sin. We have to strive in living our faith, hope, love for God and all virtues, identifying ourselves with Jesus Christ, with the help of His grace, for this is holiness.
- Holiness and salvation, however, require a constant fight against ourselves, a daily effort to begin again, a daily struggle for conversion, correction, rectification, trials: all these serve for our purification and sanctification if accepted with joy and done for love of God and of our neighbor.
3. The above idea can be gleaned in today’s 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews 12:5-7.11.13 where he writes:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.
Dear brethren in Christ, let us not shrink back from the narrow gate which is the way of Christ. Let us not deceive ourselves by worldly pleasures and comfort, choosing the wider gate, the easier way which leads to perdition (Mt 7:13). Only those who make a serious effort, corresponding to God’s grace, can reach the goal of Salvation (cf. Lk 16:16; Mt 11:12).
Christ’s way is our way and let us not forget that the glory of His Resurrection is the fruit of His Passion and Death on the Cross. The Cross is the way of the true, committed Christian, who, in spite of his weaknesses and failures, follows Christ for love, and is willing to suffer, and does whatever it takes, hoping to arrive at the promises reserved by God to those who love Him in all and above all things.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, prepare and conserve the way for us which leads us to the Most Blessed Trinity at the end of our life!
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei.
ORIGINAL PHOTO SOURCE AND CREDIT: Nemeh D’Aleppo, Forty Martyrs & Narrow Gate (Monastery of Notre-Dame de Balamand,Libano) by Aser Bravermnn in https://www.flickr.com/photos/theheartindifferentkeys/3547681453
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