POPE FRANCIS ON THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C
Saint Peter’s Square
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 25 August 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk: 13 22-30) presents Jesus teaching in towns and villages, on his way to Jerusalem where he knows he will die on the Cross for the salvation of us all. In this context, a man asks a question, who addresses him saying: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (v. 23). The question had been a source of debate at that time — how many will be saved, how many not … — and there were several ways to interpret Scriptures on the issue, depending on the texts chosen. Jesus, however, reverses the question — which stresses quantity, that is: “are they few?…” — and instead places the question in the context of responsibility, inviting us to make good use of the present. Indeed, he says: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24).
With these words, Jesus makes it clear that it is not a matter of numbers, there is no “limited number” in Paradise! Rather, it is a case of taking the right way from now, and this right way is for everyone, but it is narrow. This is the problem. Jesus does not want to give us false hopes by saying: “Yes, do not worry, it is easy, there is a beautiful highway with a large gate at the end ….”. He does not say this. He tells us things as they truly are: the doorway is narrow. In what sense? In the sense that, in order to save oneself, one has to love God and neighbour, and this is uncomfortable! It is a “narrow doorway” because it is demanding. Love is always demanding. It requires commitment, indeed, “effort”, that is, a determined and persevering willingness to live according to the Gospel. Saint Paul calls it “the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12). It takes a daily, all-day effort to love God and neighbour.
And in order to explain himself better, Jesus tells a parable. There is a householder who represents the Lord. His house symbolizes eternal life, thus salvation. And here the image of the door returns. Jesus says: “When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying: ‘Lord, open to us’. He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from’” (Lk 13: 25). These people will then attempt to claim his acquaintance, reminding the householder: “I ate and drank with you … I listened to your advice, to your public teaching …” (cf. 26); “I was there when you held that talk …” . But the Lord will repeat that he does not know them and he calls them “workers of iniquity”. Here is the problem! The Lord will not recognize us for our claims — “But look, Lord, I used to belong to that association, I was friends with this monsignor, this cardinal, this priest …”. No, claims do not count, they do not count. The Lord will recognize us only for our humble life and a good life, a life of faith that resulted in good works.
And for us Christians, this means that we are called to establish a true communion with Jesus, praying, going to Church, drawing near to the Sacraments and nourishing ourselves of his Word. This keeps us in the faith, nourishes our hope, rekindles our charity. And thus, with God’s grace, we can and must live our lives for the good of our brothers and sisters, fighting against every kind of evil and injustice.
May the Virgin Mary help us in this. She went through the narrow door that is Jesus. She welcomed him with all her heart and she followed him every day of her life, even when she did not understand, even when a sword pierced her soul. This is why we invoke her as “Mary Gate of Heaven”, a gate that traces the form of Jesus precisely: the door to God’s heart, a demanding heart, but one that is open to us all.
Saint Peter’s Square
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 21 August 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage urges us to meditate on the topic of salvation. St Luke the Evangelist tells us that while Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem, he was approached by a man who asked him this question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Lk 13:23). Rather than giving a direct answer, Jesus shifts the issue to another level in an evocative way, which the disciples don’t understand at first: “strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). Using the image of a door, he wants his listeners to understand that it is not a question of numbers — how many will be saved —, how many is not relevant, but rather, it is important for everyone to know the way that leads to salvation.
This way means entering through a door. But where is the door? Who is the door? Jesus himself is that door. He says so in the Gospel of John: “I am the door” (10:9). He leads us to communion with the Father, where we find love, understanding and protection. But why is this door narrow, one might ask? Why does he say it is narrow? It is a narrow door not because it is oppressive, but because it demands that we restrain and limit our pride and our fear, in order to open ourselves to Him with humble and trusting hearts, acknowledging that we are sinners and in need of his forgiveness. This is why it is narrow, to limit our pride, which swells us. The door of God’s mercy is narrow but is always open to everyone! God does not have preferences, but always welcomes everyone, without distinction. A narrow door to restrain our pride and our fear; a door open wide because God welcomes us without distinction. And the salvation that He gives us is an unending flow of mercy that overcomes every barrier and opens surprising perspectives of light and peace. The door is narrow but always open wide: do not forget this.
Once more, Jesus extends a pressing invitation to us today to go to Him, to pass through the door of a full, reconciled and happy life. He awaits each one of us, no matter what sins we have committed, to embrace us, to offer us his forgiveness. He alone can transform our hearts, He alone can give full meaning to our existence, giving us true joy. By entering Jesus’ door, the door of faith and of the Gospel, we can leave behind worldly attitudes, bad habits, selfishness and narrow-mindedness. When we encounter the love and mercy of God, there is authentic change. Our lives are enlightened by the light of the Holy Spirit: an inextinguishable light!
I would like to propose something to you. Let us think now for a moment, in silence, of the things that we have inside us which prevent us from entering the door: my pride, my arrogance, my sins. Then, let us think of the other door, the one opened wide by the mercy of God who awaits us on the other side to grant us forgiveness.
The Lord offers us many opportunities to be saved and to enter through the door of salvation. This door is an occasion that can never be wasted: we don’t have to give long, erudite speeches about salvation, like the man who approached Jesus in the Gospel. Rather, we have to accept the opportunity for salvation. Because at a certain moment, the master of the house will rise and shut the door (cf. Lk 13:25), as the Gospel reminded us. But if God is good and loves us, why would he close the door at a certain point? Because our life is not a video game nor a television soap opera. Our life is serious and our goal is important: eternal salvation.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Gate of Heaven, to help us seize the opportunities the Lord gives us in order to cross the threshold of faith and thus to enter a broad path: it is the path of salvation that can embrace all those who allow themselves to be enraptured by love. It is love that saves, the love that already on this earth is a source of happiness for all those who, in meekness, patience and justice, forget about themselves and give themselves to others, especially to those who are most weak.
Saint Peter’s Square
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 25 August 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on the theme of salvation. Jesus was journeying from Galilee towards Jerusalem — the Evangelist Luke recounts — when someone asked him: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (13:23). Jesus does not answer the question directly: there is no need to know how many are saved; rather it is important to know which path leads to salvation. And so it was that Jesus replied saying: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). What does Jesus mean? Through which door should we enter? And why does Jesus speak of a narrow door?
The image of the door recurs in the Gospel on various occasions and calls to mind the door of the house, of the home, where we find safety, love and warmth. Jesus tell us that there is a door which gives us access to God’s family, to the warmth of God’s house, of communion with him. This door is Jesus himself (cf. Jn 10:9). He is the door. He is the entrance to salvation. He leads us to the Father and the door that is Jesus is never closed. This door is never closed it is always open and to all, without distinction, without exclusion, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone. Some of you, perhaps, might say to me: “But, Father, I am certainly excluded because I am a great sinner: I have done terrible things, I have done lots of them in my life”. No, you are not excluded! Precisely for this reason you are the favourite, because Jesus prefers sinners, always, in order to forgive them, to love them. Jesus is waiting for you to embrace you, to pardon you. Do not be afraid: he is waiting for you. Take heart, have the courage to enter through his door. Everyone is invited to cross the threshold of this door, to cross the threshold of faith, to enter into his life and to make him enter our life, so that he may transform it, renew it and give it full and enduring joy.
In our day we pass in front of so many doors that invite us to come in, promising a happiness which later we realize lasts only an instant, exhausts itself with no future. But I ask you: by which door do we want to enter? And who do we want to let in through the door of our life? I would like to say forcefully: let’s not be afraid to cross the threshold of faith in Jesus, to let him enter our life more and more, to step out of our selfishness, our closure, our indifference to others so that Jesus may illuminate our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a flash of light! No, it is a peaceful light that lasts for ever and gives us peace. Consequently it is the light we encounter if we enter through Jesus’ door.
Of course Jesus’ door is a narrow one but not because it is a torture chamber. No, not for that reason! Rather, because he asks us to open our hearts to him, to recognize that we are sinners in need of his salvation, his forgiveness and his love in order to have the humility to accept his mercy and to let ourselves be renewed by him. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that being Christians does not mean having a “label”! I ask you: are you Christians by label or by the truth? And let each one answer within him- or herself! Not Christians, never Christians by label! Christians in truth, Christians in the heart. Being Christian is living and witnessing to faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. The whole of our life must pass through the narrow door which is Christ.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, Door of Heaven, to help us cross the threshold of faith and to let her Son transform our life, as he transformed hers to bring everyone the joy of the Gospel.
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