Dear Parishioners of St. Philip Neri,

21st  Sunday Year C

Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm  117:1, 2

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Luke 13:22-30

 

The question of the villager is as relevant today as when it was first posed: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” (Luke 13:23) 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.” Jesus’ answer must have come as a shock.

The fathers of the Second Vatican Council also affirmed, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Jesus affirms that God wants all persons to enjoy eternal life. But he stresses our need for constant fidelity and vigilance throughout our lives. Thus, Jesus reminds us that, even though God wants all of us to be saved, entry into God’s kingdom is not automatically granted, based purely on religious affiliation or nationality.

St. Augustine said that God created us without our help, but he will not save us without our help. While Jesus’ death and resurrection have brought about our redemption, we still have a role to play in letting that redemption penetrate our hearts and minds.

Jesus’ reply is paradoxical. He says that many will try to enter the door of heaven but will not succeed. Yet vast numbers will come from the four corners of the earth and take their places at the heavenly banquet. His message is that salvation is meant for all; because, as we know, Jesus came to open the way to salvation for all people, for every person created but our cooperation is very necessary.

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.

The primary role of the Christian community has never been simply to guarantee the “salvation” of its own members. It is not the function of the Church to turn all its energies in seeing that its members “save their souls”.

The role of the Christian community from the beginning until now is first and foremost to proclaim to the entire world the Good News about God’s love for the world, to share the message of the Gospel about what constitutes living life to the full. The Church completely betrays this mandate when it becomes obsessed with its own survival and its own “rights” and privileges. The MISSION has a church more than the CHURCH has a mission. The church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God. And it is not only the verbal teaching of Jesus, which must be communicated. Just handing out a catechism or even a Bible is not enough. Our whole lifestyle, individually and in community, as Christians is itself to be a proclamation to all those who hunger for a life of truth, of love, of justice and greater sharing, a life of compassion and mutual support, an end to isolation and marginalization, exploitation, and manipulation… Is that a picture of our Christian community?

How many people will be saved? What in fact does “being saved” mean? It is not helpful to toss out the old catechism jargon about those dying, “without mortal sin on their souls” or in the “state of grace.” Perhaps a more fundamental expression of this would be, “Have I been blessed with an experience of being loved?” You see, salvation is something that happens to me. It is someone drawing me through the narrow door, from selfishness and darkness to love and light. As someone has said, our life’s journey begins by traveling down the narrow passage of the birth canal after the warmth and comfort of the womb. Then, there is a series of thresholds which we must all cross–adolescence, adulthood, vocational choices, old age. Choices always narrow, but it enables us to enter a broader place of nourishment and growth.

My part in salvation is to freely respond and believe the love poured out on me. Trying to put it in more realistic terms, to be “saved” means to live and to die in a close loving relationship with God and with others. Christ said he has come that “we may have life and have it to the full.” That is what it means to be saved.

Many people go through life thinking that their past is all that matters. It does not occur to them that their present relationship with God and others is what really matters. The past is only important to God and to me, if it has enabled me to grow in the virtues that now are evident in my life.

 

  • Many songs have gotten it right. Have I experienced the power of love in my life?
  • Through the experience of love, am I less selfish than I was yesterday?
  • Am I more willing to give?
  • Do I find it easier to be open, compassionate, and forgiving?
  • Have I overcome habitual areas of weakness and sin?
  • Is love making me less fearful and grasping?
  • Am I a more hopeful person?
  • Do I love myself?
  • Am I in right relationship with others and God?
  • Do I treat the other with respect as my equal?

 

I can begin to think less of self because I am treasured by my God and others. I want to be worthy of the love offered me. I can say I am being saved if I am growing more in the likeness of Christ. Being saved means becoming a new creation through the power of love transforming my life.

 

Fr. Ken Forster OMI
Associate Pastor St. Philip Neri Parish

306 715 5064