Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for August 25, 2013

• Isaiah 66:18-21 • Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 • Luke 13:22-30 • 21 Ordinary C ‘13 •

Scripture Readings: Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Print PDF: Weekly Homily 08.25.2013

I first met Barbara in 1962.  I was newly assigned to St. Anthony Paris and she was a spunky, vivacious eighth grader in the parish grade school.  Our friendship evolved and continues today.  Many years ago I visited her and her husband at their very old French farmhouse.  The entry door to their “mesas” is tiny and restrictive.  I had to remove my backpack and bend my knees to pass through. Memories of that entryway were awakened by today’s gospel text.

According to Luke, Jesus and his companions are making their way to Jerusalem.  As they go through the cities and villages Jesus is proclaiming his message about “the kingdom of God.”

An unknown person asks, “are only a few going to be saved?  Jesus does not answer but makes the puzzling statement, “strive to enter through the narrow gate…”

For years I had a very low appreciation of what that means. The catechism of my childhood and even my theological studies in preparation for ordination were dominated by totally inadequate concepts.  For example, “the kingdom of God” was commonly understood as referring to a place called heaven.  This happened because much of our theological tradition was rooted in that period known as Medieval Christendom.

Medieval theologians could not tolerate the enigma posed by this gospel text. They had the audacity to answer that which Jesus did not answer.  Medieval villages and cities were decimated by the Plague.  It was a pessimistic time. Anxiety about and fear of death was widespread. Spirituality focused on the suffering humanity of Jesus and preaching and popular piety were obsessed with the last things.  Those theologians meshed the harsh images of this text with their existential situation and developed the idea that at the moment of death each individual faces their own judgment.  That concept along with purgatory and eternal damnation became central images of our theology.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  Personal piety still mistakenly imagines “the narrow gate” as the entry door to a place called heaven.  That fails to grasp it’s symbolic meaning.  A closed door is a symbol of exclusion and separates.  An open door is a symbol of inclusion and welcomes.  The words of Jesus– “strive to enter” imply the door is open to everyone.

Jesus is the door.  This door is always open.  No one can close it.  Luke is telling us to follow Jesus; learn from him; imitate him and love like him without condition!  Embrace a life of nonviolence.  In doing so you will become more and more like Jesus – fully human and fully alive!

The good news in this text is there is no closed door.   “All people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the sought and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.” All people are “God’s people.”

Francis, the newly elected Bishop of Rome, seems to appreciate the fullness of this text.  We hear him preaching a church wide open to all.  He said, “God doesn’t belong to any particular people.  God’s invitation is addressed to all, without distinction.  Jesus does not tell the apostles and us to form an exclusive group of elite members.  Jesus directs us, “Go, make disciples of all nations.”

That Gracious Mystery we name God is the source and goal embedded and hidden in the depths of reality. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  Everything is sacred.  Every person, every bird, every leaf, every rock is sacred.  We, and the entire cosmos are emerging, together, in one, great evolutionary process.  We are becoming Christ.  “The kingdom of God” “God’s new reality” is evolving from within us.

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