21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
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?”
How would you answer this question? What would you say? I still remember what a nun said one day in our Faith Formation class. She said, “Everyone goes to heaven.” I think that was the moment my friend Charles stopped believing in God. Although he was a child, he could still think for himself. And he kept thinking to himself, “If everyone goes to heaven, then why be good?”
What I try to teach or preach is what Christ taught and preached: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Christ teaches us that we can be saved if we have the willingness to work for it.
I have met a lot of people throughout my life. Most of them are still my friends. They come from different parts of the world; they speak in various languages; they are poor; they are rich; they are married; they are single; they are men; they are women. Some are dead, most are alive. But what unites us all together is what we share in common: suffering. Life is difficult. It is really difficult! It is difficult for me and for you. Why try to fool yourself? Actually, why are we trying to fool our children? Why do we hide from them our failures, faults, weaknesses, difficulties, trials and tribulations? Why are we stunting their maturity, their growth?
Yesterday, a young mother passed away, leaving her young kids behind. A week ago, a child was playing a game outside and hit her head against the cement sidewalk. Today, she still struggles with walking. A few days ago, a man lost his job and his wife was diagnosed with a rare disease. They have two grown children in college. All these things have brought very strong men to their knees. I know. I have seen it for myself.
Many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. We are not as strong as we think we are. We really aren’t. We are not as secure as we think we are, and 9/11 should be a constant reminder for all of us. We are not as powerful as we think we are, and Sandy is just one of many kinds of storms we will run away from or die from in our lives.
The problem isn’t that we are not strong or secure or powerful enough. The problem is…we think we are. So, instead of living more modestly and relying more on family, we think we can live in debt and that our friends or government will always come to our rescue. Instead of acknowledging the strength and power that comes from religion, we think we can ignore it and solve every single international conflict with high-tech weapons and consumer goods. We will not. Our enemies have proven their courage to fight, and their willingness to die.
We can be much stronger. We really can, but only if we begin to strengthen our foundations, our “unions”; that is, marriages, children, families and faith. If we do, then we will rebuild The Union. Out of all the lies people have created, and actually believed in, the biggest and longest on-going lie has been this one: Security through possession. This security through possession is known by various names: career, infrastructures, friends, money, savings, investments, eating-right, etc… These are the supposed “lifelines” or means to success, happiness, love and fulfillment.
Now I know that those who believe it will deny it. But they actually live by it. They even say it: My career is my life. My friends are my real family. My dogs are my children. My money is my guarantee. My soap opera is my religion. My savings are my insurance. Eating healthy and right will keep me healthy and alive. I think the good news is that if someone can believe in all these lies, then it won’t be difficult for them to believe in the truth; that is, in God. Reality is on our side. Reality slaps us back to the truth.
Strive through the narrow gate. How about we try something different, something that works, something new but actually old? Something that costs very little yet produces great results. It is not unheard of that a little lock opened the door to a great mansion. It’s not uncommon to find cheap solutions to complex problems. Not everything in life has to be expensive. Instead of our families investing lots of time in the worldly things, why not create a little bit of time for prayer? It doesn’t cost a thing! It’s natural. May be If we outlawed prayer in a family just because of one person, wouldn’t it be worth it if it helped just another person? Faith is not a crutch. It is a lifesaver! It does not help us to fall asleep at night; it helps us to get through the day when our days are dark.
Life is not easy…for anyone. Strive. What? Strive. Do something? Yes, the Lord invites us to strive to pass through the narrow gate. We are supposed to work for it. We are supposed to do something. Strive sounds a lot like try, and the words may actually be related. Strive to follow the Commandments, The Teaching of Christ, Love one another, forgive, be faithful etc… How can we do it if we are not strong enough? Through Him, with Him and in Him. What is the narrow gate? It is a person. Jesus Christ. Strive to live your life through Him, with Him and in Him. And you will find yourself…on His side. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN