Homily for Sunday 21C 2016

Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Today’s Gospel begins with a reminder that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and to what awaits him there. This gives a context to his sayings in this part of the Gospel. “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” someone asks. “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” Jesus is making his own way to his own narrow door at Jerusalem stop

Jesus does not answer the question directly but gives a suggestive answer. We cannot simply let things take their course; we have to make our own effort. This is not a case for of prizes for everybody. There is a chance of failure. God will not fail to give us his grace but he calls for us to cooperate with that grace. He will call out from us the qualities that make us human and by circumstances we would rather avoid. He will often ask us to develop these qualities we find it harder to exercise. If we are theorists, he may ask for practicality; if we are moved by sympathy, he may ask us to act logically, to be active when we prefer indolence but maybe patient when we would prefer just to jump in.

Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and to his own narrow doorway, the one that does lead to resurrection. We each make our own way to our own narrow door because we are each of us called to follow Christ. He wants us to come through the door but we may fail. There are limits. The master of the house will eventually bolt the door.

St Luke tells us that the people locked out will say, “Lord, open to us. We once ate and drunken your company; you taught in our streets.” There are many people who approve of Christianity and think it a good thing. For some people it is a system of thought they like; for others it may be aesthetic and related to the great works of art produced in and for the Church; and for others it may be sentimental and nostalgic to go to Midnight Mass and perhaps at Easter too; to have a Church wedding and so on. But the question is not whether we approve of Christianity, but whether Christ approves of us. Do we allow Christ to direct our lives? Have we barred the door of ourselves to him before he bars the door to us?

Jesus was talking to his fellow-Jews. When he talks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob taking their places at the feast, he is not talking simply about characters from history, he is talking about their great, great, great and more greats grandfathers. Jesus’s listeners are Jews because they are related to these men. But this will not be enough to get them through the door. People from East and West, from North and South will get in while they are outside. We too cannot rely on a simple relationship to achieve a place at the feast in the Kingdom of God. We have to live out that relationship each day.

One of the things Jesus is saying to us is that we do have a part to play in our own salvation. We are not simply at the mercy of forces beyond our control. We are more than simply our DNA or our social circumstances or our family or any of the other factors that act on us. He calls us to become in our lives the complete human being he created us to be. More than that, he calls us to participate in his own life, the life of God. He is not asking us to do it alone. He is with us. He is with us in his grace and in all the people and circumstances that help us. He is with us in the Church, its liturgy, in its sacraments and in all the people who make up Christ’s body on earth. It is also worth recalling that Christ’s criteria for success or not necessarily ours. And when we try and we fail, then there is always Christ’s mercy. We have the door of Mercy here and there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So try to enter by the narrow door but the door of mercy is a door by which we can enter the Kingdom of God.