WORD Alive by Fr Bel San Luis SVD
21st Sunday Ordinary Time, Is 66:18-21, Heb 12:5-7, 11-13, Luke 13, 22-30
A story is told about a good and devout Catholic barangay chairman who died and off he went to the next life. In the afterlife, one either goes to the top floor called “heaven” where the righteous get their reward of eternal bliss. Those who have venial sins go to the second floor called “purgatory” and the damned are herded to “hell” in the fiery basement , where their lot is eternal punishment.
Now the barangay chairman arrived at the second floor (purgatory). As he roamed about his new home, to his surprise he met his former parish priest.
“Father, I didn’t expect you to be here only,” the excited parishioner blurted. “Why aren’t you up there?” pointing to heaven.
“Ssshhhh, quiet, brod; on my way here I met our mayor down below us!” said the priest pointing to the basement (hell).
This is only a story, of course, and our mayors, I hope, will not take it seriously! But it somehow illustrates Christ’s teaching in this Sunday’s gospel that “there are those last now who will be first, and first now who will be last” (Lk 13,30).
What Christ means is that there will be a reversal of places in God’s kingdom. He was referring to the Israelites, the chosen people, who were privileged to “eat and drink in his company” and who believed that blood descent from Abraham or being a Jew was a sure-fire guarantee of salvation.
Jesus declares, however, that this is not the case. He adds a stern warning that one must enter through the narrow door to gain one’s salvation” (Lk 13,24).
By “narrow door,” he means, as the word connotes, that entering involves difficulty, inconvenience, struggle.
God’s kingdom is not for the easy-going, the lazy, the irresponsible.
Membership in the church or merely churchgoing or fulfilling a checklist of “minimum obligations” are no guarantee for salvation.
What’s required is a faith that bears fruit in works of love that is consistent with one’s conduct.
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Somewhere in the North there was a mayor I knew who never failed to attend Sunday Mass. He even enjoined his constituents to follow his good example.
The great irony is that everybody in town knew that he was engaged in big-time smuggling of taxable goods and items.
Moreover, entering through the narrow door can mean doing the will of God in situations that are difficult. Concretely, it can mean being faithful to one’s spouse when the temptation is strong to be disloyal or to be honest when some office mates enrich themselves with ill-gotten wealth.
Another “narrow door” can be the difficulty of forgiving one’s enemy. Jesus’ clearly said: “If you don’t forgive your brother his offence, your heavenly Father will not forgive you either” (Matthew 6,15).
Entering the narrow door is not a choice but a guaranteed CONDITION of entering the Kingdom of God.
When we are steadfastly striving to enter through the narrow door, we may be surprised to discover one day that our cross became our crown, our struggle became our glory, and our last place became our first place.
QUIPS TO PONDER. If you think you are indispensable, take a walk around the local cemetery. Rich or poor, famous or infamous, all life leads to the grave.
You may party in Hell, but you will be the barbeque!
“Father, please bless my new motor-cycle.” Priest: “Sure, my son—but remember my blessing is good only at 60 kilometers per hour; beyond that is your own look-out.”