21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Is. 66:18–21

Thus says the LORD: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the LORD in clean vessels. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.

Second reading: Heb. 12:5–7,11–13

Brothers and sisters, You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Gospel: Lk. 13:22–30

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?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

In other words

Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Who and how many will be saved? Some religious sects in the Philippines today still naively believe that they alone will be saved. In the recent past, Catholics also believed that they will be the only ones saved. Jesus was asked the same question. As he did on other occasions, Jesus did not face the question head-on. He went beyond the immediate question because he was after a deeper and more important concern.

Thus in his answer to the question, Jesus points to this fact that an individual has to make a decision that has to be renewed on a day-to-day basis. It is not enough to boast of one’s religious membership or be satisfied with being Christian. It will not help us. Listen to what Jesus related about those who came late after the door of the house was shut. The owner of the house asked who they were. They answered, “We ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets.” The owner of the house told them to go away because he did not know them. No one can take salvation for granted.

Then Jesus started talking about the need to enter into the narrow gate. If there is a narrow gate, then there must be a wide gate. What does this mean? Entering the wide gate means living according to the world’s standards, accepting and doing what everybody in the world does, believing that everything that the world could offer is good, and following the principle of doing what feels good. One does not need to have a religious mind to realize that living this way leads nowhere but to a dead-end of boredom, frustration, and unhappiness.

Jesus asks us to enter the narrow gate. What does this mean? This means not to be carried along by the world saturated with materialism, consumerism, hedonism, and vanity that bring nothing but fleeting joys and empty promises. These things hit us like a current of a swift-flowing river. To enter the narrow gate is like swimming upstream against the current of materialism that blinds us from the reality of the spiritual dimensions of our human life. It is going against consumerism that makes us acquire things that we do not even need, against hedonism that saps our human potentials to soar into a relationship with the divine, and against vanity that is a concern for the body that borders on adoration.

Entering the narrow gate means renewing daily the consequences of our being Christians—to go against the current. It is not enough to have been baptized once in our life. What is needed is to live up daily according to the consequences of our baptism. It is like the reality of being married. It is not enough that a couple has gone through the marriage rite and has signed the marriage contract. The proof of marriage happens on a day-to-day fidelity to the consequences of the “yes” the couple made during the day they were married. We know too well that good intentions are not enough. They have to be lived on a day-to-day basis.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus, knowing too well our human condition, is warning us to enter the narrow door because he wants what is good for us. He is not like the master of the house in today’s Gospel who closed the door. Jesus never closes the door to us; we are the ones who close ourselves off from his love.

Let us heed the voice of the Father heard at Jesus’ transfiguration that said, “Listen to him!” Let us also follow what Mary said to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana when she told them, “Do whatever he tells you.” And this is what Jesus tells us today, “Enter the narrow door.” 

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