26 August, 2007, XXI Sunday of the Year

Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30

 

The Narrow Door

The familiar story of twin brothers Peter and John could well be a parable with a pointed lesson. Peter becomes an exemplary priest, widely acclaimed for his deep prayer, heroic penance and tremendous missionary zeal. But Peter has one constant nagging sadness. His twin brother an accomplished Physician hardly goes to Church, loves a worldly life, eating, drinking and merry making. Peter never ceases to pray and fast for his brother, and, when John dies of liver complications, without the last sacraments Peter is inconsolable for he is sure John has gone straight to hell. In a short time Peter also dies and goes straight to heaven. Imagine his surprise and shock to see his brother John there in the welcoming party! He says to himself, “What is the use of all these prayers and penance of a life time if you can get to heaven even without them?” The Lord who reads Peter’s thoughts says to him, “Son, your brother did not pray nor did he practice any penance. He seldom went to church. But he loved much. And because he loved he served selflessly and sometimes at the cost of great sacrifice. He never missed a sick call even in the middle of the night and without regard to whether the patient was rich or poor.”

 

This parable tells us much about our God and much about our religion. Our God is a God of love- a God who is Abba. And so the greatest dream and the fondest wish of our God from all eternity is to gather all the sons and daughters of God into one family, God’s family, with God as our common Father and hence all of us as brothers and sisters to one another, transcending all artificial barriers of caste, creed, community, culture, class and country. For God there are no geographical boundaries, no political differences, no racial barriers, no class distinctions, no language blocks, no caste discrimination, no culture conflicts, no clash of civilization. When God looks at our world, God sees the whole earth as a single planet peopled by one single family of brothers and sisters who are created out of love, created for love and hence called to build relationship of love, freedom, justice, respect for one another’s dignity and rights. God’s love for us is all-embracing love, all inclusive love. God does not exclude anyone from God’s parental love. God is happiest when all the people on earth experience God’s love, goodness, generosity, mercy compassion and forgiveness. God is glorified when every man women and child on earth acknowledges God as Abba, trust in God’s providence completely and surrender themselves to God’s love totally. As a fruit of this surrender the human family becomes marked by brotherhood, fellowship, sharing, compassion, service and sacrifice. This world becomes a paradise on earth. Jesus called it His father’s Kingdom.

This is the dream of God. This is the will of God. This is the plan of God. This is the dearest wish of God’s heart. And it is to fulfill this that Jesus came to the earth. All His words and actions and His very person were resplendent with the light of the kingdom. And He went through all the towns and the villages preaching the Kingdom to people and giving them the foretaste of the Kingdom through His miracles and table fellowship. By this Jesus was bringing to realization His father’s dream of gathering all the nations, peoples, races and languages into one family. This is the religion of Jesus Christ.

 

It is very important that we remember that God does not play favorites, that God is not partial, that God does not exclude anyone from God’s love, that God has no “chosen people” and “rejected people.” To whole humanity regardless of race, religion, rank and region, God says “You are my people and I am your God.” To every human being, sinner or saint, God says, “You are my son. You are my daughter. – my only beloved one. In you I am well pleased.” This is a very powerful antidote to any poison of fundamentalism, fanaticism, exclusivism, racism and pride that may make us think that we alone are saved while others are damned, that we alone are the Church while others are mere denominations, that we alone possess the fullness of the truth while others are groping in the dark.

 

At the same time the Word of God today reminds us that salvation does not come cheap. God’s deepest desire is that all of us are saved, that all of us belong to God’s family, that all of us enter the Kingdom. But we have a price to pay. The door that opens to the Kingdom is the narrow door. Jesus, going through towns and villages, preaching God’s Kingdom is relentlessly on His way to Jerusalem and there He ends up on Calvary so it shall be for us. There is no other way except the way of the cross, because there is no other way except the way of love. And, where there is love there is selflessness. Where there is love there is service. Where there is love there is sacrifice. Where there is love there is suffering. That is why the Letter to the Hebrews has words of comfort to Christians who are paying a price for being Christians.

 

And so let us make the opening Prayer of today’s liturgy our own and say, “Lord, give us a longing for your presence more than for life itself so that all the attractions of a changing world serve only to bring us the peace and joy of Your Kingdom which this world cannot give.”

-Freddie

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