FR. GERALD MUOKA HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: LAST DAY SURPRISES
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 21 2022
R1 – Is 66:18-21
R2 – Heb 12:5-7,11-13
GOSPEL – Luke 13:22-30
Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, once narrated that we will have three surprises in Heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. St. John of the Cross gives the reason why they are not there: “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on how we have loved.” The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. That is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven! Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us, simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace.
Beloved in Christ, the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy describe the last day surprises, bordering on the question, “Who shall be saved?” Jesus’ response to the question, “who will be saved?,” was more than a puzzle to his followers. Nevertheless, Fulton Sheen’s last day surprises at the introit story, explain more deeply and clearly, the central message of today’s liturgy. For me, the greatest surprise is that I will be save and I ought to pursue and strive after it.
In the first reading from the prophecy of Isaiah, the prophet answers a question that borders more on who will be saved. Isaiah’s message came some 200 years later of the Jewish return to Jerusalem in 540 BC after forty-seven years in exile. Some of them brought back to Jerusalem their pagan wives and in-laws who had been converted to the Jewish Faith. The question was whether Yahweh would accept these former pagans along with His chosen people. In the prophet’s message, Yahweh declares that He is the Lord of all peoples rather than of the Jews alone. Such prophecy is a great surprise to the traditional Jews.
The second reading explains that the the “narrow gateway” to heaven requires a rigorous and disciplined process; which upholds our accepting pain and suffering as the loving discipline God is giving His children
Whereas, in the Gospel reading, Jesus stresses the “Narrow Gate Theology,” where he clearly explains that anyone who follows him through the narrow gate of sacrificial service and sharing love will be saved.
*THE NARROW GATE THEOLOGY*
Most cities of the ancient world were surrounded by walls that had large gates in them. Jerusalem had about twelve gates that were large enough for two-way traffic. People moved through these gates to do their business, to shop and to visit their friends. These gates, however, were closed at night, in case the city came under attack by an invader.
There were also smaller gates through which individual citizens could be allowed into the city by the guards without exposing the city to danger. These smaller, or narrower gates were what Jesus was talking about. These smaller gates were like turnstiles; only one person at a time could enter through them. The crowd will press for entry, but the door will be too narrow to admit all.
However, the irony of Jesus’ image is that the narrow gates are the proper way to enter the Kingdom precisely because they are just wide enough to receive a single person – anyone who is willing to do sacrificial service for the glory of God. In other words, entering through the narrow gate denotes a steady obedience to the Lord Jesus; overcoming all opposition and rejecting every temptation. It is the narrow way of unconditional and unremitting love. Mere faith in Jesus and membership in His Church by Baptism cannot guarantee salvation.
Furthermore, some of the Fathers of the Church interpreted the narrow door as that small place in the heart where one says “yes” or “no” to what one knows to be true. It is the one place into which no external force can enter to shape or coerce one’s choices. This place is what Teresa of Avila calls the “center of the soul” wherein God dwells. That means that Jesus is the narrow gate, the way by which any person must enter the Heavenly city.
(1) *SALVATION SHOULD BE OUR ULTIMATE GOAL*
Canon 1752, rightly says, “The salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.” So, every of our aspirations, yearnings and undertakings should be motivated by the salvation of our souls. It’s quite unfortunate that most of us christians have various motives of going to church, that is quite different from making heaven which should be our ultimate goal. Some go to church for the christianization of their profile, others for prosperity, personal needs and other selfish goals, etc. However, the scripture admonishes, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and looses his soul” (Mk 8:35-36).
(2) *GOING TO HEAVEN REQUIRES A RIGOROUS PROCESS*
The Christian song, “It’s not an easy road, we are traveling to heaven, for many are the thorns on that way..,” explains more the rigorous nature of the heavenly journey. Choosing the narrow gate requires self-control and self-disciplining of our evil tendencies, evil habits, and addictions. We must get ready to prune ourselves of all negatives and strive after the three stages of perfection., viz:
(i) _The Purgative Stage_
Here, one experiences his or her initial conversion and responds to grace by moving away from a life of sin and pursuing a life of virtue
(ii) _The Illuminative Stage_
The fundamental virtue of this state is recollection, that is, a constant attention of the mind and of the affections of the heart to thoughts and sentiments which elevate the soul to God.” In this stage, one begins to take on the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
(iii) _The Unitive Stage_ .
The unitive stage is one in which a person experiences union with God by love and the actual experience and exercise of that love. Here prayer becomes more contemplative and virtue becomes more mature, almost heroic. An example of this stage would be St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner during the Holocaust. He did so with heroic love and courage, and also with a sense of peace and humility, demonstrating a high degree of holiness and spiritual maturity.
Finally, an open-air evangelist, preaching on today’s gospel text was warning his congregation about the eternal damnation. “On the Day of Judgment,” he said, “there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” But an old woman in the crowd asked, “Look preacher, I got no teeth!” “Never mind,” says the evangelist, “teeth will be provided.”
Beloved, the epilogue story, though funny enough, but it reminds us of the damnation that awaits the soul that fails to brace up for eternal life. Let our greatest surprise be that we shall be counted among the saved.
MAY THE LORD GRANT US A BURNING DESIRE TO LOVE HIM ABOVE ALL ELSE AND TO STRIVE AFTER THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS. AMEN.
_FR GERALD MUOKA_