HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C
THEME: HARD WORK THROUGH DISCIPLINE AND OBEDIENCE BRINGS GLORY!
BY: Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 21 2022
(ISAIAH 66:18-21; HEBREWS 12:5-7’11-13; LUKE 13:22-30)
Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables in chapter 13 that deal with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God. The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise. All three are about the few and the many and the Kingdom of God. Half-way through the journey up towards the Passion, as Jesus passes through the villages, he again stresses the difficulty of entrance to the Kingdom. The synoptic Gospels stress the narrowness of the road and the reluctance of the disciples, even the Twelve, to believe, let alone to accept the tough message of the cross. Luke insists as we can see, do not sit back in complacent contentment that we have been called, or you may find the door slammed in your face. Matthew 7.21-23 has the same warning in his own way: it is not enough to keep calling out, ‘Lord, Lord!’ without doing the will of the Father. He also has a similar, more developed parable of the wedding attendants, five wise virgins with oil in their lamps, and five unprepared virgins for the wedding-feast. They too vainly cry, ‘Lord, Lord!’ from outside the door.
In today’s gospel, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, his passion. A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement. Luke uses this question device several times in his Gospel. A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan. The question about will only a few be saved uses typical Christian language about salvation but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is faithful to the covenant. (In the context of Judaism, a concern of the Pharisees).
Jesus’ response was very simple, smart, and of course, an intelligent one: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door…! Rather than occupy oneself with arguments about the number of those to be saved, it is better to work hard in order to be saved. Through this, Christ reminds us that the invitation to His feast is open to all. However, each person must struggle to be there. We must do what we must do by playing our roles well. This is the only way we can be guaranteed a place in the feast of the kingdom of God. In order words, it behooves on us as individuals to make effort in order to be at the glorious gathering of the saints. Hence, Paul admonishes us to: “…Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
The answer to the question if only a few will be saved is no. In the end, many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved. The parable is a prophetic warning to repentance in order to enter the kingdom. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, am only certain that there will be three surprises in Heaven. First, I will see some people there whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expect to be there who will not be there. And, even relying on His mercy, the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there.
The Christian life is a narrow door in our society. The society tells us to use the wide gate. It is easier, the path is free, and as Jesus says, most people choose to travel this road. This is the part of materialism and unchallenged wealth, the way of power and prestige. But the narrow gate is the part of service, sacrifice, and faith. That is why the second reading from Hebrews reminds us that it is obedience and discipline that will help us respond, and effectively return to the Lord. In this path, we shall encounter thorns and pains. As a loving father, God will also reprimand and punish us. However, this is to correct and guide us through the right path. Williams Shakespeare wrote in his novel, Hamlet: “Sometimes, I must be cruel, in order to be kind.” This is the way God also handles us at times. Always remember, Success is achieved through hard work and hard work through discipline and obedience.
God bless you!
Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara