YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Someone asked Jesus, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said, ‘Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’” (Luke 13:23, 30)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 13:22-30
“Going Up,” chirped the automated female voice at five-second intervals as I passed a stuck elevator at the hospital. “Going up,” announced the empty car whose door apparently had jammed open. And while no passengers were lured into the car by the inviting voice, still she called forth.
Later that same day, I encountered another bodiless voice, this one from a stuck revolving door in the hospital lobby. “Please step forward,” invited the female voice, repeating the invitation at five-second intervals, though, of course, no one did because it was plain to all that the door was jammed. And so, as crowds milled around in the lobby, the voice continued its taunt, “Please step forward.”
“Going Up,” God invites us each morning when we discover that we’ve been reborn to a new day. And at every moment throughout the day, God coaches us to take the next step heavenward: “Please step forward.” It’s true that the voice of God is often not as obvious or as inviting as the automated voice at the hospital. One has to listen deeply to the heart’s desire to hear God’s invitation. But he’s insistent. He invites us many times each day to ascend heavenward, unrelenting in his desire for us, wanting us to be with him forever. Sometimes, though, we are as unmindful of his voice as were the hundreds of people who passed a broken elevator and a stuck revolving door at the hospital.
In the gospel passage we hear today, “Someone asked Jesus, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said, ‘Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’” (Luke 13:23, 30) Or, to re-phrase the question asked of Jesus: who gets into heaven? And the answer Jesus gives? Everyone is invited, but you’d be amazed who accepts the invitation and who doesn’t. In short, where and how I spend eternity is entirely my own decision, not God’s. God keeps calling out to me day by day, “Going up” and “Please step forward.”
A few days after both the elevator and revolving door insisted I walk more closely with God, I passed Sam’s room in the 2nd floor cardiac intensive care unit. In just a few days this quite elderly, frail gentleman had become a favorite of the nurses, that rare patient who not only has no complaints but who goes out of his way to offer a cheerful word to all. It was still early morning, and the lights in Sam’s room were out, so I thought to pass him by at the moment and visit later. He’d spotted me, though, and he gave a yell. “Hey, how are you doing today? Come on in here!” Backing up, I walked to his bedside, where he patted the chair beside the bed, more an order than an invitation. “Gotta tell you something,” he confided. Then, gesturing skyward, he stated simply, “I’m going up today.”
Leaning forward in my chair and taking his hand, I gently asked, “Oh Sam, are you scared?” Confusion marked his face as he contemplated my question. Then, with the widest grin, he slapped my knee. “I meant I’m going upstairs to the 8th floor cardiac rehab unit. I’m getting better!”
Though on this particular day Sam would only be going up to the 8th floor, we both knew the day was coming sooner than later when he’d be going up all the way. He seemed not much bothered by the prospect, though. As he had stated on an earlier visit, “Yeah, I had a heart attack. It’s just worn out from a long life of living and loving.” His wide smile that day told me he’d regretted not a moment of it, a worn-out heart a badge of honor for a man who’d heard God’s illusive but insistent voice over a lifetime: “Going up,” and “Please step forward.” Sam was ready to do just that.