in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle C - 2012-2013
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Isaiah 66:18-21
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 117:1, 2
Second Reading - Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel - Luke 13:22-30
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
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 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."
Our Lord is full of almost comical ironies. He talks about this NARROW GATE, which is SO HARD to enter . . . at least on our own power! He then mentions, in both the 1st reading AND the Gospel, that people will come from Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan (where ARE these places?), people will come from the north, the south, the east and west, and will recline at table in His Kingdom. I thought the gate was narrow? What an irony.
He then mentions that those who will NOT be able to enter, are those who WERE ALREADY at his table, eating and drinking in his company, listening to Him teach in their streets. Sounds like ones who are very; close to Him! So what does He say to them? “I do not know where you are FROM.” (???) Away from me, you evildoers. Another seemingly paradoxical statement.
For the gate is narrow – and if you try to enter it by your own power, you WON’T be strong enough . . . but (and now we’re getting used to this), the LAST will be the first in, and the first will be last . . . I remember hearing this one time in seminary, I was running late and just made it into Mass on time. As I heard the Gospel (last will be first), a few of us seminarians noticed that we were in one of the last rows – so we all looked at each other and thought the same thing – oh, yeah, the last will be first!!! Pays to be late . . .
But seriously, if we take literally the message of people coming from various lands to the Lord’s table, then we’ve got a good thing going here at St. Philip’s. I look out and I can see people from practically all five continents of the world. It’s a beautiful thing. God’s word has prophesied it, and it’s come true. However, when the authors wrote that people would come from such far-off lands like Mosoch, Tubal and Javan (wherever they are), these far-off places were seen as far-off for more than one reason. The farther they were from the Promised Land, the more they were seen to be MORALLY far-off . . . lost to the north and south and east and west, lost in sin and evil. And so, for THEM to come from these questionable lands and sit at the table of Yahweh, well that was certainly saying something.
But should it really surprise us? We know the Good Shepherd, and we know that His attention is focused, NOT on the 99 sheep, but on the one who is LOST. THAT lost sheep is really on his mind – why else would we have this message pictured here in the stained glass window closest to the tabernacle? The most beautiful irony of all, the God of goodness is focused on the one who is the LEAST good. God’s will is that this LOST one be brought back to His table. And he has many GOOD sheep who can help him do it. What UPSETS him in today’s Gospel, are those who eat and drink at His table and listen to Him, but DO NOTHING with what they have been given – they let the lost sheep stay out shivering in the cold.
How beautiful it is that we get to reach out to potential lost sheep at our door to door visitation in a few weeks. What a privilege it is that we each know a few people in our lives who are still lost. We have been given so much here at the Lord’s table. We have heard so much in His Holy Word. We have been given so much, for ourselves, yes, but also FOR THEM!!!!!!!! We say, GO FORTH at the end of Mass, because so much has been given to us, and it MUST be shared with those who are starving for it.
And how do we share it? How do we go out to the world and tell the Good News? We can think of a few ways –reading scripture together, praying together, but perhaps FIRST AND FOREMOST, the first and best way to share what we have been given here, is to LOVE THE ONE who is lost. And not just those who are lost in Africa or India or the other corners of the earth – but those who are lost just a few yards from our doorstep, or under our own roof. By LOVING THEM, by making SOME EFFORT to reach to the one who is lost we will be able to go to bed at night with the CERTAINTY that we have satisfied one of the greatest priorities in the heart of God Himself. For He has died for sinners, for US, EVEN the ones who are lost, EVEN and ESPECIALLY for the ones who are Last. What a BEAUTIFUL irony!