Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 25, 2019 Cycle C

by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate” (Lk 13:22). The narrow gate is the cross. Through Jesus’ cross, we are introduced to “that place where true gladness is found” (Collect, XXI Sunday in Ordinary Time).

Last Friday, we celebrated the memorial of Saint Rose of Lima, who was attuned to the profound beauty of divine grace through tribulation. She wrote: “Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

In today’s second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Proverbs, says: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines” (Heb 12:5).

Why do we need to be disciplined? In terms of spiritual life, we are still immature. We need to grow up. We have to become adults in faith: “For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? […] Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it” (Heb 12:7.9‒11).

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah declares: “They shall come and see my glory” (Is 66:18). Since the resurrection of Christ, heaven and earth are full of God’s glory, although we fail to see it because of our spiritual blindness. Our sight has to be restored. It is a painful journey to go from darkness to light.

We pass through the narrow gate as we accept the cross, not because we are masochists but because the cross is the means for the fulfillment of life. As Jesus said to Saint Rose: “If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions.”

Saint Paul uses the image of a race to explain this dynamic: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (1 Cor 9: 24‒25).

When we endure trials and struggles in union with Our Lord, peace and wisdom are granted us as we grow stronger in hope and knowledge of God. Those who refuse to strive to enter through the narrow gate will be deprived of knowing God’s grace. In today’s parable, the master of the house says: “I do not know where you are from” (Lk 13:27).

We are not afraid to face trials and struggles because they are transient. Only God’s glory is eternal! As Saint Peter says: “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 1: 6‒7).

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” May the Holy Spirit help to us to enter into a profound understanding of the cross. Let us ask for the grace to experience the beauty of God’s grace through the tribulations of life.  Amen.