Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
August 20/21, 2016
Isaiah 66: 18-21; Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13; Lk 13: 22-30
Where is the passion of your life? How closely do you follow Jesus, go where he goes? Do you fear tight places, the “narrow gates” of life through which you must pass? Are you willing to become like children and learn through the discipline of faith, or do we only want our own way?
Passion for life…. love for Jesus and the Church….. passionate love…. this is what will hold us tightly to God and keep us in relationship with him. Passion for Jesus, passion with Jesus. This passion, this love for him and the Church wraps us into a union with God and gets us through the narrow gate. It is what keeps us on the less travelled road of our Catholic faith and off the freeways of the world that tempt us with their speed and ease of passage. Indeed, living out our Catholic faith today is difficult and often seems like a long trip on the back roads, the less travelled and more hazardous routes. Not many travel these roads anymore, preferring the ease and speed of the interstates highways of the world.
Last weekend, I ran in the Paavo Nurmi marathon up in Hurley, Wisconsin. Marathons are 26 miles, 385 yards long. Living our Catholic faith is like running a marathon. Marathons demand a lot from the runner. The training and discipline are long and difficult. The gates are narrower just like in our faith. If you don’t have a passion for running, you are not going to finish a marathon. If we don’t have a passion for Jesus and with the Church we won’t make the difficult journey with him and go to Jerusalem. To go to Jerusalem is a way of saying that we must die with Jesus so as to live with Jesus; we must give our lives to God and accept his will, his plan, his kingdom, and stay off the wide open freeways and stay on the road less travelled.
The readings today challenge us to ask ourselves whether we truly and passionately love God and our neighbor, whether we truly obey those first two great Commandments. Loving God and our neighbor is the narrow gate. To enter it, we must love God with all our minds, hearts, soul, and strength. We must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the narrow gate! This is the way of Jesus! It is easy to refuse to love, to dampen our passion, to go quickly on freeways that keep us from noticing God and those around us, that keep us distracted from God and those who need us and want to enter our lives. It is so easy to choose the wide gate, not the narrow one.
What does the narrow gate look like in your life? Do you love God? Who is your neighbor? What does it mean for you to love God and the Church? How narrow is the gate for you?
Jesus seems to be saying that not everyone makes it through the narrow gate, that some will be left outside, especially those who may have eaten and drunk with him but did little else to follow him. He also seems to be saying that many who now are far from him will eventually pass through and be saved. His words are hopeful — for we never need despair or become discouraged when we fail to follow Jesus close enough, when we sin no matter how great or small, because forgiveness is always possible if we but ask for it by approaching the Sacrament of Penance and confessing our sins. His words are also a warning that we who eat and drink of his Body and Blood at this altar every Sunday must not rest or become complacent, lukewarm or presumptuous.
We must never stop loving God and neighbor with a passion. Whatever we do in life, we must do with a passionate love for God and others. Whatever the narrow gate may look like we will pass through it if we love from the heart, love to the point of suffering as Jesus loved. Passionately loving God and neighbor is the narrow gate! Cling to Jesus and follow him! He will get you through.