21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Call to worship
Jesus tells us today that the gate to salvation is narrow. We close the gate to salvation ourselves when we are judgmental and show prejudice toward others, when we are exclusive, comfortable or complacent. In Christ, there is a table set for all!
- To the point: Entering the narrow gate to salvation is not guaranteed by privilege or tradition but guaranteed by openness to the in-breaking of the Messiah. The gate is narrow because the way is difficult — journeying with Jesus leads to Jerusalem and the cross. The strength needed to persist on this journey comes from reclining “at table in the kingdom of God.” It comes from eating and drinking the messianic food with the Messiah.
- Connecting the Gospel (Luke 13: 22-30) to the first reading: Isaiah prophesies that salvation is offered to all peoples (“from all the nations”). The gospel makes clear a condition for salvation: those who desire salvation must journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and accept all this entails.
- Connecting the Gospel to experience: Our society tends to declare “numero uno!” We tend to want to be first, to find things easy, to have everything handed to us on a silver platter. This gospel says exactly the opposite. We are not first — Christ is. Things will not be easy. The road to salvation is narrow, difficult, demanding. Everything will not be handed to us — rather, we are asked to hand ourselves over.
The question to Jesus should have been “who will be saved.”
These readings reinforce salvation’s wide reach to all people, gathered by God’s hand. But it is not enough. Being saved means deciding to “enter through the narrow gate” which is Jesus himself. Those who choose to do so walk faithfully with Jesus toward Jerusalem’s self-denial and self-surrender. It is not enough to be in Jesus’ company, or to have eaten with him. Salvation is for the disciple who follows closely and who follows through.
The not-so-cryptic answer Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel question is “Be careful. Your mind has made that door awfully narrow. You’re going to have one tough time getting through!” Then, to underline his point, Jesus will warn us, “As soon as you think you’ve got the admittance ticket and know who shouldn’t get in, you’ve locked the door against yourself.”
The people who are locked out have a problem they refuse to recognize. They think they want in, but the party they plan to attend is not what’s happening inside. The door is locked because the kind of banquet they want doesn’t exist. The people who can’t get in are the ones who pride themselves on belonging to an exclusive club with membership requirements they themselves would have written. They say they know Christ and have all the merit badges to prove it: We heard you teach, we ate with you, etc. But they didn’t really listen to what they heard or partake of the communion of self-giving.
(Luke 13: 22-30)
Strive to enter through the narrow gate.
Jesus, your gate is narrow yet it opens easily
and we can come through it.
There’s a key that opens it
and everyone does have access to it.
It’s the key of love. It was given to us
when we were created:
Love God. Love your neighbor.
It’s key that opens the narrow gate,
the one with the sign on it that says love.
The First Reading
(Isaiah 66: 18-21)
They shall bring your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the Lord, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Oh, God, you gather every kind of people.
You welcome the shy and the rowdy to your house,
And the movers and shakers, the presidents, the kings,
the Muslims and the campesinos.
Pry open our hearts. Unlock our doors. Gather us, everyone.
The Second Reading
(Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13)
What is lame may not be disjointed but healed.
Wide ones will not get through the narrow door.
Please be our personal trainer.
Make us endure and stretch.
Build our spiritual muscles.
Copyright © 2022, Anne M. Osdieck
Music for reflection