TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The readings from this reflection: Is 66:18-21; Ps 117:1,2; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30
At some point in time, most of us will be asked the question: “Have you been saved?” This question may be asked of us by a friend, a family member, a neighbor or coworker, or even by a stranger on the street. So what exactly does this question mean: What answer does the question really seek? The person posing this question basically wants to know if you have accepted Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Savior and that if you died at this moment, you have the assurance and certainty of going directly to heaven.
In today’s Gospel, someone asks Jesus: “Will only a few people be saved”? It’s interesting that this question is asked of Jesus. He offers a powerful response: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” There seems to be a growing assumption among many people today that EVERYONE will go to Heaven. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel passage prove this to be untrue.
While many people may “claim” to “know” Jesus, what is more important is that he knows us! The Lord is reminding us that there are two groups of people: those who truly know him and those who claim to know him. There are those who choose to follow Christ wholeheartedly, who are truly committed and faithful to him by seriously trying to live a holy life with the help of his grace and to live his teachings in their daily lives. I hope that describes everyone reading this article! Then there are those who publicly “claim” and profess to be Christian, but the teachings and example of Jesus have little impact or influence on their lifestyles and choices. Many people simply “assume” they will be welcomed into heaven merely because they “claim” to know Jesus. As the Gospel says so well: “We ate and drank in your company. You taught in our streets.” Christ responds: “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me.”
This Gospel is actually a foreshadowing of the Final Judgment and reminds us of the reality and existence of heaven and hell. These are eternal destinations. After the Final Judgment, we can’t stand at the door of Heaven and say “Lord, open the door for me. I’m ready now, so let me in!” That moment is a little too late! At that moment, we can’t change things!
More and more, we are seeing the Christian faith having little or no effect or influence in the lives of many individuals, families, and cultures. Heaven is a free gift, a personal invitation from Christ to live with him forever! What is the most important invitation you have ever received? One that perhaps changed your life forever? It has to be the invitation given to us by Christ!
We are “saved” and redeemed by the grace, power, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ through the faithful living of our faith. Think of the question asked of Jesus: “What must I do to be saved?” As human beings, we desire a sense of safety and security in life, especially physically and financially. But what about spiritually? When we are young, we may not spend a lot of time thinking about our future, especially our “eternal” future. It is a common practice for many people to buy insurance policies for our cars, homes, and even our lives! Our monetary savings are “insured” by the federal government or private entity. But what about an “insurance policy” for our soul? That is only available through Jesus Christ. Our Lord may be seen as our “spiritual insurance agent,” but he is also the “policy” that protects us. Jesus is the one who will either welcome us into heaven or turn us away. Ultimately, the choice is ours to make. So, choose wisely! Choose Jesus!
Father Dohogne is pastor of St. Henry Parish in Charleston, MO. He also serves as diocesan Director of Worship and Liturgy and as diocesan Coordinator of Spiritual Deliverance and Exorcism.