21st Sunday: Outside or Inside?
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the narrow gate. It is the answer to the question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Those who the narrow gate will enjoy the Father’s eternal banquet. Those who do not have the determination and courage to live their faith will remain outside the Master’s House. You get the sense that the people left outside are lukewarm Christians. They had known the Master. They ate and drank with him. They had been witnesses to his teaching. But now they were outside. They thought it was their right to receive his beneficence, but they were shut out. This was their choice. They no longer had a relationship with the Master.
We are not outside. We are inside. We are with the Lord. That is the goal of our lives “to be with Jesus, at all times and for all eternity.”
Why are we here? The answer is far deeper than just “to go to Mass.” We are here because we need to be with our Loving Lord. And we need to be with Him always, not just one hour a week in a Church, but throughout the week, wherever He can be found.
People often attempt to justify their faith life by speaking about their past relations with God, how they went to Catholic school, or attended religious education class. Quite often someone will come into the parish office with a request of some sort and preface their request with a summary of their past involvement with the Church. For example, they want to put a child in a Catholic school and want the Church to help pay for this, to give them the same subsidy it gives to those who are in Church every week. They haven’t been to Church in years. But, still, they will say, “You know, Father, I went to Catholic school for nine years.” They hope that the past would get them by. This is just an example. Many people go through life thinking that their past is all that matters. It doesn’t occur to them that their present relationship with God is what really matters. The relationship with God is the source of spiritual life. If that relationship is no longer present, then the source of life is gone. Then there is death.
Why would anyone do this? Why would anyone who once valued his or her relationship with God, push God aside, or even out of his or her life? The answer is the gate to heaven is narrow for many. Evil is all around us. It invites us to an immoral party, to an immoral life. It tells us that plenty of people we know are at that party. It is so easy to join them. It is so much harder to go in a different direction. The different direction is the narrow gate. It is easier to go through the wide gate, to go along with a crowd. It is difficult to be one of the few that rejects the values of the crowd. That is the call to holiness. The call to be set apart for the Lord. Since we are one, and our faith and morals are one, when we choose the wide gate over the narrow gate, we find ourselves diminishing the importance of our relationship with God. So, the person who once felt God’s presence within him or her now decides that God doesn’t really care what he or she is doing. Of course God cares. And He has compassion on us when we push Him away. He calls us to come back inside. We call this call “grace.”
We are here, we are with God because the Life of the Son is our life. We are not dead. We are alive. We are alive in Christ. The Blood of Jesus Christ is our life blood. That is the treasure we cannot sacrifice to the pagan world, no matter how wide the gate is that is attracting us. We cannot allow ourselves to fall for the absurdity that we decide when God sees us and when He doesn’t see us.
The people of the second reading, those addressed in the Letter to the Hebrews, acted as though the Christian faith was too difficult. They had drooping hands and knocking knees. They were wrong. Our faith is not difficult. It is our way to happiness. We make sacrifices that the world may think are major sacrifices like being faithful, being truthful, being giving and compassionate to others. We realize are just minor gifts of ourselves to our God. In return we receive the one thing the world longs for but cannot grasp: we receive happiness. For no one is happy unless he or she is united to the Source of Goodness and Happiness.
Why are we here? We are here because this is where we want to be, inside, at the banquet of the Lord. Why are we here? We are here because we are alive!
Today, we pray for the courage to stay inside the house with the Master. We pray for the courage to live our faith.