Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 22, Luke 13: 22-30
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
The Gospel for this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time is an interesting one and gives us some good advice for our journey to the Father. Almost every town in Biblical times, and even yet today, had a wall around it. This was for protection from any enemies and for some semblance of privacy for the inhabitants. In order to get into the town, one had to go through a gate in the wall. The usual city gate was in the shape of an arch and each entrance had one high, wide, central gate or arch with two lower and narrower arches, one on each side of the main arch. The large, high, main gate allowed camels, carts, and other larger loads of whatever to enter the town easily. Those who had only a small amount of baggage or none at all could avoid all the larger traffic and enter quickly through one of the narrower gates. Those with the lesser amount of baggage were going to make better time than those who were loaded down. No secret here; we see this all the time in the airports.The moral of the story: Those who keep their priorities directed toward their salvation and the salvation of others find the faster ways through the narrow doors in the gate. Therefore, Jesus urges us to enter the kingdom through the narrow gate, quickly and with little baggage. Ultimately, this is the meaning of a piece of advice given to all of us from time to time: the famous expression KISS = keep it simple, stupid! Don’t complicate things with a lot of useless baggage.
And just what is it that constitutes this useless baggage on our journey to the Father? The first thing that comes to my mind are all the excuses, alibis, rationalizations, denials, lies and manipulation I lug along with me to excuse behaviors I know I shouldn’t be doing in the first place. This is true of anyone having any one of the various addictions. Another big piece of baggage is trying to run my life all by myself, trying to do it all alone according to my values, my norms. Other baggage would be always fostering my own attitudes, opinions, ideas toward other persons, places and things. Anything habitually blocking a more intimate relationship with my God or neighbor is also regarded as useless baggage. Hanging out with enabling friends would also be part of this. I hope we are all getting the point by this time.
Those who are honest with God and themselves, who walk humbly with God, those who worship God as the way, truth and life – these are the ones who are entering the kingdom through the narrow doors. They have their priorities in the right order. Where do I see myself in this Gospel message for today?
Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time
Aug. 23, Mt. 23: 13-22
In yesterday’s homily about not carrying excess baggage on our journey to the Father, we included status or hypocrisy as a part of this baggage. This is precisely what Jesus is critical of in today’s Gospel message. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” Enter through the narrow gate as you really, honestly are. Enter through the high, crowded, slow gate if you are carrying along any hypocrisy.
The 12 Steps of Spirituality hit this same point in thee 4th Step, which reads: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Know who you are, what you are, what are your gifts, talents, strengths, your liabilities and weaknesses. In other words, know the real you, the way God made you. Be honest with yourself even if it causes pain. Be truly humble: Humility is true self-knowledge.
When I was an active alcoholic, I was phonier than a 4 dollar bill. I was always trying to be someone I was not. If you could do whatever, I could do it better. Pure, stupid pride! My counselor picked up this quirk of mine and gave me the following advice: Howard, why don’t you start being concerned about who you are and what you can do, and forget about who you are not and what you cannot do. Good advice! I’m still trying to do it.
Where do you see yourself in this discussion? Anything phony going on in your life?
Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time
Aug. 24, Feast of St. Bartholomew
Today the Church remembers one of the 12 Apostles, St. Bartholomew. As usual with any of the Apostles, very little is known about him except that he was one of the Apostles. Scripture scholars believe he is the same person as Nathanial mentioned in the Gospel of St. John. John says he was from Cana and that Jesus called him an “Israelite incapable of deceit.” Tradition tells us that after Jesus’ Ascension to the Father, Bartholomew preached in India. There he was flayed and beheaded by King Astyages. The statue of St. Bartholomew in the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome shows him holding his flayed skin. Yeeech! There is a Gospel attributed to him that is not contained in the Canon of the Scriptures. His feast day is Aug. 24.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time
Aug. 25, Mt. 23: 27-32
In this 23rd chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, there are seven “woes.” Today’s Gospel gives us the sixth and seventh. The point made here today is pretty much the same as that for Sunday and Monday’s Gospel. You might read those homilies again. Just a couple of remarks for today:
Tombs were white-washed in Biblical times to make them easy to see so the Jews could easily avoid bumping into them, touching them in any ways, and thereby becoming impure. Jesus’ teachings and values jump out at us from the pages of the Scriptures, making it easy for us to embrace them and make them our own.
In the final “woe” Jesus tells the Pharisees they are no different from their ancestors who killed the prophets because they too are seeking a way to kill Jesus. They will end up killing THE prophet, Jesus.
Do we try and get rid of Jesus from time to time in our own lives?
Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time
Aug. 26, Mt. 24: 42-51
I read a little story that illustrates the Gospel for today that I’ll share with you. It is the story of some young and inexperienced devils who are about to leave hell for earth to practice tempting human beings. Their teacher asked each of them as they were leaving what method they were going to use to get the people to sin. The first said he planned to use the classicalapproach and tell the people “There is no God, so sin all you want.” The second said he was going to use the intellectual method and tell the people “There is no hell, so sin all you want.” And the third said he decided to use the subtle approach and tell them “There is no hurry, so sin all you want. You can always repent and be better later on.”
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel to stay awake always and do what he would have us do. Then we don’t have to worry at all about when he is going to come for us.
Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time
Aug. 27, Memorial of St. Monica
St. Monica, whose Memorial the Church celebrates today, was the mother of St. Augustine. Each year these two Memorials are celebrated one after the other on Aug. 27 and 28.
Monica was married to a bad-tempered older man who Monica married by arrangement. His mother also lived with them, so it was not too pleasant a marriage. Monica had three children and Augustine was the problem child. The other two kids entered religious life. Augustine went his own way and this did not include God’s way. Monica prayed for him for 17 years before her prayers were answered. Finally, Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387 and Monica died later that same year. She reminds all of us to be persistent in our prayers.
St. Monica, pray for us.
Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ord. Time, Aug. 28
Memorial of St. Augustine
St. Augustine, the son of St. Monica as we saw in yesterday’s homily, caused his mother great grief by going his own way and doing and living as he pleased. He didn’t care about God’s way. He had a particularly difficult time with the virtue of purity and was convinced he could not live a pure life. Finally, through reading the Letters of St. Paul, he put away all his sins of impurity and began a new life in Christ. He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous writer, the founder of a religious order, and one of the greatest saints ever. I would like to share with you a beautiful writing from St. Augustine’s Confessions that I find very meaningful:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke though my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
St. Augustine, pray for us.