21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

by Fr Wiseman Nkomo

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1st Reading: Isaiah 66:18 – 21
2nd Reading: Hebrews 12: 5 – 7, 11 – 13
Gospel: Luke 13:22 – 30

Salvation is available for everyone, but we are all invited into the narrow door.

In the first reading taken from the conclusion of the book of the Prophet Isaiah we find the Prophet reflecting on the picture of what will happen at the end of time. His emphasis is on the availability of the kingdom of God not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles. “I am coming to gather every nation and every language.”(66:18) However as we all know that no one gathers without first sowing hence God will use his people Israel to go to all the nations proclaiming the glory of God. “I will send some of their survivors to the nations…they will proclaim my glory to the nation.”(66:19) It is God who will make out of those who have heard the proclamation of his Glory into priest. God here gives the work of mission to the Israelites who will go and proclaim a message of the glory of God and hence bring to the kingdom people from all nation. It is then that the words of the Psalmist will be fulfilled as all the nations will praise the Lord. (Ps 117:1-2).

The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that once one has accepted the invitation of God to become a member of his people, those who have heard and received the proclamation of the glory of God are the beloved of God who will also be trained on how to live the new life that they have now made their own. This section of the book of Hebrews reveals how God treats those who have received the proclamation of his glory. The perfect example and model of living the life as sons of God is found in the life of Jesus who persevered and endured hardship with the view of a triumphant end. We are told that no matter how difficult it may seem to persevere and endure the life received from God the end is bright. This is a challenge that we find in the gospel we read today from Luke. We hear how Jesus answers the question of the number of those who are to receive the proclamation of the glory of God and eventually receive the promised triumphant end.
As Jesus continues to make his way towards Jerusalem “Someone said to him, ‘sir, will there be only a few saved?” At this question Jesus take the opportunity to teach his disciples about the Christian way. He introduced the image of the narrow door into salvation.

Jesus teaches us that there is only one way in, and it is narrow, but anyone can enter but only a few try to “enter.” This talks about the relationship that one must foster with the Lord, a relationship that is purified by letting go of everything else and offering to the Lord only ourselves as we have seen in the first reading that the messengers sent by God to the nations proclaim the glory of God and nothing else and it is only through clean vessels that offerings are offered to God. In that line of reflection we can understand the narrowness of the gate as an invitation to repentance and letting go. Letting go of things, of people, of ideas, of beliefs and of convictions in order to make room for God’s will in our lives. The failure to achieve this sort of purification can be equated to a big sign “NO ENTRY” (Lk 14:26). Now the big question to be answered here is “what does the message of God’s glory find in my life?” Does the message find room in my life? Should I consider the good works, the alms giving and caring for the needs of those who cannot provide for themselves as guarantee of my entry into the kingdom? We will do well here to remember that in the past weeks Jesus has been teaching us about the importance of good works, giving alms and providing for the needy in the life of the disciples.

Today the Lord further teaches that what is important is the sort of personal relationship that one fosters with him. Jesus wants you and not what you are able to give to him. In short what we should hear in this gospel is that the life of faith is not something that we do but something that we are. Hence the rejection of those who knock after the door has been closed “I do not know where you come from.” Those who are rejected even after providing evidence of their contact with Jesus “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our street.”

Let us reflect on the way we ourselves have heard the proclamation of the glory of God, have we allowed ourselves to be purified in order to be offered to God as clean vessels or we still carry the burden our former life. Let us be among the nations that give praise to God who has done great things for us affording us the opportunity to be considered his sons and daughters. Are we ready to let go our former attitudes, convictions in order to acquaint ourselves with Jesus and his message. A message which invites us to live our lives a now members of the reconstituted beloved people of God.