The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homily: Wednesday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Romans 8:26-30; Psalm 13; Luke 13:22-30

Years ago, on a business trip to a remote part of Pennsylvania, I discovered that the only way to get there was to fly in a relatively small 10-seat Cessna. With a full flight and a small plane, weight and balance become a bit of an issue for the pilot.

The last passenger to show up was a very large man, and he had several large, heavy bags. The pilot took one look at him and said, “You can fly, or your bags can fly, but not both. Take your pick.” The pilot simply wouldn’t compromise safety just to make one passenger happy. Furious, the passenger let out a burst of colorful language, stormed off, and neither he nor his bags made the flight.

Whenever I read today’s Gospel passage from Luke, I think of that large, angry man. Yes, we all want to get aboard, we all want to squeeze through the narrow door and be saved, but some of us simply carry far too much baggage.

Of course, maybe it’s not the door. Maybe the door isn’t all that narrow. Maybe the real problem is we are so encumbered with self-generated burdens that it just seems narrow to us. It’s much easier to worry about the narrow door, while ignoring ourselves. Nothing we can do will make the door any wider, but we can sure do something about ourselves.

Look at the question Jesus was asked: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Now Jesus wasn’t about to be drawn into a discussion of numbers or percentages, and so he ignored the question and answered the one He should have been asked: Who will be saved and why? It’s a question Jesus answers again and again in the Gospels: What’s the way to salvation?

The answer’s simple: Jesus is. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the door, and whether it’s narrow or wide depends on how we approach it, on how we approach Him.

You see, brothers and sisters, above all Jesus is the Way of the Cross. How did He put it? “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

For a lot of us this really is the narrowest way, because it demands the denial of self, exactly what the world tells us not to do. It demands complete abandonment; and for this you will be pitied. In fact your very sanity will be questioned. For many it means suffering, something today’s world urges us to avoid at all costs. And it’s also the way that brings good news to the poor, calling us to reach out beyond ourselves, to bring the love of Jesus to others, because He is in others.

We’re given a choice. We can take that path or we can try to walk with Jesus while avoiding his footsteps. That’s what the lukewarm do. They want to look like they’re following Jesus on the way, but they don’t want to be encumbered with that pesky cross. They certainly don’t like the idea of a denial of self and abandonment of all to Jesus. Much better to keep their distance. And the idea of dealing personally with all those poor people? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if I just wrote a check?

Yes, I suppose the sad truth is that many of us will be left outside, but by our own choice.

The good news? Although His way certainly isn’t the easiest, He’ll never ask us to go where we’re unable to go. He’ll keep calling us, and will continue to do so until the very end. We need only hear and obey.

“Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: And you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

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