STRIVE TO ENTER GOD’S KINGDOM THROUGH DISCIPLINE!
SUNDAY MASS READINGS: First: Isaiah 66:18-21; Second: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
Christianity is a religion made up literally of people from diverse cultures, races, languages and colours. Moreover, what all Christians have in common is faith in Jesus Christ, and that faith must resemble that of Abraham, who was obedient and disciplined; a man of faith par excellence.
Meanwhile, the Jews of old had a notion that they were the only chosen race that would gain salvation (eternal life), because of the promises God made to their ancestor, Abraham and his descendants. Hence, they made a striking distinction between two categories of the entire human race: the Jews and others. As far as the Jews were concerned, they believed that they were the only people that would have a place with their ancestor, Abraham, and inherit the Kingdom of God even if they do not make any effort.
Astonishingly, to their greatest surprise, Jesus Christ told them in today’s gospel, that many people will come from East and West, and from North and South, and sit at the table in the Kingdom of God, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, while they, the Jews would be rejected. Behold, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last (Luke 13:30).
Unfortunately, many Christians have this same notion of the Jews. Some of them believe that because Christ has died for us, and brought us salvation, which we inherited by grace, that we do not need to make any effort by emulating Christ or live a life that is worthy of our vocation. While some believe that, because they were baptized many years ago before others, or because they occupy dignified positions in the Church, either as bishops, priests, religious, knights and ladies, CWO/ CMO executives, choir, or other pious society members, that their salvation (eternal life) is guaranteed. Really?
Interestingly, Jesus Christ corrected this notion of the early Jews, which some people still believe today. In response to the question someone asked: “Will those who are saved be few?” Jesus said: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). This implies that; salvation (eternal life) is not anybody’s entitlement or guaranteed for anyone, it is God Almighty who saves and shows mercy.
However, everyone has to respond to God’s grace by making constant efforts through imitating Jesus Christ who is the way, truth and life (John 14:6), and by living a life of righteousness and holiness. To live a righteous life implies that, in whatever vocation anyone has been called to, be it married or religious life, leader of any organization or pious society, he or she should be an authentic (true) Christian worthy of emulation.
Moreover, according to Jesus Christ, to be an authentic (true) Christian means that one must discipline self in order to live a righteous life by following the narrow door, which is the same thing as carrying one’s cross daily. In other words, following a narrow door implies; living a life of discipline. Without discipline, one cannot achieve a meritorious reward or success. Unfortunately, many people lack discipline, and that is one of the reasons why our society has continued to deteriorate, and remain in a chaotic and disorderly state. Some people want to attain greatness or be successful in life without discipline, which requires patience.
For instance, yesterday, I was stuck in a traffic for more than four (4) hours, because some irresponsible and selfish people refused to obey the traffic rules. Almost five vehicles wanted to pass through one lane at the same time. Just imagine! Regrettably, many parents want their children to be great without taking any disciplinary action against them whenever they misbehave (Sirach 22:3-5; 30:1-13). Consequently, some of their children in the schools want to pass their examination without working hard or reading their books, rather they would resort to examination malpractice.
Furthermore, some people lobby themselves into certain dignified position without working hard to merit that position. Thus, that is why justice, equity and fairness seem to have been crucified at the altar of bribery and corruption. Should we talk about those people who engage themselves with various criminality of all sort in order to become rich quickly without working hard? Or the prosperity gospel preachers, who deny the cross, or see suffering as a curse? Or Christians who want to go to heaven without living a righteous life? Many examples abound, just to mention a few.
Undoubtedly, our life here on earth is not a bed of roses, where everything would be moving smoothly for us. It is a life of discipline that is saturated with challenges and struggles, just as the second reading explains; “that God disciplines those He loves…” (Hebrews 12:5-11). Besides, the life of discipline demands a lot of patience, perseverance, commitment, determination and self control, which may engender sufferings. Of course, there can be no genuine success without struggles, and without sufferings (cross), a Christian will not obtain a meritorious crown reserved for him or him in the Kingdom of God.
However, whenever we are passing through difficulties or storms in life, we should carry them to God in prayers, who gives us the grace, courage and peace of mind to trudge on (1 Peter 5:7). After our struggles, if done for the sake of Christ, then we shall obtain a crown of unfading glory (1 Peter 5:4).
Finally, although Jesus Christ Has died for us, and brought us salvation, we should not deceive ourselves by thinking that our salvation (eternal life) is guaranteed without making any reasonable effort. We need to make our efforts by responding to God’s innumerable grace. We can achieve that when we faithfully follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, by diligently and conscientiously striving to enter through the narrow door that leads to eternal life.
Certainly, God may allow us to suffer for a purpose if that suffering is salvific, just like St. Paul’s experience (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). For if there were no difficulties in our life, there would be no victories or rewards. To win without a struggle is perhaps to win without honour. If there is nothing to struggle for, there will be nothing to achieve. It is a spiritual race not meant for transient medals, but for the crown of unfading glory.
May the Power of the Holy Spirit enable you to be disciplined, and strive to enter through the narrow door that leads to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
HOMILY OF 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
STRIVE TO ENTER GOD’S KINGDOM WITH DISCIPLINE!