FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: TRY YOUR BEST!
BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 21 2022
*Is 66: 18 – 21, Heb 12: 5 – 13, Lk 13: 22 – 30.
For the past 3 sundays, we have had from Christ very frightening revelations about the end time.
– 3 sundays ago, Jesus used the parable of the rich and poor fools to illustrate the danger of vanities as obstacles to our reaching the kingdom of heaven, Lk 12: 12 – 31.
– 2 sundays ago, Jesus used the parable of the 3 classes of servants to illustrate the 3 last states: heaven, purgatory and hell that servants of God (all of us) are likely to face, Lk 12: 32 – 48.
– Last Sunday, Jesus made it categorically clear that his religion (Christianity) is a radical religion characterized by the baptism of fire (fire of prophetism, holiness, purification, evangelism and love) all of which causes initial disintegration /disunity before final beatification.
– In today’s gospel, somebody asks him a probing question: Since Christianity is such a radical religion talking about the difficulty of salvation – will there be only a few saved?
B. SALVATION: LAST MINUTE SURPRISES!
Jesus apparently evades the question but answers it clearly using the narrow gate analogy: Many will try to enter and will not succeed. Why? Let’s take note of the following reasons:
(a) Lack of discipline: Entry into the kingdom can never be automatic but is the result of a struggle. The road is open to all but it is narrow. It requires a lot of discipline to be able to ply that road. And it is dangerous to think that once we belong to the right church or fellowship or are ‘born – again’ we will get there. Discipline is very much required.
(b) Fake /false dependencies: ‘We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets ‘ – Those who think they have private entry permit because of some religious acquaintances (It could be fake eucharistic communion, deep theological insights, priesthood, knighthood, catechisthood, confraternities, fellowships, etc).
– Christ said: ‘Away from me you wicked ones’.
*Wicked servants can never enter the kingdom of God.
– Matt 18: 21 – Refusal to cancel the debt from a fellow servant when yours have been cancelled by God.
– Is 48: 22 – There will be no rest for a wicked man.
(c) There will be many surprises in the kingdom of God, according to Fulton J Sheen.
– Rev 7: 4 – Not a question of number (Eg I don’t know whether Jehova’s Witness adherents still talk of 144,000).
– Matt 7: 21 – Not those who call me ‘Lord, Lord’.. Not a question of profession of denominational faith but a question practice of love.
– Jn 10: 16 – Not even a question of belonging to the flock that has the right doctrines because Christ said ‘there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold and I must lead these too’.
– Act 10: 34 – There will be no VIP section or privilege of offices, religion or tribe.
* Story of a Pious Lady who kept heaping stones of judgment on the front door of a harlot neighbour but was disappointed on the last day to find her on a better condition than her.
C. SALVATION: THE NARROW GATE ANALOGY!
Jesus enjoins us in today’s gospel: ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow gate /way’.
– The broad way is the way of sin, wickedness, lawlessness, hatred, malice, immorality, bribery and corruption, examination malpractice, etc, Gal 5: 19f.
– The narrow way is the way of holiness, detachment, love, peace, self control, purity, Matt 5: 1 – 11, Jn 14: 6 – I am the way, the truth and the life.
Trials /sufferings are God’s way of training /disciplining us as his sons; disciplining leads to discipling, Heb 12: 5 – 13.
– Rom 5: 3 – Suffering brings perseverance which gives us hope – a hope that will not fail us because the Holy Spirit is released in that condition. It is an essential prerequisite for the heavenly journey.
– Matt 10: 38 – He who will not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
– Suffering is not simply a sign of curse, demonic attack or a kind of abnormality in Christian life but part and parcel of it.
*According to Fr J. J Hughes, ‘Trials and sufferings are like homeworks /assignments we are given in the school of life’.
* According to Fr Emma Onuh, ‘The road to hell is smooth and well paved. It is full of luxury buses, while the road to heaven is full of okada – one passenger at a time. We were all trying to take this narrow path until the Modern day Ministers came with their bread and butter gospel’.
* If poverty is entirely a curse, Jesus would not have chosen it. According to Fulton J Sheen, ‘Jesus himself was totally deprived; borrowed the womb of Mary, manger of the sheep, canoe of Peter, 5 loaves and 2 fish from a lad, 1/2 shekels from a fish, donkey for his journey to Jerusalem from a stranger, Upper room for passover from an unknown landlord, garden of Gethsemane for his last prayer vigil and finally, tomb of Joseph Arimathea for his burial. Only the cross was his own. He grew up a carpenter not a stock broker, survived by the kindness of women like Mary and Martha, had no place to lay his head. When he was hungry, even the fig tree disappointed him. Tax collectors arrested him when he had no kobo – There is never a crossless Christ’.
Eternal life is for all as we find in today’s 1st reading, Is 66: 1 – ‘I am coming to gather all nations and tongues’ but the door to this eternal life is narrow. We need a lot of discipline to enter it.
I read a book ‘Disciplines of a godly man’ by Kent Hughes where I picked over 25 Disciplines which a godly man must practice in order to make heaven. Permit me to mention some here:
1. Disciplines of relationship with God (devotion, worship, eg offering, reconciliation).
2. Disciplines of relationship with man (purity, friendship, eg mutuality, commitment and loyalty, disciplines of marriage, eg sacrificial love, sanctifying love, fidelity and communication, disciplines of fatherhood and motherhood, eg tenderness, discipline and instruction).
3. Disciplines of character (Integrity, tongue control, hard work, leadership).
– St Paul articulates all these when he says: ‘In fear and trembling work out your salvation’. He says, ‘I pommel my body and make it obey me lest after preaching the gospel to others I myself be disqualified’, 1 Cor 9: 27.
– We should not murmur or complain like the Isrealites during difficult times, Ps 95:10 – 11. Let’s try our best to enter the kingdom of God through the narrow gate.
* Pass me not O gentle Saviour /Jigidem Onye nwe m Jesus.
Happy Sunday dear friends!