HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: Salvation Open to All
BY: Fr. Luke Emehiele Ijezie.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 21 2022
This 21st Sunday of the year presents a unique mathematical scenario which is not usually encounteredevery year. Today is 21st August and today is also the 21st Sunday of the liturgical year. Really remarkable! Equally remarkable are the issues that are raised in the readings of today about Salvation. The question of being saved is a question about continuing to live happily even after one is dead. It is a question that troubles every responsible person and it is a question at the heart of all serious philosophical and all religious traditions.
1. In the Gospel of today from Luke 13:22-30, someone asks Jesus while he was on the way to Jerusalem: “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” This is a very interesting question, and the questioner is purposely left anonymous. But it doesn’t seem Jesus gives a coherent answer to the question. One may get confused by this statement in his response: “many will try to enter and will not succeed.” This, of course, does not imply that few will be saved. It is also possible that many more will strive to enter and succeed. So, the many that may succeed may be more than the many that will not succeed. Jesus implies this last point when he says that people will come from east and west, north and south, and will be admitted to the feast in the kingdom. He says this to warn his contemporary Jews who feel complacent, presuming that the kingdom already belongs to them alone. Jesus urges them to abandon such presumption and keep struggling.
2. This opening up of salvation to all nations is the very theme of the first reading from Isa 66:18-21. The text is from the last chapter of Isaiah and it sums up the universalist orientation of the whole book. The glory of God will extend to the remotest parts of the world, and people from all nationswill join Israel to worshipthe true God.
3. The responsorial psalm from Psalm 117, which is the shortest of all the psalms, sums it up: “O praise the Lord, all you nations, acclaim him all you peoples! Strong is his loving kindness (hesed); and his constancy (emet) is for ever.” The Psalm expresses the two important aspects of God’s character: his loving kindness, which is unmerited benevolence he extends to people, and his truthfulness, which is a quality of constancy and unshakeableness in his wonderful works. All these are extended to all creation, and all will finally respond by flocking to him from all the corners of the world: from east, west, north and south. This confirms that many really will be saved.
4. The author of the letter to the Hebrews, therefore, encourages his people in Heb 12:5-13 to keep struggling even when present realities appear harsh and painful. Sometimes, God allows us to suffer pain in order to train us, just as a loving father disciples his son to train him.
The only thing that may deny us the free Salvation extended to all is our refusal to abide by the discipline of the divine training, which is actually our daily pains and trials. Getting saved actually means surrendering our life to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. This surrendering is not as easy as said. It requires daily efforts through love, pain and perseverance.
May God’s loving kindness and faithfulness continue to accompany us all the way as we struggle through the narrow gate!
Fr. Luke Emehiele Ijezie.