Sunday, August 26, 2007

21st Sunday of the Year (26th August 2007)

Readings for this Mass

Try your best to enter by the narrow door.

It may be very mischievous of me, but mention of the narrow door prompts me to think of Winnie the Pooh. You remember the story - Winnie went through the narrow door - actually a window - to get to the Honey. He could only get so far, but far enough to eat the honey. And when he had ate the honey he found he was very tightly wedged in the hole. Perhaps that story had a particular impact upon me as a child. I could have been that bear!

Actually our Old Testament and Gospel readings seem to give something of a contradiction. In the first reading, everyone, all nations, are called to the Kingdom. In the Gospel it is only a few who get past check-in. What are we to make of this?

Well, together they both boil down to the same question: who gets to heaven? And perhaps a second question which we might ask: if God loves everyone, how can he turn anyone away from heaven?

Well the passages - and the Church's teaching - give a fairly clear answer.

Firstly, everyone is called by God to heaven. The first passage, from Isaiah, makes that very clear: 'I am coming to gather the nations of every language'. And the Gospel too: men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places in the kingdom of God. In fact Isaiah even says that God calls 'the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory'. So God doesn't just call catholics to heaven, but protestants, and sikhs and buddhists and muslims and atheists too. All are invited. Even if they have never heard of him or seen his glory.

But, there is a second point. Just as valid, just as important as the first. Many will try to enter and not succeed, Jesus says. It is a narrow door, and some of you will be turned away. In fact, Christ will say 'I do not know you'. The big difference here, the really big difference, is that while Isaiah talks about them, Jesus speaks to you. They are all invited to the Kingdom - but will You be there to take the place allotted to you?

We tend to want to ask an abstract or theoretical kind of question, becasue we feel more comfortable with it: will other people go to heaven? Ah well, says Jesus, they are all invited. God's love is boundless, his forgiveness is without limit, his will is that all people should be saved. He made us and loved us. Yes, yes, yes. That is a question God can answer.

But then Christ turns to us. And looks us in the eye. And he asks not an abstract theoretical hypothetical question, but a direct one. He ask a question which only we can answer. Indeed - a question only I can answer.

And YOU, he says. Will YOU take your place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Do not judge others. Or ask God to reveal to you his judgement of others. I cannot carry out God's judgement. But I will be judged. Will I be ready? Can I enter through the narrow door?

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