Fr. Charles Irvin
Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
We just heard the prophet Isaiah proclaim: “Thus says the LORD: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.”
In St. Matthew’s Gospel we heard Jesus put it simply: “Many are called, few are chosen.” Added to that we have all heard the adage: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So today I want to share some reflections on these teachings.
In living out my life I have had more trouble with myself than with anyone else. My biggest problem is with my missed opportunities, my lost chances. When I look back over the landscape of where I’ve been I see it littered with lost opportunities. So many times I’ve been “a day late and a dollar short,” as the saying goes. In all of the years I’ve spent studying in school and in reflecting on life the most difficult subject to master has been my self.
Today’s gospel reading has in it one of the least remembered of the parables of Jesus. Many misinterpret it. And those that do remember it are likely not sure of what it means.
Is it a lesson in good manners, telling us to be on time? That would be a good thing for many folks to take to heart. Habitual tardiness is very inconsiderate, even arrogant. It is a means of control. I can control you by making you wait for me. My failure to show up on time sends a message saying, “My time is more important than your time.” What I have to do is more important that what you are doing.”
But Jesus’ parable isn’t about good manners. It’s about the world we live in, a world of closing doors. The week you have just lived is a week that will never return to you. The decisions you have made are decisions that will always be a part of your history.
Where is yesterday and what did you not do in it? The door is closed forever. If you ignored your spouse or neglected to hug you children you’ll never, ever, be able to go back and do what you failed to do. The time God gave you slipped away and will never return. With each tick on the clock that measures the passing of time there is also the click of the lock on the door that’s forever closed. Whenever you watch the sun set, a moment comes when there is a silent “click” and that day’s door now closed to you forever.
Our loving Father in heaven litters the landscape of our lives with opportunities to love Him, and to love Him as we find Him in the hearts and souls of others. He pours out opportunities to join with Him in making our world a better place, to bring his redeeming love to the world around us. Sympathy, compassion, forgiveness, caring, quality time and attention for others… God gives them all to us in an inexhaustible supply of opportunities. God is forever replenishing them in the wells of our souls. It’s what we do with them that matters. Decisions have consequences, even though we live in denial of that reality. We can only blame ourselves for our lost opportunities, not God.
We have opportunities to read, to study, and to develop our minds. We have opportunities to invest not only in the stock market but to make lasting investments in the hearts and souls of others. We have opportunities to speak to others about our Faith, about God, and about how important it is for us to pay attention to God.
And then there’s prayer. We are all called to it, but few of us make the cut. Think about all of the time we’ve wasted, time not spent in prayer and neglecting our contact with God.
God’s intention is that every one of us will be saved – that we spend eternity with Him. But how can we spend eternity with Him in heaven if we never spent any time with Him here on earth? Heaven, after all, is entered here on earth, not in some sort of dream world that we will find when we are no longer capable of finding anything at all.
God has showered you and me with limitless gifts, gifts that are opportunities. The outcomes of our lives are not His responsibility; they are ours. Everyone is called to share life with God; only a few make the choice. And we must never forget that the choice is ours! God has made His choice. What remains is our response. God doesn’t have to waste a lot of time casting people into hell; we do it for Him.
All around us doors are slamming shut… and we hardly notice, our heads and our eyes so full of the glitter, clutter, and concerns of this world. But we also live in a world of open doors. Every sunset is followed by a sunrise. The sun will rise tomorrow morning and God will gift you with another supply of opportunities. But while we are hopeful for tomorrow we must remember that one day the sun will rise on the last day of our life. When it arrives we’ll never have another day in our lives. A final day is coming to you and to me just as surely as I’m standing here before you.
Some will claim that Jesus’ teaching that many are called but few are chosen is harsh. After all, wasn’t Jesus always optimistic, kind and forgiving? Well… yes he was. But he was also a realist. And it is reality we need to see and not live in wishful thinking about all of the things we’re going to do but never seem to quite get around to doing.
The road to hell is truly paved with good intentions. The door is wide but the path is narrow. Many are called, but few make the necessary choices.
Once again, it remains true even now that I’ve had the most trouble in life with myself… far more trouble than I’ve ever had with anyone else.