21st Sun [C] 2013

Fr. Charles Irvin

21st Sun [C] 2013
Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
Pope Francis recently caused a bit of a stir when in a homily he suggested that everyone, even atheists, could be saved. This excited newspaper reporters all over the world to declare that according to the Pope everyone will be saved. Actually the news reporters got it wrong. Cooler heads realized that the Pope was simply stating what is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is God’s desire that all men and women of good faith be saved. To that end His Son, Jesus Christ, suffered and died to redeem us, to bring us back to God our Father. Everyone has been, by Christ’s death and resurrection, redeemed.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone will be saved. There is a huge distinction between being redeemed and being saved. In His Son, Jesus Christ, God has redeemed all of the children of Adam and Eve. He has breached the chasm between us and released us from the power of death. The word “redemption,” after all, means “buying back.” In Jesus Christ, God our Father has opened for us the way back. By His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has paid the price and bought us back.
Salvation, however, requires our response to God’s offer. Salvation is, therefore, not automatic. Salvation is possible only when we respond to God’s offer. After all, a gift is not truly a gift unless and until it has been received. So to be saved, we need to honestly look at our decisions in response to God’s redeeming love for us. Do our decisions accept God’s gift to us?
In my journey through life I’ve had more trouble with myself than with any other person I’ve ever met. My biggest regret is my missed opportunities, my lost chances. When I look back over the landscape of where I’ve been and what I’ve done I see it littered with lost opportunities. So many times I’ve been “a day late and a dollar short.” In all of the years I’ve spent in school studying, the most difficult subject to study and master has been myself.
Today’s gospel reading contains one of the least remembered of the parables of Jesus. And those that do remember it are likely not sure of what it means.
Here it is again:
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply,’ I do not know where you are from. And you will say ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you,’ I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
Is it a lesson in good manners, telling us to be on time? That would be a good thing, by the way, 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. Moreover, 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.” Who’s time is more important, yours or God’s?
But Jesus’ parable isn’t about good manners. It’s about the world we live in, a world full of closing doors. Where is yesterday and what did you not do in it? The door is closed forever. It’s gone. 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 click on the clock measuring 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. The sun will never rise again on the day that has passed. That day will never dawn again.

God litters the landscape of our lives with opportunities to love Him We need to remember to love Him as we find Him in the hearts and souls of others He sends into our days. 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. We can never give away too much of them. And thankfully God’s love is forever replenishing them in the wells of our souls.
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.
God’s will is that we all be saved. He wants each one of us to 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? The threshold of Heaven, after all, is entered into here on earth, not in some sort of dream world we shall find when we’re no longer capable of finding anything at all.
God has showered you and me with limitless gifts. The outcomes of our lives are not His responsibility, they are ours. Everyone is called to be the best at knowing and loving; only a few actually reach that goal. Everyone is called to share life with God; few make the choice. And we must remember that the choice IS ours! God offers – we respond, and nothing happens unless and until we respond.
All around us doors are slamming shut… and we hardly notice; our eyes and our hearts being so filled as they are with the glitter and clutter 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 day of opportunities. But while we are hopeful for tomorrow we must remember that one day the sun will rise on our last day here on earth. When that day arrives we will never have another day of opportunities to love and learn in our lives. A final day is coming to you and to me just as sure as I’m standing here in front of you.
Jesus’ teaching that many are called but few are chosen sounds harsh. After all, wasn’t Jesus always optimistic, kind and forgiving? Well… yes He was. But He was also a realist. And it’s reality we need to see, not just wishful thinking about all of the things we’re going to do but never seem to get around to doing.
The road to hell is truly paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. The door to heaven is wide but the path to it is narrow. Many are called, but few make the necessary choices. That is so true, and it remains true even now when I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve had the most trouble in life with myself… far more trouble than I’ve ever had with anyone else.
God offers… we respond. He has given us the ability and the opportunity to respond. The responsibility is ours, not God’s.  In Jesus Christ God our Father has chosen to redeem us. Salvation, however, is our choice, in our freely chosen decisions, a point the newspaper reporters failed to note. 

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”