Life & Soul

God can’t be known through casual acquaintance

The 21st Sunday of the Year
Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7 & 11-13; Lk 13:22-30 (Year C)

The Book of Isaiah concludes with a vision of unsurpassed hope embracing all the nations of the earth: “The Lord says this: ‘I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. They will bring all your brothers from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem. And some of them I will make priests and Levites says the Lord.’ ”

Here a people who had lived through the tragedies of destruction and division were now raised to a new and all-inclusive hope for the future. The ancient boundaries dividing the peoples would be dissolved. Holiness would no longer be the preserve of any particular caste or nation. In the coming salvation, it would become an inheritance promised to all. May we always remember that salvation is a call to integration.

The Gospel, presenting the teaching of Jesus as he made his way to Jerusalem, reveals him as the way to salvation. He was journeying towards suffering and death, a death that would become the gateway to universal salvation. It was not an easy choice. He responded with the willing surrender of his spirit to the Father.

He invites all his disciples to make the same choice: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.”

In humility we must accept that we have no entitlement to salvation. Jesus warned us that a superficial acquaintance with his name and teaching was no safeguard.

“Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you might find yourself saying, ‘We once ate and drank in your company, you taught in our streets’ but he will reply, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ ”

Knowledge of the Lord does not come by casual acquaintance. It is his gift through the Holy Spirit, and is lived out in the generous surrender of our lives to the will of the Father.

As we follow in his footsteps, we shall undoubtedly encounter both joy and suffering. We can never explain suffering, but perhaps we can, in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, allow such suffering to bear fruit in peace and goodness.

“So hold up your limp arms and your trembling knees, and smooth out the path you tread. Then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.”