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Sermon on the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

When the question came up whether only a few will be saved, Jesus cautioned everyone around that the door to the kingdom is narrow and locked and isn’t what they expect it is. He reminded them to strive to enter through it even if it meant passing through the eye of a needle. To sit back, relax, take things for granted and wait until we breath our last won’t work. Many in fact will try, to no avail but it’s better than doing nothing at all. Mere acquaintance is not enough. Since no one gets in by accident, luck or walk in, their best chance is to struggle just like anyone else, though in the end, there’s no guarantee to make it. God admits no party crashers nor door busters.

Here comes the defense which many of us love to broadcast out of thin air, you dined with us and taught in our streets. Remember? We enjoyed your company and promised to have you back. We can even mimic you, recite your prayers and quote some of your famous teachings by memory. Hope that’s an evidence strong enough to cite we’ve signed in. Jesus didn’t give a damn. He wasn’t convinced and remained untethered all because their lifestyles bear no reflection of him.
The Gospel then indicates a stern warning to anyone who thinks that access to heaven is easy by virtue of baptism. That as long as a person has made a commitment to follow Christ, accepting him as a personal Lord and savior (an Evangelical wording, adopted by some Catholics, excluding me), renders a free ticket to heaven. Such is a downright misconception according to the text. There is nothing automatic. There is no politicking with God. Everyone will be treated fairly.

To move a step further, the narrow door episode is addressed primarily to those who claim that the doors of the kingdom were entrusted to them so that they spend their lives focusing on other people’s sins, pointing finger in just about anything, sorta religious freak. I find it really interesting to see the word ‘strive’ in the parish Mission/Vision Statement because that’s exactly what we need to do. To face the challenge, wrestle with it and put our lives in God’s hands, is the name of the game. Much to our surprise, those we normally expect would be ahead in line with us possibly may end up at the bottom of it all, behind everyone else. “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30).  

Even at 33 years of age (on vacation, supposedly, fun), there is a 12 midnight curfew as long as I’m staying in my parents house. I thought my Mother was joking but she was damned serious. There was a time when all the doors were locked and my best chance of getting in was to climb a 6 feet wall fence and tip toe. I did for the heck of it but I swore I’d never attempt to do it again. It didn’t take me much time to figure it out. In the morning, she apologized. She thought I was on the other room. My uncontrollable 7 year old nephew asked, how did you get in, Uncle?  Secret, I replied. I want to be like you, he added.

For the time being, it’s important to refrain from passing judgment on our fellows, open the doors to all people even if with differences of opinion and orientation, put Catholics back in the pew, try hard, strive to go through it and leave the rest to God. It’s his kingdom, anyway. Amen.

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A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, currently assigned as Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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