Today’s readings remind us that not all will be saved. God knows us and we can be very hypocritical and delusional.
In the first reading, we are reminded that God knows our works and thoughts (Psalm 19, Romans 8:27-27). God gathers all nations of every language and each will see His glory (Revelation 7:9). God’s Word will go throughout the world, even to places that have not heard of His fame or glory (Isaiah 55:11). This is fulfilled in Christ Jesus when He founded the Catholic Church. The word “Catholic” means universal. This Church is not a Church just for Jews, Caucasians, Africans or Asians (Galatians 3:28). It is a Church for all peoples. This Church will be the beacon for salvation in Jesus. She leads us to the narrow gate which we will read in the Gospel (John 14:6). In the responsorial Psalm, we have two options which reflect the universality of the Gospel’s message:
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Praise the Lord all you nations; glorify Him, all you peoples!
God is the God of all peoples (Jeremiah 32:27). This is well reflected in our Holy Catholic Church. Just take a gander in your parish before Mass or during the Sign of Peace. You will see faces of every race and ethnicity; of both genders and all ages. These are the people of God from all nations who praise Him. The Good News is reaching the world. There is much work to be done, though. We must spread the Good News to all in every nation and now online as well. This is why “Sacerdotus” exists online. The Good News is exactly what it says, “Good News.” It is a message of love and mercy, not condemnation or chastisement (Matthew 25:31-46). However, this does not mean that we should all sit and sing “Kumbaya” as if nothing wrong is going on in ourselves or the world. We must not disdain the discipline of the Lord, as the second reading tells us. While God is merciful and loving, this does not mean He will excuse our sins.
We must examine our conscience always and change our lives to better match the image of God we are made in (Genesis 1:27). God allows things to happen in our lives as trials, to discipline us and form us into His image (Romans 5:4, James 1:3). We must not lose heart. Unfortunately, many people at times lose heart when something bad happens. They feel God has abandoned them or that God may not even exist. How many times do we see Atheists online post memes of starving African children or some other tragedy and blame God or declare “God does not exist” because these atrocities exist. This is because they do not understand the spiritual life. They lose heart when tragedy takes place. Remember, God is the author of life. God is the creator. While tragedies to us seem permanent because we are finite creatures stuck in space and time, this does not mean God has these limitations. God can easily restore everything, He is God. One may ask: Well, why doesn’t he? The answer is simply: God respects our free will. How will we learn if He does everything for us? How will a child learn to eat or tie his/her shoes on his/her own if we do it for him/her? God gives us space so we can learn, but does not wander away from us. God treats us as sons, as the second reading tells us. Like a Father, He disciplines us but at a cosmic level. Sometimes these cosmic “time outs” can feel horrible, but in the end, they bring joy once we open ourselves to understanding (Ephesians 1:17).
Finally, in the Gospel, someone questions Jesus about salvation: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus does not answer the man because the question is irrelevant. Who cares how many will be saved? The bottom line is that you work to be saved and focus on that (Philippians 2:12). This is why Jesus says that the gate is narrow and that it will be difficult to enter it. Then He says that the master of the house will lock the door. There will be those outside asking, “Lord, open the door for us.” The master will respond, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” He will say this despite the people telling him, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” These words should speak to us clearly. We eat and drink with Christ in the Liturgy of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). We listen to Him speak in the Liturgy of the Word. Let us not be like those who ignore Him or just live out the faith as a mere obligation or cultural manifestation that we inherited from our parents. Let us not be like those concerned over whether the priest says the Mass in Latin or with certain vestments. Let us not be those who frequent the Sacraments, but refuses to forgive or help our neighbor. God will tell us, “I never knew you.” Those who try to mock God with this Pharisaic faith will be wailing and grinding their teeth in hell. We must spread the Good News and not keep it to ourselves. We must not be ashamed of our faith (Romans 1:16). Let us focus on Christ and ask Him to transform us so that we can pass through the narrow gate when the time comes. May Jesus Christ be praised!
Today’s readings remind us of conflicts that may arise due to our faith in Christ.
In the first reading, we read of the princes plotting against Jeremiah. They asked the king to put him to death because Jeremiah was “demoralizing” the soldiers and causing divisions, according to them. King Zedekiah gave the okay to them to do as they wished. They threw Jeremiah into the cistern of Prince Malchiah. He was placed in a pit and left to sink in mud. Ebed-melech came and told the king that the princes were mistaken and convinced the king to have Jeremiah released. This story is a foreshadowing of what Christ would go through. The Pharisees would call for His execution by fabricating lies against Him (Mark 3:6). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God is put to death (1 Peter 1:20). We too who profess faith in Christ Jesus will be slandered and will go through much hardship (Luke 12:11 ). This is all part of the package, so to speak, of following Christ. We must carry the cross (Matthew 16:24). However, God will be there for us comforting us and aiding us as we read in today’s Psalm. “Lord, come to my aide!” These are the words we should say when we face hardships.
The typical response by humans is to defend oneself or take revenge. However, for a Catholic, we bear the suffering for the sake of the kingdom (1 Peter 2:19-20). We must wait for the Lord. He will rescue us. He will draw us out of the pit of destruction. God does not abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6). We must persevere. Those we may feel alone at times, we are not. There are a cloud of witnesses there cheering for us and praying for us (Revelation 5:8). We are in the real Olympics competing against the powers of this world (Ephesians 6:12). Our enemy is not our neighbor (Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Gays, Atheists, etc), but Satan and his legion of fallen angels. The second reading reminds us of this cloud of witnesses cheering for us as we run in the face keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the “gold medal,” so to speak. Jesus endured the cross for us. We too must endure it for Him. Sin is a struggle. We must not give up. Sin is like a drug addiction. We will go through withdrawal symptoms and desire to get back on the drug. However, if we fix our eyes on Christ and receive Him in the Sacraments, we will do fine.
Finally in the Gospel, Jesus tells of the fire He wants to set on earth. This fire is the fire of the Holy Spirit which Our Lady and the Apostles received on Pentecost, the birthday of the Catholic Church (Acts 2). Fire destroys things, but in nature, it renews things. Fires in forests that happen naturally do so because it is nature’s way of recycling itself (http://blog.suny.edu/2013/08/ask-an-expert-why-are-wildfires-good/). Trees burn and fall to the grown. The remains nourish the soil which beings another cycle of life with new and bigger trees. Jesus like an arsonist wants to burn the evil in our lives. From these ashes will rise new holy people guided by the Holy Spirit. However, this will not be and easy thing for all to take in. While Jesus is the prince of peace, He is also a cause for division. One may wonder why, which is a valid inquiry. Jesus causes division because the world conflicts with Him.
The world does not want God (John 15:18). It fights God. When some in the world follow God, the world will counter causing division. We see this in families. I know of families who protest a son entering seminary or a daughter entering the convent. Some in my own family protested my conversion to Catholicism from Atheism. I am sure you reading this have your own stories of how you faced opposition due to your faith. Even in the Church we see divisions, not only with Protestantism, but among Catholics who disagree with each other and even the pope. Some may call themselves more Catholic or traditional than others. This is all due to pride and the struggle within the human whether or not to follow Christ or the world and human desires of power, greed and control. Let us fix our eyes on Christ and let His fire burn the junk in us that keeps us far from Him. May Jesus Christ be praised.
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Today’s readings deal with faith and following it.
In the first reading, we read about the preparation “our fathers,” – or those in the past – received. God revealed to them His salvific plan and led them into the roles they would take which would be recorded in Sacred Scripture. The stories that we read about in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament are not coincidences. God in His divine providence has been guiding the process of salvation (Psalm 25:5, Jeremiah 30:11). This “faith of our fathers’ is what we have inherited and must continue to pass on until the day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5). The salvific plan of God did not die out with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses or even with Jesus. It is still ongoing (Mark 16:15). This is why we have the Catholic Church which Christ founded upon Peter, the rock (Matthew 16:18). The Church is like a ship gathering souls to bring them to safe haven. On the news, we hear of refugees escaping Syria and other nations via boats. Think of it in this light. The Church is gathering up souls to bring them to God. This is why we say in today’s responsorial Psalm, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.” We must exult and praise God who is our Father. We are His nation, His people (1 Peter 2:9). God is with those who fear Him. The term ‘fear’ here does not mean fear as in being scared of God. Fear in the biblical sense is reverence. We must have great respect for God. God is with us. He is indeed our help and shield (Psalm 91). If you do not believe this, just take a look at the Church’s history. The Catholic Church has faced all kinds of scandals and attacks from both within and without, yet she still thrives. This is because God protects her. The faith will not die out.
As we read in the second reading, the faith is something that gives hope. Our faith is a journey towards a hope of things not seen. We do not have evidence as in the case with DNA or fossil records, but our minds and hearts tell us that our faith is not in vain. Even in science, scientists believe ideas without having evidence. They rely on the law of parsimony which allows them to accept the best conclusion possible. We may not see a God hovering up over the earth on a throne or angels flying about, but we know based on our faith and what I call the “hints in nature” that there is a God (Romans 1:20). My book, “Atheism Is Stupid” goes more into detail in this and I advise you to get a copy so that you can see why faith is important and why nothing in science disproves God. Faith to us is a deep trust in God. It is a relationship. Atheists love to mock theists regarding the idea of faith. They think of it as a religious person blindly following ideas without proof. This is not what faith is. Faith is not like, “hey I am going to just believe this” and not ask questions. Instead, faith drives us to ask questions and seek more knowledge of God and the teachings of the Church. This faith draws us to think and do things that the world does not understand because it dwells on what is immediately tangible by the senses (1 Corinthians 2:14). Our faith must be a living organ in our lives, so to speak. It must not be something we do on Sundays or holy days of obligation. Faith is not something that must be done “in private.” If we use our faith as a part-time thing, we run the risk of being that faulty servant which Jesus speaks to us about in the Gospel.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that they must not be afraid and must make radical changes in their lives. This change includes and is not limited to, helping others, detachment from material goods, and a desire to be able to enjoy the treasures of heaven. We must not be like the servant who was left in charge only to abuse others and lead by bad example. Our faith must be authentic and not abused (Matthew 6:5). Christ can come at any moment like a theif in the night(1 Thessalonians 5:2). This is why we must be on alert doing the right thing by living out our faith with sincerity and zeal. Our salvation truly depends on this commitment. We must not be like the one who grabs the plow only to look back (Luke 9:62). If we decided to follow Jesus, we must continue and not look back. Each one of us plays an important role in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ). We cannot leave the work of faith to the clergy and sit back. Rather, we must utilize our roles in life to increase the faith in ourselves and in others. If we do this, then we will be the good servant that takes care of the master’s house. Let us continue to grow in faith and promote it. We must not hide this light that was given to us. Like in the Olympics, we must hold the torch of faith up high so the world can see. We must fight the good fight and finish the race so we can receive the crown that never fades (1 Timothy 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25). May Jesus Christ be praised!