21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus Ameh
Readings: Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
Theme: The Tragedy of a Wasted Christianity
Today’s readings present us with the fundamental goal or destination of every human being. We came from God and shall ultimately return to God. The soul of man shall live forever in eternity, whether in heaven or in hell. This heaven or hell will be the final destination of everybody. This is what our readings today point us to. Scripture generally describes heaven as a place of celebrations and glory, and hell as a place of torture and endless pain. Still, the bible teaches that God has given us the freedom to choose where we want to spend eternity. If we choose heaven, God shall help us get there because the journey will be hard, but we shall have to struggle for it; if on the other hand, we choose hell, the journey is very easy, so we would not need any help. Today’s readings tell us a few things about the final end, and these shall form the lessons for our reflection.
1. Heaven is open to all
The word of God says in Isaiah 66:18, “I shall gather ALL THE NATIONS AND TONGUES, and they shall come and behold my glory” and Isaiah 25:6 says “On mount Zion, Yahweh shall prepare a banquet of rich foods and fine wine for ALL THE NATIONS of the earth. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says people will come from the East and West, North and South and sit at table in the kingdom of God. This means that the opportunity to go to heaven is open to all; there are no restrictions, no discrimination. You and I therefore, have also been invited; the same invitation card has been shared to us all. What will you do with your invitation? Will you honour it or will you say “Please hold me excused, I cannot come”? The choices we make daily, the kind of life we live everyday is a response to that invitation. Choose wisely, for there are implications for the choice we make.
2. Not all will be saved
As already mentioned, heaven is like a feast, a wedding banquet. Just as with all weddings, not all invited guests shall attend. God has invited all of us, but not all of us shall enter heaven. Those who shall be admitted to the feast of heaven are those who respond to the RSVP on God’s invitation card and the RSVP is the kind of life we live here on earth. The bible makes is abundantly clear that sin is a rejection of God’s invitation. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, scriptures says “Do you not know that evildoers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven?” and Galatians 5:19-21 says “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, quarrels, jealousies, anger, selfishness, divisions, envy, murders, drunkenness, and the like… those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:44-46 that those who refuse to help the poor and needy will not enter the kingdom of heaven. He also tells us that some will come and say “Lord, open for us” and he will say to them “I do not know you” and they will say “We ate and drank in your presence” but he shall say to them, “Depart from me.” Why would he say that? It shall be because, as Matthew 7:21 says, “Not all who call me Lord, Lord that shall enter the kingdom of heaven…”
3. “Wasting” Christianity is a big tragedy
Child of God, knowing the name of God and being in his presence does not take anybody to heaven; being a member of the church and even a Communicant will not take anybody to heaven; simply, not everyone in the church is a candidate for heaven, but only those who are living according to God’s precepts. If you are all of the above and you don’t live according to the will of God, your judgment and punishment will be double, for “the servant who knows d master’s will but does not do it will receive a severe flogging” (Lk 12:47). God is more interested in how we live our life everyday than simply what we do for two hours on Sunday. So we should ask ourselves:
- Does my personal lifestyle conform to the standard of God’s word?
- Do I practice “churchianity” without Christianity?
- Do I do the will of God or am I content with simply being a church goer and parading as someone who knows the name of God?
Jesus tells us that on that day, many people will be surprised. If human beings are praising you that you always come to church, you always receive Holy Communion, that you belong to different societies in church, that you do not come late to Mass, that you make big financial donations in church, etc, is God also praising you? Will God say about you that you do not lie and cheat, that you are not hot tempered and a drunk, that you are not a fornicator and adulterer, that you do not envy people and are jealous, that you are not selfish and greedy, that you help those in need and that you donate to support charitable causes? It will be a huge tragedy therefore, for anyone who is a member of the church not to make it to heaven. That will amount to what I call “The tragedy of a wasted Christianity.” The teachings of Christianity show us the road to heaven; not to follow that road therefore, will be a waste, a tragedy. It will not be easy, which is why Jesus says the door is narrow, but it is possible with God’s help. Indeed, as Jesus says, His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is strongest when we are weak (2 Cor 12:9), so whatever it is, we should try our best to enter by the narrow gate.