From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
August 21 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have you ever noticed, Jesus does not seem to do yes or no answers? But he gets his point across! He and the disciples have been traveling the road to Jerusalem. The journey is not easy. It is filled with hardship and danger. The destination is even more difficult. He has been telling parables to make evident the steep cost of discipleship. He has just told them along the way that he “has come to set the earth on fire!” He intends to create division and strife. And then comes the question – “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” What was the mindset of the questioner? As a follower of Jesus, did they feel like they were a part of the few, while many of those they were encountering had no shot to be saved? Perhaps just being around Jesus and being able to say they know him will be sufficient. But Jesus makes it clear – that is not enough. This gospel should give us pause to consider our attitudes sometimes. How often have I felt secure knowing I follow the rules? I lead a respectable life and meet my obligations. I make it to Mass, pray when I am supposed to and put some cash in the basket. I have better morals than most.
Compliance and complacency are not enough though. Jesus challenges us to look – truly look at our own quality of discipleship. Don’t compare it to others, but compare it to the model of Jesus himself. “I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me!” Jesus tells us this week that some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last. He tells us the gate is narrow. Getting to heaven is not as easy as simply saying you believe. Yes, we need to believe in the “Truth” of Jesus. But we also need to adopt His way and His life to follow that truth. We need to shed our judgments, our pride, our smugness and our hypocrisies to be able to pass through the narrow gate. We need to seek and adopt the will of God in our lives that it may become our compass and our beacon.
We all can complain from time to time, like the Hebrews did, about how hard the life of Jesus is. Discipleship is not easy. It requires effort and persistence on our part to stay strong and keep from having “drooping hands and weak knees.” St. Paul tells us we must be trained by God even though the training will be difficult. Discipline involves struggle and correction, learning, effort and even suffering. Change comes slowly as we work to transform our lives that we might conform ourselves to the will of God. But it is through change that we lose the sins that weigh us down and keep us from the gate. The gate is narrow, but it is open to all. Salvation comes not by our efforts, but when we accept and put on Jesus. The road is filled with hardships and the final entrance can be demanding. The reward though is union with God.
As Vincentians, our primary purpose is to develop our spirituality and holiness. We adopt a way of life that takes us to the heart of Jesus – with the poor and suffering – that we might imitate the compassion and mercy of Jesus. We seek a virtuous way of life that allows us to develop the fortitude to stay true to our Lord, living the truth in His way, following in His footsteps. How do I approach each day seeking to live as Christ did? How do I strive to grow in humility by seeking and embracing God’s will for me? How d
o I trust in His Divine Providence?
Lord Jesus, give me the courage and the strength to follow in your footsteps. Help me to choose the narrow gate, that I may approach the kingdom of heaven giving glory to God. Help me to embrace those in need as you did in mercy and charity. Give me the humility to trust in you and to see your presence in those you bring to us. We pray all of this in your name. Amen