21th Sunday of OT Cycle C

To Keep the Faith or To Live the Faith

Joke: The Irish pastor said, “Everyone who wants to go to heaven stand up!” and the whole church stood up. And he said, “And those who want to go to hell, remain standing!” At the back of the church, old Murphy remained standing. The pastor said, “Murphy, do you want to go to hell?” Murphy said, “No, Father… I just hate to see you go there all by yourself!” (No offence intended to my great Irish friends!).

Someone asked Jesus, reported in today’s Gospel, saying “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus responded saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” What is the narrow gate? What kind of “muscle” do we need to enter through this gate? Or how would we live our Christian life in order to enter through this narrow gate? The Church puts all today’s readings together to help us to answer these questions.

What is the narrow gate that the Lord Jesus invites us to live our Christian life in order to be saved to inherit the eternal life? It is through Christ that we are all invited to follow. John reported in his writing the words of Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). How would we know that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life leading us to the eternal life? Perhaps, through his ministries, passion, death and resurrection confirmed us that he is the way, the truth and the life leading us to the eternal life.

In today’s first reading, Prophet Isaiah reported the words of the Lord saying, “I know their works & their thoughts… I will set a sign among them.” The Lord knows our thoughts and our deeds, so he sets a sign among us. What sign is that if it’s not the Cross in which Christ was hung to bring salvation to the human race? At the middle of the Cross, Christ reveals his ultimate love to reconcile the human race with God the Father on that vertical line of the Cross and to reconcile the human race with one another on that horizontal line. The question is: How would we recognize Christ, his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, so to follow if it’s not to learn to discipline ourselves to carry our own cross and to follow him?

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul beautifully reminds the Hebrews Community and perhaps to each and every one of us when he said, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” With the way of the Cross, we are invited to have courage and strength to be faithful to the Lord and to have courage and strength to face any difficulty or challenge of Christian life here on earth. Disciplines might not bring us joy, Saint Paul said, but “later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” If we lived our Christian life, and we still couldn’t find peace and happiness within ourselves or within our own family, we need to ask ourselves: Have we disciplined ourselves enough in following the way of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? If we disciplined ourselves in following the way of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we still couldn’t find peace and happiness within ourselves or within our own family, once again, we need to ask ourselves: Through our disciplines, have they helped us to build up our muscle to follow Christ, the muscle of happiness and peace? In other words, we might discipline ourselves to exercise to build up our muscle on one hand, but on the other hand, we don’t follow the diet plan and eat and drink whatever we like, enjoy all kind of pleasures that this world offered, we might not be able to gain any muscle to enter through the narrow gate.

In today’s Gospel, Saint Luke repeats the teaching of the Lord Jesus saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” So, how would we build up that muscle, the muscle of happiness and peace, strong enough to enter through the narrow gate, the way of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ? There are many ways to acquire happiness and peace when we are even in the midst of suffering or struggling in life. Just as the Lord Jesus invites us, “Seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Mt 6:33-34). Here is a suggestion: Learn to practice a little meditation when we go to bed. When we go to bed, lie down on our bed, try to relax as much as possible and close our eyes. Say the prayer from the young prophet Samuel speaking in the Scripture, “Speak [Lord], for your servant is listening.” The moment we say this in our mind, the moment we will experience there is a lot of activities running into our mind. Try not to follow these activities, learn to quiet ourselves and listening to the Lord. In the midst of silence, the Lord will eventually come to speak to us. If we happened to fall into sleep during this exercise, it’s okay. The point of this exercise is to help us to have a good and restful sleep to prepare ourselves for the next day. We might not be able to find peace and happiness when we do not have a good sleep. When we cannot find peace and happiness in our lives, we might have difficulty to keep the faith and to live the faith. Of-course, we might be struggled to enter through the narrow gate to inherit the eternal life if we cannot find peace and happiness in our life. Decision is yours.

 

Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen


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