21 Sunday C - Narrow Door - Homilies and Stories

Thomas O’Loughlin,
Introduction to the Celebration

 We have gathered here to eat and drink in the company of the Lord. And when we do this we declare our desire to be gathered to the Lord with a place at the heavenly banquet. Let us reflect on what we are now doing, and ask the Lord to grant us forgiveness and a place in the kingdom.

Gospel Notes

 This gospel reading, whose text is also found in Matthew, concerns exclusion from the kingdom, and the focus of its teaching is that there is no automatic link between being part of the people of Israel and a place in the presence of the Father. The Father can raise up children of Abraham from every place and people. When heard as part of Luke’s preaching, this was the assurance that the Gentile converts could share fully in the promises made to Israel. 

Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments  

We can divide the passage into several sections and we can take each of them as something to be meditated on separately. We can also take them all as the answer to one basic question – to conquer any issue in life, we must move to a deeper level of our being. 

Verse 22 makes an important point: as Jesus went teaching through towns and villages he was making his way to Jerusalem. This reminds us of an important aspect of Jesus’ work. At every moment of his teaching, Jesus had a goal. There was something very precious that he wanted to achieve for himself and for everyone else. 

Many today have the sentiment that failure was a necessary part of Jesus’ purpose for a real life for his followers. This was not the fact however. His individual teachings were quite different. He wanted us to succeed and to have a full life. He wanted us all to have a life of goodness; he planned for a healthy life for everyone, no matter our personal gifts.

 He wanted the entire kingdom of Israel to follow his teachings. He did not want to have his plan rejected. For him, this was a sad ending that he must accept but he did not really want it for himself. It was something he had to take, as we all have to. 

In order to for us all to be close to him however, he himself must go through the deep sufferings of those who die in sad situations. He must face up to people’s feelings of being abandoned by God. They must be accustomed to know that he hasn’t let them down. They must, as Jesus learnt to say on the cross, know that he hasn’t forgotten them. 

Only then will he be able to have men and women on his side. We can all be alongside him in all he wants for us. We must not take him away from this final goal which we know is part of his kingdom. Once this is clear, everything else will fit in. We must interpret the rest of his teachings in the light of this fact. It is part of his desire that all should follow him.

As preachers of a gospel message we must know the place where we want to end up ourselves. This has a great value for us and it will certainly affect how we relate with others. It will affect how we look on them.

Verses 23 and 24 Jesus is asked a question. It is one we are always inclined to ask – how many will be saved? 

Jesus responds by insisting on one important point. The people who succeed must make a real effort to do so. The door we try to enter is always “narrow” and therefore is always difficult to enter. We must try hard and put our best step forward. We try and we are truly sad when we know that we are not really sure that we will eventually be victorious over the forces of evil that are within us all.

Verses 25 to 27 lays down another important law. Many of those who we now consider to be holy people will eventually be rejected from God’s kingdom. They will come to the house they are looking for but find that the master has it well locked and will let the doors remain closed from us.

As can be expected, former followers like ourselves will then find themselves knocking frantically on the door. We will say things like, “Lord open to us” or “we here are your special friends” or again, “ we are sure that when you see us, you will respond”. We find ourselves saying, “we once ate and drank in your company” and we tell the master, “you taught in our streets”. The Lord will merely say, “I do not know where you come from”. He will then speak to us in the language spoken of in psalm 6, verse 8, “away from me all you wicked men and women”. He doesn’t really know us. This is the sad but very important news. 

This therefore requires another deep commitment to salvation from those who feel meritorious of the kingdom.

Verses 28 to 29, speak of a double vision. It is one that is full of meaning for us in the world today. The present people, those who belong to what are called in our modern language, “God’s true Church”, will find themselves doing something very clear. We will see ourselves with “weeping and grinding of teeth” as we see Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” and others we used to look down on not with them. We ourselves will meanwhile be “turned outside”. We will be left far away from God’s own kingdom. 

On the other hand, we will see “men and women” who come from far”. They will come from “east and west” and then  “from north and south” and yet they will be within the kingdom. As former outsiders they will now come to take their place at the feast. Meanwhile those who were considered “first” now find themselves “last” – far away from God’s own kingdom. 

Verse 30 draws an obvious conclusion from the entire passage. Those who are now considered “last” in the kingdom of God will then be seen to be first. This will be truly important for us.

Unfortunately there is another truth we must be well aware of. Those who are now considered “first” will then be seen to be the “last”. They will end up furthest from the kingdom of God whereas others will be seen to be “first”. We must be aware of this crucial distinction as we go through our lives.

This entire passage now certainly appears as warning us against a complacent acceptance of ourselves as close to the kingdom of God. This can be a real help against any form of self-righteousness.
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Homily Notes

1. There is no automatic entry to the kingdom! Being part of the right ‘party’ or having filled in all the right forms or having ticked all the boxes is not what will lead us to be called to a place in the kingdom. God’s love and mercy look to the heart, not to the outward appearance. This mystery that belonging to the church is not some sort of ‘guarantee’ has been ex­pressed traditionally in a more extreme form: ‘There are many with a place in the church who will not have a place in the kingdom, and there will be many in the kingdom who have not been part of the church.’ We could express this far more positively: there are people in every age and culture and religion who will hear the voice of the Spirit and inherit everlasting life. 

2. We could also note that this view of salvation, which has been the constant faith of the church, shows how wide of the mark is any exclusivist interpretation of salvation whether it be that as found in elect sects or in some narrow interpret­ation of ‘outside the church is no salvation.’ However, we should also note that most non-Christians either imagine that Christians have such a narrow interpretation of who will have a place in the kingdom, or else project such a narrow in­terpretation onto Christians so as to denigrate them. How often do we hear in an interview, ‘But you Christians, or you Catholics, believe only those who believe in Jesus can be saved and the rest are damned!’ The aim here is to show that any god who would be so mean to the vast majority of hu­manity over the history of world is so mean-spirited as to be unworthy of belief that proceeds out of loving freedom rather than servile fear. Then when the interviewee replies that ‘Christians [or Catholics] do not hold such exclusivist views,’ they are accused of presenting a modern’ soft’ option! An extremist misrepresentation is often preferred by ques­tioners as it makes it easier to dismiss Christianity as foolish. Alas, there are many Christians who then accept this position and either adopt the extremist position thinking it the truth, or else reject it but then think they are not really at one with the tradition. Today is an ideal opportunity to layout the standard Catholic position.

3. It can be done in three steps. 

The gospel expounds the position that membership of the club – Luke was thinking of the church – is not what grants salvation but seeking to do the will of God. 

Anyone who seeks out the voice of truth and justice in their hearts, this being a law knowable from within our human nature, and lives by it will be called to take her or his place at the feast in the kingdom. 

For those of us who have heard the word of God revealed in Christ Jesus there is the blessing of knowing the joy to which we are called by God, for example we seek to anticipate that feast each time we gather, but also the greater responsibility to build the kingdom of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love, and peace. 

deny yourself4. We have to always bear in mind that we must bear witness to the God who is love, rather than just willful force. Any action that if it were done by a human to another would be mean, is not an action with which we can imagine the activity of God. So for example, we cannot imagine giving two people life but then arbitrarily taking one life while rewarding another without imagining the actor as capricious. But capricious­ness is not consistent with constant caring love and justice; therefore we cannot imagine God as capricious. 

5. To state clearly that Christians are not exclusivist in their view of God’s love towards them – which is a very different thing to stating some relativist notion that all religions are the same – can often lift a burden from members of a congregation who are troubled about the fate of their loved

 ones. It can also put clear water between the great church and the many sectarian forms of Christianity that capture the headlines and the TV channels. 

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Sean Goan
Gospel notes

Again this week we encounter some of the so-called ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus. However, rather than moving quickly on to find ‘nicer’ parts of scripture to nourish us, it is good to take time to ponder what such texts are all about. The question put to Jesus is one that many still ask. In his answer Jesus is not interested in talking about salvation as a matter of numbers or statistics. He seeks rather to make his hearers realise that being saved is not something to be taken for granted. If we imagine that being Irish and Catholic is enough then maybe we had better think again. It is not about having a casual familiarity with the Lord. It is rather about the urgent and serious business of trying to live the way he has asked us.
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Scriptural Prayer Reflection

The ancient way of thinking concentrated itself on knowing oneself, interiorly from within.”  Jawaharl Nehru

Lord, we thank you that just as you made your way to Jerusalem,
you continued to go through towns and villages,
reminding people that they too must aim for the kingdom of God.
We too must hand on our teaching from this position,
in full acceptance of our weakness.

Lord, keep us from becoming complacent about our entering the kingdom of God.
Teach us to wait as we go on through life.
Tell us how to stand by with humility, so that we can truly enter by a door that is very narrow.
For we know that many will try to enter and will not succeed.

We therefore must adopt the right attitude of combined self-assurance and humble awareness of where we stand. 

“Lord, you are our Goodness, through overflowing goodness and all in yourself. Whereas I am the Wretchedness, through overflowing wretchedness all in myself.” Blessed Marguerite Porete of the Beguines

Lord, remind us that a time comes when the master of the house will get up and lock the door. We must know that we will then find ourselves knocking on the door and saying in a loud voice, “Lord, open to us.”
Remind us that at this point, you will find that you have to answer us,
“I don’t know where you come from.”
Then we will find ourselves saying, “We once ate and drank in your company and you once taught in our streets.”
You will reply, “I don’t know where you come from”
and you will say to us in the fateful words of the psalm,
“Away from me, all you wicked men and women.”
 

“The Word was made flesh in the Incarnation, but ever since we have tried to make that flesh into word again.”  Cardinal Martini 

Lord, we look forward to days when we will know
that there will be weeping and grinding of teeth
as we see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God,
whereas we ourselves will be turned outside.
On the other hand, we will see men and women from east and west and from north to south, come to take their places at the feast of the kingdom of God whereas we are no longer there.

 “The religious have the best of God’s messages but they present them in a very boring way.”  G. K. Chesterton

Lord, remind us always that those we consider last
will soon be first in your kingdom
whereas those who are now first will soon be last.

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Homilies -1: ACP 

Very Near To Us

Responding to the beauty of a spring morning, Robert Browning wrote, “The lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn; God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.” While the thought is beautiful,  the poem suggests a misleading concept of God, which maybe most of us entertain from time to time . “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.” How often  we imagine God as “away up there, somewhere”, while the world goes its separate way, with the events of every day independent of God. If the Gospel shows God  in the person of Jesus Christ intervening in human affairs, combatting the evil forces at work in mankind,  at the back of our minds we suspect that the battle against evil is not  going God’s way.

This kind of Deism seldom bothered his chosen people, Israel, in the Old Testament. For them God was not remote, away up there. They felt a divine presence in the events, good or evil, of everyday existence. Everything in history was somehow God’s doing. Even when the cream of the nation were exiled to Babylon and their monarchy was utterly destroyed, they continued to search for the hand of God in this tragedy. Out their shattered hopes there emerged a purer, more spiritual vision of what God meant them to be. Eventually they saw their exile as the means God used to bring salvation to the pagans. They saw their destiny as still being glorious, but now from a more spiritual perspective. As stated in Isaiah, all nations would come to worship the true God in Jerusalem. God would bring good out of the catastrophe they had endured, and this would have an effect as well on nations apart from their own.

Constantly at the back of our minds we carry on, as it were, a conversation with ourselves – talking to ourselves, processing our hopes and fears, making plans. Relating to God means not leaving him on the fringe of all this consciousness, but making him part of it, discussing it with him, asking his guidance, his assistance, expressing to him our gratitude. All day long he is with you, and you can walk with God, you can talk with God, you can discern his loving purpose for you in every passing moment, you can rest in his presence, even while you go about your business. Gd, however, will not posses your soul unless you sincerely want him to.

So many of us remain “unconverted Christians,” without a vision of the meaning of our lives. We remain on a material plane, like the people in the gospel who ate and drank with Jesus and heard him preaching in their streets, but with never a change in their lives. The Gospel warns that people will come from the east and west, from the north and south, and take the places at the feast in God’s kingdom meant for those who were called originally. So we go on asking God to help us to enter by that narrow door, to win the inheritance set aside for us from the beginning, and not to be found wanting but rather persevere to the end. 

Truth and Healing

In reaction to a bad policy pursued by the king, Isaiah urged the people of Jerusalem “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you”. Then Jesus invites us to realise the hard truth that our personal actions will determine our eternal destiny. These readings could prompt a homily on dedication to the truth, beginning with the power of language, which affects our whole human experience of life.

The ability to speak is the most important skill we ever acquire, putting us into intimate communication with other persons. Among grown-ups, words can build confidence, inspire idealism, stimulate creativity; but they can also break a reputation, undermine a project, or alienate a community. In every newspaper we find concrete evidence of the power of language to build up or tear down. In our own lives we have experienced for good or ill the dynamism of the living word.

Telling the truth is not merely saying what is one one’s mind, which could be subjective; it goes further and communicates things as they really are, or as they actually look place. Truthfulness places an obligation on all to learn to experience life as it really is, not dressed up in flights of imagination. When we communicate we talk about real people and real events; we share, as objectively as we can, our insights about life and about the things of the spirit.

The Hebrews had a deep respect for truth, not so much in the theoretic but in the practical sense. The Hebrew word emeth expressed the basic idea of truth as firm, steady, trustworthy and faithful. The person of truth was one who was reliable, and spoke with dignity and assurance. In the New Testament the Greek word aletheia also has an important place. It is the truth of Christ, the truth that saves.

We need to promote respect for truth as a deep value, needing much revival today. Telling the truth is not merely saying what one feels, since this can be subjective, but it goes deeper and first tries to see things as they really are or as they actually happened. Only such truth is worthy of communicating. Truthfulness urges us to see and experience life as it really is, and to distinguish this from those flights of imagination that also have a place in entertaining each other. People need to know whether we are communicating about real events; we need to share, as truly as we can, our insights about life and about the things of the spirit.

Lying is the opposite of truth; when it become habitual, it distorts reality, goes directly against the virtue of thinking honestly, breaks down trust and destroys integrity. Children may tell lies, often more out of fear or an inability to cope with a difficult situation than out of a deliberate intention to deceive. Truthfulness requires many qualities but especially courage and maturity, it is an adult virtue. The adult who tells lies loses in stature. It is sad to meet with grown-up people who live in a dream world and paint a false picture of themselves. This is a sickness from which a person can be healed only by re-discovering the value and the beauty of truth. 

The Stick and the Carrot

A four-year-old was sulking under the table. He had been refused a second helping of ice-cream. His mother ordered him out, but the boy wouldn’t budge. She fried coaxing, but nothing doing. When finally she promised him the ice-cream,  he trotted out triumphantly and they both went out to get his reward from the fridge. The visitor was left alone with the other witness of this little domestic scene, the little boy’s grandmother. While mother and son were being reunited over a dish of ice-cream in the kitchen, the old lady said to her visitor, “She isn’t fair to that boy; he doesn’t know any better. She should have punished him.” The visitor  had never heard it put that way before: Punishment as a service due to a child. It underlined an important change in attitude  between the two generations.

This change was confirmed by a survey once carried out on the religious attitudes among Irish university students. That boy might have been one of those questioned then. While 56% said they believed in heaven, only half that number, 28%, believed in hell. The ice-cream approach to wrongdoing won hands down. Reward as an incentive rather than punishment as a deterrent, was easily the more acceptable answer to wrongdoers. Incidentally, 58% of those interviewed believed in wrongdoing, i.e. sin. Why should not  reward and punishment both be acceptable responses to behaviour. This was the received wisdom, where both the stick and the carrot had a role in the formation of the people of God. While our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden as punishment for eating the forbidden fruit, the complaining followers of Moses were rewarded with manna to encourage them on their difficult way through the desert.

Political scandals involving corruption and bribery among highly-paid public figures should give us  reason to reflect. It is tempting to speculate that as children they picked their mother’s purse or otherwise misbehaved, secure in the belief that they would not be caught or, at that if caught,  they would go unpunished. Our present culture of impunity among the elite gets no support from today’s 2nd Reading. The author has no doubt that proportionate punishment is part of a wise ProvidenceÖ

For the Lord trains the ones he loves and punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness.

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Homily-2:

Strive to Enter the Narrow Gate to Eternal Life

Very many opportunities are available to us during our lives. From this large assortment, we must decide which ones we want, which ones suit our personalities, and then strive to get them. The ones that we choose are not just going to fall into our laps—we have to go get them. If we pursue them half-heartedly, we are apt to miss them. One could say that the gate that we have to go through to attain what we want is a narrow one since there are much larger and easier gates that we could just fall through without even trying. These larger gates can distract us from the narrow gate we would like to go through.

Let me give you some examples of common choices we must make.

·                  While in school and college, we must decide what kind of vocation we would like to enter after we graduate. To prepare ourselves, we must strive to get good grades if we want to succeed in that vocation. The gate we are preparing to go through is a narrow one.

·                  When we find a job we like, it is important to strive to do it well so as to maintain our employment. To do the job half-heatedly means that we may soon be looking for another one. The gate to keeping a good job is also a narrow one.

·                  During our recreational time, many of us participate in competitive sports. We soon find out that if we want to win, we must strive diligently to pass through a narrow gate of being a winner. The alternative gate is much wider if our goal is to participate just for the fun of it.

I’ve played tournament tennis most of my life. Striving to make it through the narrow gate to the finals is most difficult for me here in Oklahoma where summer temperatures are in the 90s to 100s. Often when struggling in the semifinals, I will think that if I lose this round, I won’t have to come back tomorrow. However, I always strive to win and the gate to getting to the finals is never a wide one.

The difficulty of striving to get what we want goes beyond the secular part of our lives and also applies to the spiritual part. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his questioners that to be saved requires that they “strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

Jesus has freely offered salvation to everyone. But, will we choose salvation from the many opportunities available? Or will we slide through one of the larger gates in life that is much easier and perhaps more fun to do in the short term? We must strive to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation.

Salvation is a pure gift offered to us by Jesus. There is nothing we do can earn this gift, it is free from God. But a gift is not a gift until it is accepted. As human beings, we have free will and can choose either to accept his gift or to reject it. We can wait too long to accept the gift, or we can become so calloused with the other pleasures of earth that we no longer know that the gift is being offered.

A friend of mine may be slipping through a wide gate while losing sight of the narrow gate. A few years ago, he enthusiastically joined the Church. But slowly he began to drift away as his quantity of money allowed him to participate in whatever he wants. Presently, he thinks that he has complete control of his life and that he no longer needs God or his Christian community. He seems to be losing his desire to strive for the narrow gate of salvation. Jesus tells us that timing is very important when striving for the narrow gate. He says that when people knock on the door after it is closed, he will say, “I do not know where you are from.”


Since God is in charge of final judgment, why do we try to decide who will be saved? We, as disciples of Jesus, must not be judgmental about who we think will go through the narrow gate; our vision of God must be not myopic or parochial. We must see with a wide-angle lens that God’s salvation is open to all. God’s salvation is unbounded and it reaches out to those whom we may not only distrust but also sometimes even despise.

We must be careful not to think that only those with our point of view are faithful and deserving of salvation. We must not think that only those will be saved who belong to the right religious groups, who believe correct religious doctrines, and who follow an approved way of life.

There is something dangerous about being smugly convinced of our own salvation because we have followed the rules. When we are so sure of ourselves, we can easily fall into the error of being as sure of the moral failures of others as well.

Jesus’ invitation to salvation is open to all of us. It is his will to save us. The good news is that it is never too late. What is our response? Is each of us striving to go through the narrow gate?

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In today’s Gospel Luke tells us about the door policy of the kingdom of God and how there is no such thing as automatic membership. While Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, someone asks him about the number of those who will be saved. Rather than speculate about the arithmetic of salvation, Jesus gives practical advice about the present time: "Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed." The door is not so wide that anyone can casually saunter through at any time; the door is narrow and individuals must strive now to enter it.

Nor will the door remain open indefinitely. When locking-up time comes and the master of the house has secured the door, those who missed their opportunity will not be admitted. The narrow door has now become the locked door. The image changes from tight space to time up. Those who wait until the door is shut try knocking, but the householder regards them as strangers. The latecomers try to remind the householder of common ties: they ate and drank with him, they listened to him teaching in their streets. But the Lord is not too impressed with superficial acquaintance: people who eat and drink in the same restaurants and bars, read the same papers, watch the same programmes, don’t necessarily share the same commitments. Camp followers are not disciples.

The pain of being excluded from the kingdom is worsened when the latecomers see the kind of people who have been allowed in as members. There is not even the dubious consolation of knowing that at least so-and-so is also on the wrong side of the door. Members come from all over — "from east and west, from north and south" — and take their place at the feast in the kingdom of God. The prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading is seen to be fulfilled as people "from all the nations" enjoy the favour of the Lord. All sorts. The door policy of the kingdom keeps surprising people: there’s no sure way of knowing who’s in and who’s out. In the kingdom of God there’s no telling who is coming to dinner!

The teaching of Jesus is clearly opposed to the kind of national or religious elitism that presumes it has an assured place in God’s kingdom. As one who is treated as an outsider by his own people, Jesus has a natural allegiance to those who don’t belong to the right crowd. Good roots are not enough; having the right address is not enough; having an impressive pedigree that goes back to Abraham is not enough. Borrowed fidelity does not impress Jesus. There is no substitute for a person’s own decision for the kingdom of God.

Jesus describes the condition for entering the kingdom when he says: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and keep it." (8:21) Fellowship in the kingdom is open to all peoples who hear the word of God and keep it. Whether we dress with the sobriety of Mr Straight or the extravagance of Mr Swan is unimportant for membership of the kingdom. The door policy is determined by fidelity to the word of God.                                

- Denis McBrid, C.Ss.R.

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Homily – 3 

THE WORD: 

Faith is a journey to the dwelling place of God.  Like Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, our faith journey is difficult and painful; doubt, despair and ridicule are among the obstacles we must encounter.

Jesus uses three images in today's Gospel that speak of the disciple's faith journey:

•the narrow gate:  The major cities of Palestine were built with walls surrounding the perimeter.  Throngs of people could enter the city only through the great gates at the city’s entrance.  Jesus, however, calls us to enter the city of God through the “narrow gate” -- through the lonely, humble entry way of the human heart.

•the locked door:  Conversion is not an instantaneous transformation in which we go from Godlessness to holiness.  Our lives are a constant process of conversion, of working to become the people God has called to become.

•the feast:  God’s invitation to the banquet of heaven is extended to all men and women of good will, not just to those who presume themselves to be God's special elite. 

HOMILY POINTS: 

The “narrow gate” of the Gospel is difficult to enter -- limitless love, unconditional forgiveness, sacrificial selflessness -- but it is the only entry into the reign of God. 

The “narrow gate” of today’s Gospel is the honest confrontation of who we are, what we believe, what we have done with our lives, what accomplishments -- and horrors -- we bear responsibility for.  The “narrow gates” we encounter in life require of us an honesty and integrity that we cannot ignore or fake our way through or re-invent ourselves to ease our way through. 

Faith is not a pre-ordained condition nor an all-purpose “pass key” nor a guaranteed reservation to the here-after.  God demands of us a personal, committed response to his gift of faith as the key to the promise of the resurrection. 

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.     Once upon a time there was a daddy 

who prided himself on his abilities as a driver. He wouldn't let the mommy of the family drive when he was in the car. Ever. Nor would he let the one legal teenager drive. They were simply not competent enough, careful enough, responsible enough. Which is to say they were not as competent, careful, and responsible as he was, or thought he was. Moreover, as he drove he favored his family with a running commentary on the mistakes of other drivers. The mommy and the kids, naturally, had long ago learned how to tune out these commentaries. He was generally a nice man and you have to put up with certain things in daddies, don't you?   

 WELL, this one day when they were on vacation, they all went over to the local Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. I won't delay you with a list of the decisions that had to be made (that's another story which I may have told you already!) Anyway, when they were backing out of their parking place - and it was a very crowded parking lot - the Daddy didn't see a car that was coming behind him and plowed into it! The car was a brand new Jeep Wrangler. It had the right of way. The daddy was furious, especially because he knew it was his fault. He jumped out of the car and cursed the teenage boy who was the driver of the Wrangler. All the kid could say was you wrecked by graduation present. He had the right of way, the mommy said. Then the kid sighed and made sure that the  Mommy and the kids and the dog were all right. I guess we can get it fixed he said. Don't worry about it. The Daddy wouldn't apologize, though everyone knew he was wrong. But, like God, the kid forgave him anyway. (Andew Greeley) 

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2.     Shame on You! 

I was waiting my turn to see the emergency room doctor when a young mother came through the doors with her child, maybe three or four years old. The little girl was crying and the woman who, I took to be the child's mother, was holding a bloody handkerchief over the little girl's mouth. She looked around frantically for someone to help and rushed to the desk and said, "My daughter's been hurt and I need to see..." She was cut off in mid-sentence, "You need to take a seat and wait for one of the clerks to sign you in." 

"But my little girl was hit in the mouth by a..." She was interrupted again. "Please take a seat ma'am, someone will be with you shortly." 

Just then, the ER doctor walked in and said to the woman at the desk, "Shame on you... this little girl needs help right now!" He motioned to the woman and the little girl and led them to an examining room. 

Briefly, (and guiltily) I wondered when my turn to see the doctor might come, but -- if I live to be a hundred years old, I wonder if I will ever see another time when a person's pain so clearly wins out over the system's protocol. "Shame on you!" I love it! The physician was looking at a child's pain. The clerk was looking at the hospital's procedure. 

John Jewell, Shame on You!

3.     Fable of the Eagle and the Chicken 

A fable is told about an eagle who thought he was a chicken. When the eagle was very small, he fell from the safety of his nest.  A chicken farmer found the eagle, brought him to the farm, and raised him in a chicken coop among his many chickens. The eagle grew up doing what chickens do, living like a chicken, and believing he was a chicken.  

A naturalist came to the chicken farm to see if what he had heard about an eagle acting like a chicken was really true.  He knew that an eagle is king of the sky.  He was surprised to see the eagle strutting around the chicken coop, pecking at the ground, and acting very much like a chicken.  The farmer explained to the naturalist that this bird was no longer an eagle.  He was now a chicken because he had been trained to be a chicken and he believed that he was a chicken.  

The naturalist knew there was more to this great bird than his actions showed as he "pretended" to be a chicken.  He was born an eagle and had the heart of an eagle, and nothing could change that.  The man lifted the eagle onto the fence surrounding the chicken coop and said,  "Eagle, thou art an eagle.  Stretch forth thy wings and fly."  The eagle moved slightly, only to look at the man; then he glanced down at his home among the chickens in the chicken coop where he was comfortable.  He jumped off the fence and continued doing what chickens do.  The farmer was satisfied. "I told you it was a chicken," he said.  

The naturalist returned the next day and tried again to convince the farmer and the eagle that the eagle was born for something greater.  He took the eagle to the top of the farmhouse and spoke to him: "Eagle, thou art an eagle.  Thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth.  Stretch forth thy wings and fly." The large bird looked at the man, then again down into the chicken coop.  He jumped from the man's arm onto the roof of the farmhouse.

Knowing what eagles are really about, the naturalist asked the farmer to let him try one more time.  He would return the next day and prove that this bird was an eagle.  The farmer, convinced otherwise, said, "It is a chicken."  

The naturalist returned the next morning to the chicken farm and took the eagle and the farmer some distance away to the foot of a high mountain.  They could not see the farm nor the chicken coop from this new setting.  The man held the eagle on his arm and pointed high into the sky where the bright sun was beckoning above.  He spoke: "Eagle, thou art an eagle!  Thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth.  Stretch forth thy wings and fly." This time the eagle stared skyward into the bright sun, straightened his large body, and stretched his massive wings.  His wings moved, slowly at first, then surely and powerfully.  With the mighty screech of an eagle, he flew.
 
4.     Magic Woman and her secret formula 

Nine years ago her dream came true -- she lost a great deal of weight.  As a result, many wonderful things happened:  Her blood pressure went down and her energy level wept up.  Her feet, knees and back didn’t ache any more.  She no longer had to shop in the “big” women’s stores.

 But something else happened that she hadn’t expected.  To her family and friends, she became “Magic Woman.”  How did you do it? they all wanted to know.  They were looking for that formula, that certain something to transform them, zap, from a size 22 to a size 12. 

Here is what Magic Woman tells them: 

“I can tell you what I did: I never gave up.  Losing weight was something I deeply desired, and I was relentless.  When I found what worked -- a way of balancing what I ate with how much I moved my body, my way of earning a living, my way of connecting with the people I love -- I did it with all my heart and soul, every day, without fail.  When I [messed up], I kept going.  When I was afraid, I felt the fear and took the next step into the darkness.  When I was confused and uncentered, I pretended to know which end was up and kept plodding.  When I was empty and alone, I reached out to others.

 “This morning I weighed myself.  But unlike many people I was satisfied with what I saw -- a number that has scarcely changed in nine years.  And I saw the model for the rest of my life, if I’m willing to use it:  Look for the inspired right thing, then do it, without fail -- imperfectly but sincerely -- one day at a time, every day, for the rest of my life.  That's the magic.” 

[Gay Norton Edelman, Spirituality & Health, May/June 2004.] 

Discipline and sacrifice are the hinges of the “narrow gate” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel.  All of the important things of life demand that we struggle through the narrow gate.  There are no magic words to loving and being loved, to creating a world of justice and peace, to forgiving and being reconciled with one another.  Jesus promises that anyone willing to struggle through the “narrow gate” will come to experience the life of God to the fullest and find welcome in the dwelling place of God. (Connections)

5. Joe Rosenthal

Arthur Tonne tells an interesting tale. Most people have seen the famous photo of Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. It pictures United States Marines raising the American flag on a hill in bloody Iwo Jima during World War II. Many of us too have stood mesmerized by the equally famous heroic size bronze likeness of the scene sculpted in Washington DC.

 What is little known is that the photographer Mr Rosenthal was a convert to the Church from Judaism. For his conversion, he was shunned by fellow Jews for abandoning the faith of his people. But Rosenthal was not intimidated.

He wrote, "The day before we went ashore on Iwo Jima, I attended Mass and received Holy Communion. If a man is genuinely convinced of the truth and still neglects it, he is a traitor and that goes not only for my Jewish friends who do not attend synagogue each Saturday but also for my friends who miss Mass each Sunday."

The Teacher was pulling himself through the towns and villages of Palestine. Busily He was teaching all the time. His destination was Jerusalem. There He would keep His long-planned rendezvous with death. He was asked by someone, "Lord, are those to be saved few in number?" 

The exhausted Christ, desperately needing a shower and a cold drink, ignored the query. Oftentimes the question put to Him did not touch on His syllabus. But He took advantage of the well-intentioned question to say in effect, "The door to the kingdom is unlocked. Keep in mind it is not wide, but it freely swings open on well-oiled hinges. Those willing to exert themselves will walk right in. No people at any time need stand outside with their noses pressed against the glass door wistfully looking in." (Father James Gilhooley)

6. The Fat NGO Director in Africa

The Narrow Door: You might have to squeeze yourself
There was a director of a funding agency from USA visiting Africa.  He had to fly from Nairobi to South Sudan by a 6-seater chartered plane.  He was a bulky man – unimaginably big.  As they prepared for the take-off, the pilot had a tough time working out the seating arrangement in order to balance the weights across the aircraft.  They managed. When they landed, that huge director could not come out of the plane.  Probably due to sitting down for a few hours that contributed to water retention in the body, the director had become a little bigger and could not bring himself out of the door of that small aircraft.  His companions had to literally pull him out of the plane! (The director was so embarrassed that after he returned to the US, I was told, he underwent an operation to reduce his size!) (Sahaya Selvam, SDB)

7. African Homes

The Narrow Door: Make yourself small
When I served as a co-pastor in a parish in South Tanzania, during Eastertide every year we undertook this elaborate activity of blessing the houses of all the faithful.  There were over 1300 households spread out in over 15 villages. And in that part of Africa villages, and houses within the same village, are spread out over a vast area.  We had to walk long distances, and often the doors to the houses were rather narrow.  We had to bend down, and as soon as you entered the house you found yourself in a dark space filled with smoke.  It was really a humbling experience for us adults.  But often, I noticed, children ran in and out of these houses as a matter fact.  (Sahaya Selvam, SDB)
 
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.               Three surprises in heaven:

Bishop Sheen tells us that we will have three surprises in heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. St. John of the Cross gives the reason why they are not there: “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on how we have loved.” The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. That is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven. Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us, simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace. In today’s gospel, Jesus answers the question, who will be saved, when and how.  

2.               Narrow door to successful living:

Thousands upon thousands of young boys grow up bouncing basketballs and dreaming of a life in the National Basketball Association - the professional ranks. But only a handful are chosen each year. Woe to the young man or young woman who is talented at sports but neglects his or her education! Thousands upon thousands of new businesses are started each year, but only a small number of people in our society become super-successful in material terms. The higher you go up the scale, the smaller the numbers become. Thousands upon thousands of young couples each year stand at the altars of churches like this one and pledge their love to one another, but half these marriages will end in divorce. Many couples will stay together only for convenience, for appearances or for the children. Only an estimated 10% will find true fulfillment in their marriages. The door to any kind of successful living is a narrow one. That is why Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel: "Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Successful living requires making hard choices. It requires dedication and sacrifice. How can Christian faith demand any less? 

3.               The narrow gate of great musicians:

Someone once said to Padarewski, the great pianist, "Sir, you are a genius." He replied, "Madam, before I was a genius I was a drudge." He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it. It is reported that after one of Fritz Kreisler's concerts a young woman said to him, "I would give my life to be able to play like that." He replied, "That's what I gave.” The door is narrow. Why should we think we can "drift" into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down.

4.               Self-discipline:  

Many years ago, an editorial in the magazine, War Cry put it like this: "A loose wire gives out no musical note; but fasten the ends, and the piano, the harp or the violin is born. Free steam drives no machine. But hamper and confine it with piston and turbine and you have the great world of machinery made possible. The unhampered river drives no dynamos, but dam it up and we get power sufficient to light a great city. So our lives must be disciplined if we are to be of any real service in this world." If you are going to walk with Jesus, there are some things you will need to leave behind.