21 Sunday C: Universality of Salvation


The universality of salvation is the message from all the readings on this day. Salvation does not belong to any special race or culture but to those who accept Christ. It is the desire of God that all should be saved. Some who are regarded as last will be saved while the first called may be last.
bible
faith is for allGospel Text: Luke 13:22-30

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.
first lastVerse 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.

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.
nasrrow-door
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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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.

Homily Notes
ticket to heaven
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.
Seek God's willAnyone 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.

4.
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.
deny yourself
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.

doorReflection
People sometimes think that the Old Testament is a cruel book in which a vengeful God sends arbitrary punishments on whomsoever he wishes. However, such a view is completely at odds with the idea of God which is to be found in today’s first reading and in many books of the Old Testament. We need to remember that in the Old Testament there is a development in the understanding of what God wants for the world, and in this reading from Isaiah we see a very inclusive and universal vision of salvation. There can be no doubt that texts such as these helped to form Jesus’ view of the kingdom of God where there would be a welcome for all who are true to their conscience.
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4. Donal Neary S.J.
World of love
In a family so much love is lavished on the new-born first child, and you hear them saying that’s the end of freedom now for a good few years. Or the grandchildren come and there’s the babysitting. Life deepens love and narrows our freedom. Jesus says elsewhere that love is the door to eternal life. In laying down life for a friend, the cross was a narrow door.
making your choiceReal love means little things a lot of the time, and with God it means time now and then dedicated to prayer and to worship, as well as loving our neighbour.
Love demands a lot as well as giving a lot. With the people we most love, we are most vulnerable and they can bring the worst and the best out in us.
The sick child, the elderly in the family, those in prison or in a difficult marriage call on our love, as does a husband or wife needing a lot of care in illness or old age. There is a special love shown by volunteers in our country and the developing world. The grandchild who is isolated and lonely calls too on our love. This is the world of love, the only world worth sacrificing anything for.
The condition for entering is not where you come from, whether you are first or last, whether you wear the right clothes or even turn up on time – the condition is that, in the way of the living God, you hear the word of God daily and live by it faithfully.

Lord,
may your will of love
be done on Earth.
 
Every loving outreach is a beautiful monent
 
 
 
 
 




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From The Connections:
 
THE WORD:
The curing of the crippled woman on the Sabbath is found only in Luke’s Gospel (though Jesus performs similar miracles on the Sabbath in the other Gospels).  In this account, Jesus defies the sensibilities of the synagogue leader and cures a crippled woman on the Sabbath day.  In reprimanding Jesus, the elder argues that healing is a form of work and that any form of work profanes the Lord’s Day.  Jesus counters that the healing of this woman – a manifestation of God’s compassion – does not defame the Lord’s Day but sanctifies it. The official has become so obsessed with adhering to the letter of the law that he is unable to embrace the spirit of the law. 
In the healing of this woman – poor, sick, marginalized and female – Jesus again (as he does throughout Luke’s Gospel) proclaims that God’s reign has dawned and belongs not to the rich but to the people of the Beatitudes: the meek, the humble, the lowly, the suffering, the struggling.

HOMILY POINTS:

Jesus’ healing of the woman does not undermine the holiness of the Sabbath – on the contrary, the healing irrevocably links Sabbath prayer and ritual to the unlimited and unconditional mercy of God
The healing Christ has entrusted us, who would be his disciples, with the work of God: compassion and forgiveness, reconciliation and justice, healing and peace.
To be healed requires change, to consciously move beyond your own pain and to embrace the pain of others, to see beyond the bad we are experiencing to find the good, to refuse to be swallowed up in hopelessness and rediscover reasons to hope.  As Jesus says to the crippled woman, “you are set free of your ailment.”  While the pain does not disappear, the grace of God “frees” us to transform our lives and find new purpose in our broken but still very much meaningful lives.  
 
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.
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:
 
The first reading from the last part of the Book of Isaiah is a prophecy of consolation for the community of Israel that had been gathered again after the exile, but who were still experiencing difficulty and uncertainty about their future. The prophet proclaims a glorious future in which mankind’s covenant with God is opened to the whole human family. Returnees from every part of the then known world, who had been scattered would return to Jerusalem. Nations of every culture and race will lead the Israelites home. Salvation is extended to all the ends of the earth. For it is through holiness that one will enter the city of God.

Jerusalem! My Happy Home!
A little boy always wanted to visit the place where heaven and earth meet. He could see quite plainly from his mother’s cottage and he thought the place where heaven came down to earth must be very beautiful. With his eyes fixed on the horizon, ‘the meeting place of heaven and earth’, he began, one day, to walk. He walked on and on until he became very tired. He found himself in a valley where the horizon lay hidden from view. A cottage was near and a woman was standing in the door. He told her of his quest, and she pointed out a house not so very far away. “There it is,” she said, “only hurry; it will soon be dark.” He hurried on and was soon climbing the hill that led to his own home. And there in the doorway was his mother waving to him. “My own home,” he thought to himself, “is the place where heaven and earth meet.”
Frank Michalic in ‘1000 Stories You Can Use’

The key idea of St. Luke’s gospel is a symbol of Christian life: a pilgrimage to our heavenly home. We are constantly on the way to the heavenly home. We must make sure that we are on the right way and that we are moving in the right direction. Will everyone reach their final destination? Will everyone who journeys be saved? Jesus never answers the question about the number to be saved. He stresses rather the effort to be made on the journey and that the way is narrow and not easy. Secondly, Jesus speaks about the closed door, namely people cannot take for granted that just because they are along the way, just because of set rituals and practices, they will be saved. There is nothing that definitely guarantees automatic salvation. There are neither reserved places nor favoured people whose salvation is guaranteed. Yet, on the other hand, no one is excluded from heaven. God has no favourites because everyone is a favourite of God! Heaven will be full of surprises. Many who are despised on earth will find themselves in heaven and many who considered themselves holy and better than others, may not find themselves among the chosen ones in heaven. The Jews had considered themselves the chosen ones of God and that their God was only the God of Israel. Jesus reminds them that many pagans and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God, while many of the Jews who rejected God and his chosen Messiah, will be excluded from God’s kingdom. “Those who are now last will be the first, and those who are now first will be the last.”

The last shall be first!
Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress, was known as the ‘poor little rich girl.’ Since her mother died when she was five, Barbara Hutton described her childhood as an unhappy one. She said, “Though I had millions of dollars, I had no mother and no home.” Nor was her adult life a happy one. She was married seven times and was a princess three of those times. A virtual recluse, she died in 1979 at age 66. A newspaper article summed up her life with the words: “Barbra Hutton died unmarried and alone, a symbol of the cliché that money does not buy happiness.” By way of contrast, consider the life of Dorothy Day. She was known as “the mother of the faceless poor of the city’s offscouring.” She always felt she existed for a special purpose. She discovered that purpose when she became a Catholic at age 30 and dedicated her life to help the poor. Dorothy Day founded and edited the Catholic Worker newspaper, went to prison as a suffragist and pacifist, and established farm communes and hospices for the dispossessed. When she died in 1980 at age 83, Time magazine called her a “secular saint”. Barbara Hutton and Dorothy Day illustrate somewhat the proverb cited by our Lord today: “There are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.”
Albert Cylwicki in “His Word Resounds”

There are none so blind as those who will not see!
An atheistic scientist not only denied the existence of God but also vehemently maintained that the world had come about by chance and was certainly not the work of an Almighty and Omniscient creator. His Christian colleague was a firm believer and so, as could be expected, all conversations between the two ended with the polite decision to respect each other’s viewpoint, even though they were radically different. One day the Christian scientist ingeniously devised a model of the entire Solar System. At a mere touch of a button, all the planets would revolve around the sun in perfect harmony. He invited the atheistic scientist to view his invention and instructed him to press a button. The atheistic scientist was astounded to see the marvelous model come alive with flawless coordination. Fascinated, he asked, “Who made this?” “No one,” returned the Christian scientist, “it just came about by chance.” “You’re joking! This cannot come about by chance. It requires the ingenuity of a very intelligent person.” At this the Christian scientist said, “This is a mere model and you believe it has to be done by a human being who is intelligent. How much wiser is the Person who created the unfathomable reality and with such flawless wisdom and perfection!” Moved by the grace of God, the scientist rejected his atheism and humbly professed his belief in God! –This scientist is a real example of what Jesus means when he says in today’s gospel that the gate to God’s kingdom is narrow. It isn’t narrow because God made it that way, but because it calls for a definite decision and commitment, and that is something that only a few freely and deliberately make.
James Valladares in ‘Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are life”


The kingdom of heaven is not a private club!
A man died and went up to heaven. St. Peter met him at the gate, brought him inside and took him on a tour of the place. At a certain point they came to an enclosure surrounded by a high wall. As they were passing it Peter said, “Keep very quiet as you pass this place.” “Why,” the man asked. “In case we might disturb those inside,” Peter answered. “Who is inside?” the man asked. St. Peter said, “Catholics. You see, they think they are the only ones in heaven. In fact if they found out that there are others in heaven, they would be very disappointed. In fact, some of them would probably ask for their money back!” The kingdom of heaven is not a private club.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’


The narrow door?
In an interesting cartoon in the Peanuts series, Charlie Brown wakes up one morning and looks out of the window. It has snowed all night but now the sun is shining brightly, so he decides to go out skiing. Donning all the winter gear he can find, he collects his shoes and skis and makes for the door.  Unfortunately, he is unable to get through, because the clothes he has worn make it impossible to pass. He makes one unsuccessful effort after another. Finally, in desperate frustration, he screams at the top of his lungs: “Will someone please tell me what I have to do to get through this door?” Charlie Brown typifies those who would like to make it to heaven, but are reluctant to shed the unnecessary attachments that impede their passage. So like Charlie, we end up standing at the front door of heaven screaming. The door of heaven is narrow only for those who are too ‘bundled up’.
James Valladares in ‘Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are life”

Which Way to go?
“To every person there opens a way; a high way, a middle way, and a low way. And the high soul takes the high way; and the low soul takes the low way; and in between on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro. But to every person there opens a way; a high way, a middle way, and a low way. And every person decides the way his soul shall go.”
Paraphrase of a Poem by John Oxenham
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MORE 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.