– 25 August 2019 –
Gospel Text: Luke 13:22-30
vs.22 Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem.
vs.23 Someone said to him, “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” He said to them,
vs.24 “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
vs.25 Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’ but he will answer, ‘I do not know where you come from.’
vs.26 Then you will find yourself saying, ‘We once ate and rank in your company; you taught in our streets’
vs.27 but he will reply, ‘I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked people!’
vs.28 Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourself turned outside.
vs.29 And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
vs.30 Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin:He is on the theology faculty of Nottingham University.
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
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.
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.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
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.
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.
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.
4. We have to always bear in mind that we must bear witness to the God who is love, rather than just wilful 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.
Let the reader understand
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.
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.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections for Year C: Luke
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.
Real 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.
may your will of love
be done on Earth.