Homily: How Large is Your God’s Heaven
Luke reminds us once again that we are on the “way to Jerusalem” with Jesus. Though it would be nice if we could all visit the modern city of Jerusalem some day, this is not what Luke had in mind. He’s thinking instead about our spiritual journey, the journey that everyone of us must make, the true purpose of this human life that God has given us.
As we make this spiritual journey, we have to inevitably ask the question posed in today’s gospel: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Or, more directly, “Lord, am I among those who will make this journey successfully?” And Jesus answers our question with words that dispel any smugness that we may have been entertaining: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” To love as he did will not be easy.
“How large is your God’s Heaven?” We’re dealing with ‘boundary issues’ here.
Jesus says peoples from Spain to Africa and Turkey will someday be both included and brought to know our God’s Heaven personally. They all will come to know the glory or love of God shown first to Israel. They all shall come to Jerusalem to know the God of Israel as their God.
God’s ranch is larger than miles; its territory is measured by response; and the invitation has no boundaries. The boundaries are the fears, doubts, and selfishness that can limit the human response to this constantly recurring invitation.
Remember now, the Pharisees and religious leaders in the time of Jesus had definite ‘boundary issues’. For them, being ‘saved’ meant keeping the laws, such as Sabbath observances; this constituted religious belief for them. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking right to this very issue. To Jesus, the ‘boundaries’ are more around observing Jesus and his teachings. He is the ‘narrow gate’ through whom life passes into this world and leads to the ‘Kingdom of God’. Jesus then has some of these religious leaders protest,
“We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” Again – boundaries – they said they hung around Jesus, so they have the right to come in. There is nothing about their buying into, or becoming intimate with Jesus personally. They didn’t join his company or take in the teaching offered in their streets.
How big is God? How large of an embrace does God have for the human Clan? Religious leaders throughout the ages have been quite taken up with ‘definitions’; the word itself literally means ‘putting down limits or boundaries’. Political parties, ethnic families, financial levels, and even religious groups define, limit, wall in and wall out ‘those others’. Labels create distance, and distance provides the luxury of suspicion and self-endorsing. The more we affirm that who we are is defined by our identity with Jesus, the more we will feel an identity with people of any description. Only our walls of fear confine the size of God’s kingdom.
So, Jesus warns us about the terrible disappointment in store for those who have not taken his teaching seriously. They will discover, only when it’s too late, that they have not made room in their lives for the One who alone can bring them to that ultimate joyful banquet that our Creator has prepared for us in his kingdom.
For most of us, our world is one full of wonderful opportunities. Just look at the superabundance of our grocery stores. When we enter the supermarket, we scarcely know where to turn because of all the wonderful selections and possibilities that surround us. It’s been noted that those who come here from other countries, especially the impoverished ones, are almost overwhelmed by amazement at the seemingly endless riches of our grocery stores.
We should all be grateful for such convenience in our lives, but we also know that such displays of worldly goods don’t really represent the true meaning of happiness.
Some years ago, it was common to find contests offered on the radio with the winner awarded ‘20 minutes of free shopping in the supermarket’. You can easily imagine the winner’s frenetic search for the most desirable items. But I like to imagine a different scenario — where the winning contestant would spend those precious minutes helping others find what they needed. And when questioned about this strange behavior, that person would reply simply, “Oh, didn’t you know? My Father owns the supermarket! If we are kind and thoughtful during our 20 minutes of life, the whole store will be ours forever?”
What a pity it will be if we finally see what life is all about only when it’s too late! But there is still time to resist the powerful distractions that dazzle us and the constant ads that bombard us, telling us how much more we need, when only one thing is really necessary — to love our gracious and generous God and to be kind and forgiving toward his precious people that we deal with every day. It is then that we will hear those wonderful words: “Well done, Good and Faithful Servant. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! (Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B & Larry Gillick, S.J.)