Two weeks ago, we had a Gospel Reading in which Jesus said:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return. . .” At the Masses Deacon Jim preached at – he referred to this as the “Boy Scout” Gospel – as we are always supposed to be prepared for Jesus’ return. . .
With that in mind, I decided today’s Gospel should be called the “Indiana Jones” Gospel. . .
Although the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is 20 years old – many of us may recall its final scenes.
Indiana is paired up with his father against the Nazi’s to be the first to find the Holy Grail – the cup used by Jesus at the last supper.
To get to it, Indy must overcome three challenges: The breath of God, the Word of God, and the Wrath of God – it is the final challenge which concerns us. . .
After getting through the razor sharp wheels and escaping from falling into a pit --- Indy goes through a narrow door and encounters a deep canyon which he must cross.
According to his father’s guide book – only a leap from the lion’s head will get one safely across
– but no one, Indy concludes, can leap such a great distance.
He finally discerns that it is a leap of faith that is called for and after taking a few deep breathes, he steps off the edge of the cliff – only to find there is a camouflaged bridge of rock which safely gets him across the canyon, into the cave, and to the cup of Christ.
A leap of faith – not only gets Indiana Jones to the Holy Grail – but it gets us through the narrow gate and on the narrow road that leads to eternal life – which Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel.
Today’s world is filled with a multitude of enticing distractions.
Megamalls, megaplexes, massive sports venues, super centers and endless cable channels that can easily occupy every moment of our day.
The world is only as far away as our fingertips via the internet and social media has brought us to another level of communication that can occupy unhealthy amounts of our time.
Materialism, secularism, humanism, and relativism are ever present and vying for our attention and hopeful submission.
The world offers a wide path for us filled with endless entertainment venues, indulgences of every kind, and abundant frivolity while ignoring God’s laws in favor of its own.
However, followers of Jesus Christ are called to traverse a different route, joining him instead on the road less traveled. Jesus clearly stated this when he said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
Jesus was and is fully aware that the narrow gate and the narrow road on which he invites us to journey with him – is not an easy one – but it is the sure and steady path which leads to the kingdom of God.
It is often fraught with suffering, thorns, thickets, and the accusation that we are a little odd. It is a road upon which we may stumble and fall from time to time or perhaps even stray from – only to find that the path the world has laid out for us has led to a dead end cul-de-sac which ultimately fails to satisfy.
Entering the narrow gate and staying on the narrow path to eternal life – is a choice we make every day. It requires prayer, faith, grace, focus, and discipline – all the while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
There is no greater example than Christ himself as he walked bloodied, bruised, and whipped along the way to the cross. Christ has provided us with the ultimate example of entering through the narrow gate and embarking on the narrow road while embracing his cross with love. By his example, we too are called to follow him in lovingly carrying crosses that are uniquely our own.
So which road are you on? It is often during times of trial, when the rubber meets the road that we might be tempted to veer off and go our own way. So with all of today’s distractions, distortions, and difficulties, let’s pray for the grace to remain on the narrow thoroughfare of this life – so that we may be with Christ in the life to come.
So we heed the advice of the writer of Hebrews:
“strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet.”
Like Indiana Jones – we need to take the leap of faith to enter the narrow gate and with the help of our faith --- stay on the narrow road that leads to eternal life.
We had just finished celebrating the Easter season, and the feasts of the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of the Lord.
We were just getting back into the routine of methodically reading St. Luke’s Gospel Sunday after Sunday when, on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary time – June 30th – we heard that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”
There, in Jerusalem, Jesus knows that he will suffer and die. He knows that from here on out, on that journey to Jerusalem, his life is going to be far from a picnic in the park.
And he wants his followers, which includes all of us, to know that if we choose to follow him, life can get a little messy for us, too.
The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor has a saying that kind of captures the spirit of this Gospel. She says: “The truth – will make you odd.” The truth, will make you odd – make you stick out, make you different, make you unlike those around you. . .
Jesus knows that what he preaches – and asks of his followers --- will cause division. Not everyone is going to be willing to eat with tax collectors and those known as sinners.
Not everyone is going to want to love the unlovable – address injustice – suspend judgement of others – and forgive those who have done them wrong.
Jesus message of love of God and neighbor WILL separate family and friends. For those who follow the truth – Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life – the truth will make us odd.
Now, as then, it is often easier to ignore the truth of the Gospel. Temptations to do that can surface as simply as this:
-Just go along with it, don’t make any waves.
-Those people live half-way around the world – why should I care about them?
-Don’t bother telling him why you are angry – he’s a jerk and won’t listen anyway.
- Let them spend our tax dollars on abortions, and executions, and fighter jets – there isn’t a thing we can do about it.
-Why not gossip at the card party – we’re only talking, we’re not hurting anyone.
-Let the kids play Dead Space and Mortal Combat – it will keep them quiet and give them something to do and certainly won’t harm them – they’re just games.
-Why shouldn’t I pick on him at recess – everyone else does.
-Sure I cut corners on getting the job done – how else am I supposed to make any money?
-Don’t give her credit for getting it done -- just let everyone think it was you who did it.
All of these statements reveal values that ignore the Gospel message of Jesus. And to challenge these values – would involve speaking a truth that counters the culture and demands commitment to the Gospel.
To challenge these values – means struggling to sort out the complexities we face daily – figuring out what Gospel truth requires – and then speaking and living that truth with compassion --- even IF it means a division between family members and friends. . .
For you see – Jesus never intends on those divisions lasting very long. For he also says in the Gospel:
If the same person sins against you 7 times 70 times – and asks for forgiveness – you must forgive them.
And he tells us to “do good to those who hate you and bless those who curse you.”
Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and mercy – are all Gospel values. And the work of the Gospel always invites dialogue – to reconcile differences – so as to witness to the power of God’s healing love.
May we be blessed with the courage and the faith to do this – whatever the cost. Even if it does make us a little odd.
This is a story about a parable Jesus told and about a brother and sister named Will and Jessica.
One day Jessica and Will came home from school hungry and wanted a snack. Their mother had baked a pie earlier in the week and there was just enough left for each of them to have a slice.
“Let’s have a piece of pie,” suggested Will.
“I’ll get the pie while you get us each a glass of milk,” he said to his sister.
When Will sliced the pie, it turned out that one piece was slightly larger than the other piece. . .
Jessica poured each of them a glass of milk and sat down at the table. When Will brought the two pieces of pie over from the counter, he placed the smaller piece in front of Jessica and kept the larger piece for himself.
“Wait a minute,” cried Jessica. “Look what you’ve done – you gave me the smaller slice of pie and kept the larger piece for yourself. I don’t think that’s very fair.”
“Well how would you have done it?” Will asked.
“If I were serving the pie,” said Jessica, “I would have been generous and given you the larger slice and kept the smaller one for myself.”
“Well, what are you complaining about then?” Will said. “That’s exactly what just happened – you got the smaller piece, and I got the larger piece – so thank you for your generosity!”
They both kind of looked at each other and then began to giggle . . . but most of all, they began to dig into their piece of pie!
We might think the story rather funny ourselves – but selfishness and greed and being generous and sharing – are all very serious topics. . . Every day, we see people who not only want the biggest slice of pie for themselves – they want it all!! And that’s what Jesus told a story about, a parable about – in today’s Gospel.
The man in Jesus’s story was very rich. He had a large, fertile farm which produced very good crops.
“What should I do?” The man asked himself. “I have such a large harvest that I don’t have room in my barns to store all of it.”
So what did the man do? You know he could have shared some of what he had with those who did not have very much. . . but is that what he did??
No, instead he said, “I will just build bigger barns so I can keep everything for myself.” Then he kicked back, thinking he had plenty of everything. He ate, drank, and was merry. . .
And much like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas many years ago – the man’s heart shrunk in size. . .
And God had other plans, for this man with the small heart: God said to the rich man, “You fool! You will die this very night - -then who is going to get everything??”
God is certainly good and has given most of us --- more than we need.
The question is: what will we do with what God has given us?
Will we share it with those who don’t have as much as we do – allowing our hearts to grow in size --- or will we greedily keep it for ourselves – so that our hearts shrivel up to the size of a peanut?
Remember the warning that Jesus gave to the listeners of his story: “Watch out! Be on you guard against all kinds of greed.”
So are we going to just have bigger barns in our lives – or are we going to have bigger hearts: hearts that grow and expand – because of our generosity??
Generosity may well be the most natural outward sign of an inner attitude of compassion and loving kindness.
And, as the rich man in Jesus’ story shows us – we cannot do an act of kindness too soon – because we never know when it will be too late. . .
And so we pray: Loving God, you have blessed most of us with more than we need. Help us to be generous and to share with those who may not have as much. This we ask through Christ our Lord. AMEN!