25Aug 25th August, 2013. 21st Sunday of Year C.

Is 66:18-21.  The returning Jews bring non-Jews to join in the worship of God.

Heb 12:5-7,11-13. As a father disciplines his children, so our God trains us.

Lk 13:22-30. People from every nation can enter in by the “narrow door”.

Today’s Scriptures speak of discipline, a subject that is almost taboo in our society. We should reflect on this theme as part of the overall scheme of divine justice in history.

First Reading: Isaiah 66:18-21

The Lord Says: “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud – which draw the bow – to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations.

They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring a grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the Lord.

Second Reading: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children-“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.

When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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. Incidently, 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.

 

12 Responses

  1. Kevin Walters

    Truth and Healing
    Truthfulness places an obligation on all to learn to experience life as it really is, not dressed up in flights of imagination.
    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.
    ——————————————————————————————————
    On18th August, 2013. 20th Sunday of Year C. I posted (shared) an account of a scenario in relation to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It may have been misconstrued as a flight of imagination as it is not in chronological order. It was meant to be a reflection of one’s conscience before the light of Truth.
    To clarify for those who need to know if it was a real event.
    Many years ago on a Saturday I was walking through the centre of Leeds, near the Corn Exchange there is an open space with several bus stops, it was very busy with pedestrians, in the centre of this space was a very over weight middle aged woman shabbily dressed laid on the pavement, in great distress having a fit, no one stopped to help her I went over lifted her head off the ground to save her from further damage to herself, from within the crowd a young woman then came forward to help until an ambulance arrived.
    Last year to my shame I walk by a man in a City centre in great need (I realised afterwards he could have died on his own vomit). At the time I justified this inaction within my heart, by say to myself that I was caring for someone else who was in need, but this stranger should have taken priority. As I walked away from this man I knew that I had sinned. I am not Mother Teresa I pass by many people living with different types of difficult situations. I know on this occasion I broke trust with my conscience I have come to terms with this in my heart before our Father in heaven and with His grace I pray it will not happen again.
    kevin your brother in
    Christ.

  2. Kevin Walters

    Adjustment to my post above should read On the14th July 2013. 15th Sunday of Year. Not On the 18th August, 2013. 20th Sunday of Year C. Sorry.

  3. Soline Humbert

    I have a question: Is there any passage in the Gospels where Jesus punishes somebody, anybody? Did he punish Peter for deserting him and disowning him?
    Indulging / spoiling and punishing, the carrot and the stick, are not the only ways….

  4. Darlene Starrs

    The mystery of God is a spiritual realm of infinite depth…and most of God’s earthly congregation has only a very, very, tiny view into that depth…as St. Paul says…we see through a glass dimly. The deeper the Lord brings us into that mysterious depth …..the more…everything seemingly ordinary and understood becomes shaded with layers of supernatural meaning. As we journey with Lord into deeper depths, we come to understand…things like “the narrow door”, “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth”, and “born from above”, and so on…in another way…some of it quite incomprehensible to our intellect.

  5. Andrew Young

    @Darlene
    I would like to think that Jesus would have done to Peter on the occasion of that horrible moment when Peter betrayed him and denied his very existence, what my mother said to me very frequently as a child; “I’m not angry with you. I am just very disappointed”! Never were there more simple words said in love, to cut into the heart of a young person so successfully and effectively!

  6. Bob Hayes

    Soline (no. 3) asks: ‘Is there any passage in the Gospels where Jesus punishes somebody, anybody?’

    The synoptic Gospels tell of Jesus’ destruction of the Gadarene swine: some 2,000 in number. Such a great loss of animals surely caused immense hardship to the Gentile herdsmen.

    It is also worth reflecting on Soline’s question in relation to the Holy Trinity. Jesus’ actions cannot in some way be ‘separated’ from God’s actions unless one rejects the Triune nature of God. And, of course, we know that God has punished people.

  7. Bob Hayes

    Further to my post no. 6, Jesus also meted out summary punishment when he cleansed the Temple.

    Making a whip out of some chord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over, and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all of this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’.
    (Jn 2:15-16)

    This must have been both financially and psychologically punishing for the various traders. Whether anyone was struck by Jesus’ makeshift whip the Gospel does not relate.

  8. Kevin Walters

    Bob Hayes (6)
    The synoptic Gospels tell of Jesus’ destruction of the Gadarene swine: some 2,000 in number. Such a great loss of animals surely caused immense hardship to the Gentile herdsmen
    ——————————————

    Closer to home Jesus takes DIRECT action against exploitation
    Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’
    kevin
    In Christ

  9. Soline Humbert

    The God I believe in is the one St Therese of Lisieux put her trust in :”God more tender than a mother who delights in showing mercy.” She knew from her own experience that in the Heart of God there is no wrath (“This love creates all that exists; it sustains all and redeems all; it is unfailing even in times of sorrow or trial; it is unconditional; it is a love plenteous beyond imagining; it is all powerful and all embracing; and in this love there is no place for anger or wrath. God’s whole purpose is to bring all into the bliss of heaven, so that ‘All shall be well!'”Julian of Norwich) .The Heart of the Triune God is Mercy within Mercy within Mercy (Thomas Merton).

  10. Kevin Walters

    Soline Humbert (9)
    I too believe that God’s tender loving mercy is infinite (embraces all) and those who put their TRUST in His love will certainly receive it. But we have been warned “Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men” Those who deliberately dry out their own hearts cannot be forgiven.
    Love its self is constrained by its own essence TRUTH.
    The sap of Love (Holy Spirit) feeds (Sustains all and redeems all) the Vine, we only have to acknowledge the need for this sap of Love and we will bear fruit, but those who deliberately deny themselves the sap of Love/Truth/Life cannot remain on the Tree of Life (Vine) and are cut off (Separated) eternally from the love of God.

    But I am sure that we all would hope and pray that those who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can (if this be possible) take comfort form the words of Julian of Norwich “All shall be well” and more so from these words “Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”
    But we mere creatures cannot and must not contradict the living word of God, to do so is to commit blasphemy. To deny the existence of Hell and eternal punishment (separation form the Love of God) is to call Christ a liar and bring His teaching into disrepute.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  11. Bob Hayes

    Indeed, Jesus taught us to:
    .
    love one another;
    just as I have loved you,
    you also must love one another.
    By this love you have for one another,
    everyone will know you are my disciples. (Jn 13:34-35)
    .
    Throughout New Testament Scripture we read numerous examples of Jesus’ acts of love for others – forgiving sinners, healing the sick and feeding the hungry (spiritually and physically) are just a few examples. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that Jesus also told us that being his disciples, following his teachings, would not be easy – and that he had come for all, but not all would follow him.

    While imploring us to love one another and obey the Commandments, Jesus constantly alerts us to the consequences of sin. For example, he warns us the path is narrow, that the rich face a great struggle to enter the Kingdom and of the consequences of disbelief:
    .
    I am going away; you will look for me
    and you will die in your sin.
    Where I am going, you cannot come. (Jn 8:21)
    .
    Reflect on those words. What Jesus tells unbelievers is that they face a truly horrific prospect: separation from God. Time and again Jesus tells us of the consequences of sin. Think of all the sentences beginning ‘I solemnly tell you…’.

    Unfortunately the Universalist heresy has joined forces with later twentieth century attempts to claim Jesus Christ as some sort of proto-hippy. That, combined with ‘the catechesis of niceness’ (as distinct from the catechism of God’s love) over several decades, has resulted in many Catholics having a weak and/or muddled understanding of Christ’s teaching about love and charity, sin and evil – less still of judgement, the Kingdom and (don’t mention the H-word).

  12. Kevin Walters

    Bob Hayes (11)
    Unfortunately the Universalist heresy has joined forces with later twentieth century attempts to claim Jesus Christ as some sort of proto-hippy. etc
    ——————————————————————-
    Sadly, for many in the West, Christianity now equates to middle class respectability.
    kevin you brother
    In Christ.


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