By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross
Sunday 21 August 2016
St Ninians & St Chads Church, Maylands
Certain passages in the gospels give the impression that Jesus only came to bring salvation for the Jews. He said that he had come only ‘to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ (Mt 15:24) Yet in other passages he heals non-Jews and breaks the social norms by talking to them and encouraging them.
In today’s first reading from Isaiah, God promises that he will gather people from all nations and languages who will see his glory. He will send them out as missionaries to declare God’s glory to others, and they in turn will bring others from every nation to Jerusalem to serve God and share in his heavenly banquet.
So Scripture is clear that salvation does not rest on who we are, what race we belong to or what language we speak. It doesn’t depend on how high up the social ladder we are or what our worldly achievements might be. It depends entirely on how seriously we take our Christian discipleship.
The gospel reading is making this very point. Jesus describes people knocking at the locked door of a householder’s house because they have turned up too late to be let in. The householder tells them that he does not know them, but they think this is ridiculous. He must know them, they have rubbed shoulders with him on social occasions and they even turned up occasionally to hear him speak in the streets, or when they didn’t have anything more important or exciting to do. Of course he knew them. Well, Jesus says not and he makes three points in this parable.
Firstly, he says it is not easy to embrace the values and standards of the Kingdom of God. It takes effort, hard work and struggle. Claiming to be ‘spiritual but not religious’ will not do because that can mean anything or nothing.
Secondly, only having a token commitment to discipleship, which is too common a feature within the Church, wont do either. That is being connected but not committed, which is another characteristic of Western society. People who only want connections tend to come and go when a more attractive connection is in the offing. Commitment is the hard slog need for the long haul.
Thirdly, Jesus is not impressed with those who deliberately delay their commitment to the last minute.
When Jesus called his disciples from mending their nets by the sea, he did not invite them to tag along with him for a bit of fun. He invited them to be serious disciples. All of them suffered in some way or another because they accepted Jesus’ invitation, but they were not overcome by it. Their suffering was part of their formation as disciples. The epistle to the Hebrews points out that for all disciples, suffering of any kind, especially sufferings resulting from being a disciple of Jesus are not pleasant at the time, but they are part of our spiritual growth and maturity as well as building up our moral fibre.
Those who play at discipleship will find themselves cut off from God like those locked out on the street in Jesus’ parable. It may not be nice thing to say, but the Christian gospel has never been about being nice. It is about being merciful, but that is not the same as being nice.
So the message of these readings is a warning against complacency in our Christian life. As I indicated in my latest musings, it is complacency among Christians that has given the social and sexual revolutionaries in our society more a bridgehead in their efforts to drive the Church out of its place in Western Society.
It is another crisis that the Church faces and as Pope Benedict said, the future Church will be smaller, poorer, not obsessed with politics, but more faithful and spiritual than it has been. The signs are that he is right, so we need to learn more about our faith and the teachings of the Church. Worship and prayer must be our priority. We must stand firm against the onslaught, armed with the weapons of spiritual warfare and be beacons of God’s Kingdom attracting others to embrace its values so that we may all share in the heavenly banquet.
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