CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 22, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: At the heart of the passage that we read today lies the question, “How many will be saved?” Jesus, as he so often did, did not answer the question directly. Instead, he addressed the underlying assumptions in the question.

When we read the gospels, we can never lose sight of the fact that Jesus lived in a time and place that had a particular viewpoint. In Jesus’ time and place, the assumption among the people with whom he lived was that they were God’s chosen people. They were a people set apart, a people who knew the rules, a people who had to do a certain set of activities that would guarantee them salvation. Everyone else was just plain out of luck.

Jesus, however, challenges this presupposition. He says that being a member of the “chosen people” does not of itself guarantee a place in the kingdom of God. Moreover, he says that many people who are not among the “chosen,” people who “come from the east and the west and from the north and the south,” will recline at the table of God.

It is easy for all of us to imagine that our membership in some group is the guarantee that we need to be “right,” which may include the implicit suggestion that other people are “wrong.” Jesus in today’s gospel essentially says, “This is not so.”

We too may be tempted to believe that something about us makes us “right” in a way that other people are not. If we are to hear what Jesus says in today’s gospel, we have to let go of this notion. God’s kingdom is not the exclusive property of one people over another people, of one group over another group. It is a place of inclusion, not of exclusion.

Before we speculate on the central question of the gospel passage, “How many will be saved?” we perhaps do well to ask the question, “What exactly does it mean to be saved?” Certainly, in the Catholic tradition, it has meant for a good period of time in Church history to “die in a state of grace” and without mortal sin. But these are cliches that border on meaningless for their overuse. What then does it mean to be saved? Does it not mean to live a life for others? A life that does not close down in and on itself, but instead, an expansive life that frees other people from the bondage of self? A life that so loves that it invites and allows other to love?

Ultimately, we cannot know how many people will be saved, but if the evidence of our lives provides any answer to the question, we perhaps should assume that the answer question is, “Many will be saved.” If our God is a God who will let recline at the table of the kingdom people from north, south, east, and west, perhaps the gospel does directly answer the question: the expansive and all embracing love of God will in the end conquer many hearts.

clouds and sun sing hallelujah in goldsSpiritual reading: Because our natures pose and point toward You, our loves revolve about You as the planets swing upon the sun, and all suns sing together in their gravitational worlds. (The Collect Poems by Fr. Thomas Merton)

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