Homily for twenty-first Sunday, year C

Jesus preaching from one town to another and making his way to Jerusalem, someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?

The seriousness and the heavy weight of Jesus’ teachings may have triggered the question; Lord, will only a few be saved? The apostles themselves asked a similar question when they heard what seemed to be a hard teaching from Jesus. When Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God, the apostles asked; “Then who can be saved? Mt. 19:23-26.

meditating on the question Jesus was asked in our gospel passage this morning, it made me redirect the question to myself and no longer to the Lord. I said to myself, it doesn’t matter if only a few will be saved or so many will be saved, but will I be among the saved? That is the question we all need to ask, are we going to be among the saved?

To the person who asked the Lord if only a few will saved and to each and every one of us Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door”. In other word, there is another door, broad and easy to pass, but Jesus insist on the narrow door. And that reminds me of the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. When Pharaoh let the people go, God led them roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea even though there was a short and smoother way through the land of the Philistines (Ex. 13:17-18). God had a reason for leading the people by the way of the sea and the wilderness, he wanted them to learn how to be strong and to endure. God said, if I lead these people through the smooth road by the way of the Philistines, they may change their minds and return to Egypt when they face war. The long and rough journey from Egypt to the Promised Land was a kind of training for the people.

Today Jesus is saying, if you want to get to the Promised Land and be saved, enter through the narrow door, do not go by the way of the “Philistine”. Jesus did not only say enter, but he said STRIVE to enter. To strive is to struggle or fight vigorously, to make great effort to achieve or reach our goal. That means to pass through the narrow door it’s not going to be easy, there will be challenges, frustrating moments, and temptations here and there. In our Christian journey we are going to meet with things that would challenge our faith and our following of Christ. As Christians and as Catholics we may hear or see things that are so scandalous to the point of making us want to give up on the Church. There may be sicknesses and many other challenges, but these are the Red Seas, the mountains, the valise, and the battles we must fight to get to the Promised Land. As the people of Israel struggled in the wilderness, they had the Promised Land in mind, so also in our effort to enter through the narrow door, let’s have our heavenly home in mind.

It may not be easy, it wasn’t easy for St. Paul. He found himself in a very painful condition, a thorn was put on his flesh, and the messenger of Satan was allowed to torment him to keep him from been proud. Three times Paul prayed to God begging for healing, but God simply says to him; my grace is enough for you, yet he had the faith to ask; who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword (2Cor. 127-8)? Let nothing separate you from the love of God. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews in our second reading asked; have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? In other word, have you forgotten that you are a child of God? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the one that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons (Heb. 12:5-6). This is not an acceptance of suffering but an acceptance of faith, faith in the Lord to say in good and in bad times he is God.

As we strive to keep our faith, may the door not be closed against us on the last day, and may we be numbered among the few or the many that will be saved. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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