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Homily for twenty-first Sunday, year C

21 Aug 2022, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

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

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

The seriousness and the heavyweight 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 hard teaching from Jesus. When Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God, the apostles asked, “Then who can be saved? Mt. 19:23-26.

Meditating on the question, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”, I redirected the question 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, not asking the Lord but ourselves; are we going to be among the saved?

To the person who asked the Lord if only a few will be saved and to every one of us, Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” In other words, there is another door, broad and easy to pass, but Jesus insists on the narrow door. And that reminds me of the Exodus from Egypt. When Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God led them the 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 way of the sea and the wilderness; he wanted them to learn how to be strong, endure, trust, and be resilient. God said, if I lead these people through the smooth road by way of the Philistines, they may change their minds and return to Egypt when they are challenged by enemies as they travel. So, the long and rough journey from Egypt to the Promised Land was a kind of training for the people. Therefore, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews in our second reading this morning (Heb. 12.5-7, 11-13) reminds us not to take lightly the discipline of the Lord, not to be angered or doubt God’s love, and potency when he punishes or chastises us; for God does that to those he loves. In chastising, God reminds us of our weaknesses, our inability to save ourselves, and the need to trust him in all situations.

Jesus is saying today, to be saved and get to the Promised Land, enter through the narrow door, and do not go by way of the “Philistine.” Jesus did not only encourage us to enter through the narrow door but to STRIVE to enter. To strive is to struggle or fight vigorously, to make conscious efforts to achieve or reach our goal. That means, that passing 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 will 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. 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 being 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 words, have you forgotten that you are a child of God? This is not an acceptance of suffering but an acceptance of faith, the faith to say in good and in bad times, the Lord 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 of the many that will be saved. Amen.