Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Heavenly Hope in the Summer Heat


In these warm summer days, our Gospels have become somewhat fierce.  As I have done liturgy planning at my parish, I find myself with thoughts of Lent and penance when I’d rather be thinking about the beach!  We have been taught to store up treasure in heaven, to be prepared for the unknown hour of the Lord’s coming, and this Sunday to enter by the narrow gate.

Throughout the Gospels some of Jesus’ most profound teachings come from someone having enough courage to ask the tough questions.  (Take note of this for your own prayer life: ask the tough questions!)  Someone asks, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus, in his usual and often frustrating fashion, does not answer directly but gives us more to ponder: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Luke 13:23-24 We find the master of the house saying to those to whom he preached, “Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…and you yourselves cast out.” Luke 13:27-28

The Lord is preaching to us; we eat and drink each week in his company and he is teaching in our streets.  We are meant to contemplate whether we are among those who might be left out of the master’s house.  The question should not leave us in despair however grim this Gospel appears to look.  It is a bitter pill that must be taken alongside the rest of the Gospel teachings: those of God’s great love and mercy.  The Gospel Acclamation verse, sung in anticipation of the Gospel’s proclamation reads: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.”  John 14:6 This way, truth, and life is a loving and merciful God who underwent sufferings for our transgressions.  He gave all he had so that we might be saved.  He loves us with a perfect and supreme love.  To enter by the narrow gate means to respond to this love.

The virtues within us, the greatest of which is love, might not be of equal strength but they do grow in strength together.  Striving to respond to the love of God and growing in holiness assist the whole of our person in growing in strength.  We become more pure, more humble, and more joyful.  We become gentler, more faithful, and more hopeful.  Our entering through the narrow gate to avoid hell is not scurrying away from bad things and tallying all the rules we have followed.  It is a wholehearted response in love to the God who first loved us, created us, died for us, and wants us with him fully united in that love for all eternity.

“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.” Luke 13:29-30

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Kellen is 27 years old and is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, MN. He is a Masters student in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and is a scholar of the Church.

1 comment:

Easter Almuena said...

Kellen, I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you.