The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time “C”

It is God’s will that all people should be saved. They should be saved because by Jesus’ death and resurrection the gate to heaven has been opened.

A man came to Jesus and said “Sir, will only a few be saved”?

Jesus’ response is addressed to all of us. “Strive to enter by the narrow gate,” He says; “for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.”

Now what did Jesus mean by that? Strive to enter by the narrow gate.

Jesus is saying that we should exert much effort to enter through this gate, for the majority of people, a large indefinite number, will make an effort to enter but will not be able to do so.

Today’s Gospel is a warning against presumption. Jesus does not want us to presume that we are already or automatically saved. We cannot save ourselves. Our salvation depends on the favour of God and the honest struggle on our part to follow Him.

“Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

And for married couples, what is the "narrow gate" ?

On July 25, 1968 His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” on the transmission of Human Life. 
 It reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching of Jesus Christ that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. Artificial contraception will always be a sin and an evil which could not be changed in spite of dissenting and popular opinion to the contrary.

Some people have said that they have tried to fulfill their duty with regard to this encyclical but have found it impossible to do so. Having more children or any children at all would simply place too big a burden on them.

They believed that they had the right to decide for themselves in good conscience how many children they could afford to have.
Unfortunately, artificial contraception or sterilization seemed to be the only a viable option for them as a means to end the possibility of unwanted pregnancies.
Those who have tried sincerely, but for whatever reason without success, to keep the teaching of the church on the transmission of human life believed that they may then deviate from it in good conscience.

Unfortunately, in taking that decision, there is a rejection whether knowingly or unknowingly, of the sufficiency of God’s grace in their lives.
The church has always taught with St. Paul and the Church Fathers that God’s grace is always sufficient for us to do what Christ commands us to do. We are therefore obliged to properly form our consciences to conform to God’s will for our lives.

For them to reject the church’s teaching  in this encyclical was like saying “Yes, we know there are 10 commandments and we as a couple have tried to follow them but we find that the 6th commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” in our particular circumstance is impossible for us to keep without incurring great difficulties. “

“In our situation faithfulness is just too difficult for us to cope with. Therefore in good conscience and according to the advice given to us by our confessor and our bishop we can now both of us have affairs with others as they present themselves and still remain members of good standing in the Catholic Church.”

The truth is, yes, every person has a right to follow his or her conscience. The Church teaches conscience is the "secret core" and "sanctuary'. of the person. No one may force or coerce anyone to act against his or her con­science. A person is duty-bound to follow his or her conscience.

But the Church also teaches every believer must take responsibility for informing and shaping his or her conscience in the light of God's law and Church teaching.

This requires study and examination of Church teachings and the profound, time-tested reasons for her teachings in light of the Scriptures.

 We then apply these teachings to the concrete circumstances of our lives, using prudent judgment.

Our problem often is trust. Do we trust God with our lives?

In today's world, the authentic Catholic must be careful not to form their conscience according to the beliefs espoused by Hollywood, by pop cul­ture, by afternoon talk shows, by dissenting clergy, religious or theologians, by the popular press or by the standards set forth by the federal government.

Given the human propensity for twisting the truth, Jesus Christ has given His Church shepherds and teachers to guide believers to the full­ness of the truth in faith and morals.

Remember Jesus said “Whoever hears you, hears me”.

The Pope and those bishops who are in union with him constitute the Magesterium.

The shepherds of the Church, as the Magisterium, are not democratically elected politicians who test the winds of popular opinion.

As individuals bestowed with divinely ordained authority, they work in the Church, for the Church, in the service of the Word of God, in the service of Jesus Christ Himself.

If this is not true, then the Church has no power, no authority to teach or to guide anyone to the truth of faith and morals.

Make no mistake, God will hold us all accountable for negligence, lack of effort or flat-out unwillingness on our part, for whatever reason, to fail to form our consciences properly in the light of authentic Church teaching, which is the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Sin has the tendency to distort and darken our vision, to make us see things in a twisted way. This mindset, of course, under­mines the Church's authority, rooted in her founder, Jesus Christ.

With centuries of teaching and reflection behind her, the Church is a wise mother, always ready to correct her sons and daughters by giving them the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is saying that many in the world presume they will enter heaven.

Jesus says “Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

We would do well to heed His words.

We can’t take anything for granted. We mustn’t feel that all we have to do is show up and in we go to heaven. We might be in for a surprise.

In fact, the Gospel tells us that many of us, in fact the majority might be surprised.

The gospel says that we will stand outside and knock at the door, saying “Lord, open to us” ( in other words we expected to get in otherwise we wouldn’t be knocking) but the Lord will say ”I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers”.

How many will enter the Kingdom of God? Will it be, as the Jews believed, only a chosen few?

Certainly not. Jesus says that anyone who is prepared to enter by the narrow gate will enter the Kingdom of God.

But that’s the key! Are we prepared to enter?

We have to remember that at the end of the day we cannot force our way into heaven. We cannot save ourselves.

We must strive to enter by the narrow gate by following Jesus.

To whom does the Kingdom of God belong then? Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them for it is to such as these that the kingdom of Heaven belongs”.

Unless we become like little children we cannot presume that we will enter the Kingdom of God.

Salvation is a gift from God. Jesus opened the Kingdom to sinners but it is only through humility and repentance will we be allowed in. Think of the thief on the Cross. A sinner all his life but at the very last he repents and begs forgiveness.

Do we have something in our lives, in our past, that we still need to repent of?
We should do this before it is too late.

Through our baptism we are members of the new chosen people. We are members of His church. We are insiders. He has given us our faith. He has given us the Catholic Church to guide us.

Do we listen to Holy Mother Church?  Do we let her guide us remembering that she speaks the words of God.

“Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

We pray that by the grace of God we will not be one of those who are in for a surprise.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

No comments: