We are called to be with Jesus
Father Dan Juelfs
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 21, 2022
“Lord, will only a few be saved?”
It’s a question that probably many of us have asked. The underlying question being, “am I one of them.” That we find ourselves sometimes, as we listen to the scripture readings, trying to determine or trying to get a sense of how many people or how is God going to handle all of us, whatever the situation might happen to be.
And in some ways today’s readings don’t help us much. There’s a lot of contradictory information almost. Certainly, the first reading, the prophet Isaiah, gives an image of people coming from, as he says, gathering nations of every language. An image that would kind of indicate large numbers. We’ll hear that again in the Gospel, that image as well of large numbers – people coming from the east, the west, the north, and the south into the kingdom of God.
But at the same time, Jesus also proclaims that narrow gate. Many won’t be strong enough to enter. So it leaves us with a certain confusion, or at least me with a certain confusion over what is Christ saying, trying to say in this particular Gospel and many other places. There seems to be a kind of confusion and yet, I don’t know that there really is when we get really looking at the details. Because I think the question in my mind is, what Jesus is saying is, we can’t simply presume that we’re going to be saved simply because we happen to be baptized, or we happen to be Catholic, or we happen to go to Mass every Sunday, or any of those kinds of things. It isn’t that. Those things are obviously important. Those are things that point us in the right direction. Those are the things that keep us going, and yet, they’re not the whole of salvation. They’re not what accomplishes salvation for us.
The context of today’s Gospel is, in the sense, that Jesus is teaching as they went and making his way to Jerusalem. Going to Jerusalem where he knew he was going to suffer and die. Where he knew he was going to give up his life in order that we may be saved. In order that he could overcome the reality of sinfulness that’s a part of all of our lives. But it’s Jesus who does that. Our call is not to simply to presume that because Jesus has done it, we’re in, but rather to imitate him. To follow him. To let ourselves become a part of what it was that he did. To be part of the suffering, the struggles, the difficulties, but ultimately the glory that was Jesus. Ultimately the fullness of life that Jesus was accomplishing.
As we celebrate our faith, it’s a reminder to us that we are called to be with Jesus throughout our lives. Not just those key points — baptism, or Sunday Mass, or whatever — but throughout our lives. Just as Jesus was faithful to the father all the way through knowing exactly what was going to happen. Understanding what was happening but also understanding why, and willing to offer his life for us. Our call is to imitate. To follow him. To allow ourselves to share in his suffering and his struggles. To be ready to accept whatever struggles come our way, challenges come our way. That we may encounter, like Jesus, that our call is to be faithful — faithful to the end. Yes, many are called and invited to be part of the kingdom. Many will be, but that doesn’t mean that just because we were invited, just because Jesus died for us, that in and of itself we’re a part of it.
There’s still that narrow gate. There’s still that area in our lives that we have to change those things that would keep us apart. Those times that paying attention to what Jesus is doing, paying attention to how can we imitate that? How can we let ourselves to not only hear the call but live it out? Let it be part of our lives.
As we celebrate our faith, yes, we can ask that question — are there only a few people to be saved. Jesus doesn’t give us an answer, but he does invite us to be among those who are saved and call us to imitate him and live life with him.