21st Sunday Ordinary Time 2013

Scripture readings for today's Mass are here.
From Luke's Gospel 13:22-30

 " For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

I'm sticking with this image above for a while !

Is heaven password protected ? ; Who has the right password ?
and how do we get one ?

It's a reality that so much of our lives as individuals and society and even as nation states is "password protected." 

 We also jealously guard our access to knowledge and education through privileged password protected sites.

We protect ourselves against threat and at a deep level we are offended when our sense of privacy and integrity is violated.

I think of how trying to live with an open unprotected vulnerable heart in this world, often results in damage caused by others, and how some in this world who are afraid or unable to show their vulnerability and fragility to others, has led them to suicide.

Yet the only password that matters is to be open to God and yet how difficult that is for most of us - for to be fully open seems unattainable, except maybe for the saints !!

It was that freely offered openness and submission to God's will that Christ showed us in His life, which ultimately lead to his rejection by the world and to his death on a cross. 

I am reflecting too of how we are given passwords at various stages of religious life, either by baptism in Christianity which may be a choice we make ourselves, or by our parents and then how religion has developed other rites of passage, circumscribed and protected by rules and dogmas and so easily how this can develop into a presumption that only the chosen elite have a secure password to paradise.

 I think of the numerous ways I set up my own password protection in dealings with others, how my own sense of identity is bound up in protection and defence of ego.

I think too of the way in which I foolishly think I can prevent God from entering my heart, the way in which I erect self made passwords that block access. Foolish, because God knows me even before I was formed in the womb, God knows me through and through and God can enter through locked doors.

I think of all the people who through randomness of birth, bad circumstances,or poor choices seem to have no passwords for what we glibly count as success in this short life on earth.  But it is clear from the Gospel that the gift of entry to heaven is based on criteria that are vastly different from what we vainly spend most of our lives chasing after.

I have a sense of my own utter stupidity and dumbness in understanding of God when I read today's second reading.

Related post on weeping and grinding of teeth from here

In Jewish history, in Jerusalem, there were different gates inside the city walls. One narrow and small gate was called the Sheep Gate, used specifically to bring in the sacrificial lambs inside the walls and into the temple. It was the only gate that the Priests sanctified.

These scripture readings today are significant in the way Jesus expands the notion of the exclusive chosen people to embrace people from distant coastlands and brothers and sisters of all nations, and yet paradoxically says that we can only enter heaven through a narrow gate.

 "So it is quite telling that Jesus first identifies himself, not as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate for the sheep. In the ancient walls of Jerusalem, there was a gate on the north of the city, by which animals were brought in from the countryside for sacrifice. It was called the Sheep Gate. Once inside the city and within the temple courts, there was only one door where the sheep went in, and no lamb ever came back out after entering the temple. They travelled in only one direction, and there they were sacrificed for the sin of men and women. For first-century hearers of Jesus’s words about sheep, such knowledge added to the shock of his words: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.... I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:7,9).

In the temple filled with sheep on their way towards death, Jesus declared there was a way out: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

...the Good Shepherd delights in the task of caring for his flock. He goes willingly to search for the one that has gone astray. He gently holds us in his arms and guides us through valleys and beside still waters. He calls us by name and smiles at our recognition of his voice.

But he also breaks into courtyards where there is no longer hope. He refuses to cower through the course of our rescue, though he is accosted by our sin and humiliated by our denials. He provides a way, though it costs him everything. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life, so that even one lamb can get away.

~Jill Carattini, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Fine Reflection On The Narrow Door from John Pettigrew at "Barefoot In The Wilderness from here."

A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking 

"There is a difference between private charity and social justice.  Private charity responds to the homeless and wounded, but it does not of itself try to get at the reasons why they are there.  Social justice tries to name and change those structural things that account for the fact that some of us are unduly penalized even as others of us are unduly privileged.  

Those who enter the democratic arena with historical privileges, with stronger voices, and with more valued skills reap more benefits than the others … It is not by accident that laissez-faire democracy has rarely been kind to the poor. 

 In such a system, to be entirely voiceless, as are the unborn, is to be exceedingly vulnerable and in the ever-present danger of being decertified right out of existence.  That is one of the systemic issues underlying abortion. 

The fuel that fires our quest for justice must be drawn from the same (energy) source as the truth of justice itself, namely, from the person and teaching of Jesus.   

Jesus teaches that we will be judged by how we treated the poor in this life.  He makes the practice of justice the very criterion for salvation.  He identifies God’s presence with that of the poor.  In Jesus view, if you wish to find God, go look among the poor.  Conversely, he tells us that there are immense spiritual and psychological dangers in being rich and privileged. 

The world does not respond to a challenge for justice when our actions for justice themselves mimic the very violence, injustice, hardness and egoism they are trying to challenge.  Our moral indignation often leads to the replication of the behaviour that aroused the indignation  … “The more morally outraged we are, the less likely our outrage is to contribute to real moral improvement.” 

Like Jesus talking to the prostitute’s accusers (John 8:1-11), nonviolent efforts for justice and peace do not turn the crowd against anyone, innocent or guilty. 
 Rather they gently touch the part of the conscience that is still soft and inviolate. 

Redemptive violence is what happens at the end of a movie, storybook or song when the hero finally beats up the bully who has been terrorizing everyone … We hardly stop to think that what has really happened is that goodness has now been more violent even than evil. 

 We fail to notice that our good hero began as Mother Teresa but ended as Rambo and Batman.  We certainly fail to see that the ending of this redemptive story is radically opposite to the story of Jesus.  When he was cornered and the choice was to fight or die, he chose the latter.
The God whom Jesus called “Father” beats up no one … In the Gospels, Jesus is described as more powerful than anyone, but the word used is exousia.  That does not refer to muscle, speed, grace or brilliance.  (It is the authority that comes from freedom within oneself to be oneself.) …

 God’s power does not overpower anyone; it lies muted, at the deep moral and spiritual base of things … it is more helpless, more shamed, and more marginalized.  But it will in the end gently have the final say.   

We will not always know what political strategy is best or how things will turn out in the end.  We do know that God cares about all victims, that Jesus stands in the midst of brokenness, and that we are being faithful to the gospel when we stand there too. 

In the world’s schema of things, survival of the fittest is the rule. In God’s schema, survival of the weakest is the rule. God always stands on the side of the weak and it is there, among the weak, that we find God.

Given the truth of that, we might occasionally pray the Lord’s Prayer in this way:

Our Father . . . 
 who always stands with the weak, the powerless, the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the aged, the very young, the unborn, and those who, by victim of circumstance, bear the heat of the day.

Who art in heaven . . . 
 where everything will be reversed, where the first will be last and the last will be first, but where all will be well and every manner of being will be well.

Hallowed be thy name . . . 
may we always acknowledge your holiness, respecting that your ways are not our ways, your standards are not our standards. May the reverence we give your name pull us out of the selfishness that prevents us from seeing the pain of our neighbour.

Your kingdom come . . .  
help us to create a world where, beyond our own needs and hurts, we will do justice, love tenderly, and walk humbly with you and each other.

Your will be done . .
open our freedom to let you in so that the complete mutuality that characterizes your life might flow through our veins and thus the life that we help generate may radiate your equal love for all and your special love for the poor.

On earth as in heaven . .

may the work of our hands, the temples and structures we build in this world, reflect the temple and the structure of your glory so that the joy, graciousness, tenderness, and justice of heaven will show forth within all of our structures on earth.

Give . . .

life and love to us and help us to see always everything as gift. Help us to know that nothing comes to us by right and that we must give because we have been given to. Help us realize that we must give to the poor, not because they need it, but because our own health depends upon our giving to them.

Us . . .
 the truly plural us. Give not just to our own but to everyone, including those who are very different than the narrow us. Give your gifts to all of us equally.

This day . . .

 not tomorrow. Do not let us push things off into some indefinite future so that we can continue to live justified lives in the face of injustice because we can make good excuses for our inactivity.

Our daily bread … 

so that each person in the world may have enough food, enough clean water, enough clean air, adequate health care, and sufficient access to education so as to have the sustenance for a healthy life. Teach us to give from our sustenance and not just from our surplus.

And forgive us our trespasses . . .

 forgive us our blindness toward our neighbour, our self-preoccupation, our racism, our sexism, and our incurable propensity to worry only about ourselves and our own. Forgive us our capacity to watch the evening news and do nothing about it.

As we forgive those who trespass against us . . . 

help us to forgive those who victimize us. Help us to mellow out in spirit, to not grow bitter with age, to forgive the imperfect parents and systems that wounded, cursed, and ignored us.

And do not put us to the test … 

do not judge us only by whether we have fed the hungry, given clothing to the naked, visited the sick, or tried to mend the systems that victimized the poor. Spare us this test for none of us can stand before your gospel scrutiny. Give us, instead, more days to mend our ways, our selfishness, and our systems.

But deliver us from evil . . .  

that is, from the blindness that lets us continue to participate in anonymous systems within which we need not see who gets less as we get more.


 taken from The Holy Longing: The Search For A Christian Spirituality by Fr. Ron Rolheiser. OMI. 

I like this image too. Jesus might just want us to turn our churches upside down !
Make a mess says Pope Francis !

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