32 Days till the Start of the Advent Season, AND
59 Days till Christmas
Today in Catholic History:
† 625 – Honorius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
I am ready to meet my maker. Whether or not my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. — Winston Churchill
Today’s reflection is about entrance to heaven only through Faith AND Works.
22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. 25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ 27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. 29 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. 30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (NAB Luke 13:22-30)
What is this “narrow door” to the “Masters House?” Jesus’ story about the door being shut on the procrastinators coming too late insinuates that they had offended their host [God] through their action (or inaction), and that this justified their ban, – – their barring from heaven. I believe most, if not nearly all Jewish people understood this part of the story simply because the Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ time would not allow students arriving late to class to enter; the door being closed and locked. Furthermore, these students were banned from class for an entire week in order to teach a lesson in discipline and faithfulness to the divine importance of their religious duties.
Today’s Gospel reading immediately follows Jesus’ “parables of the kingdom” found in Luke 13:18-21: Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'” Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
These two parables preceding today’s reading were used by Jesus to illustrate the future magnitude of the “kingdom of God.” This future kingdom will result from the worldly mission and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, advocacy and healing.
Today’s reading stresses the great effort required for gaining entrance into God’s kingdom and that it is vital to accept the opportunity, given NOW to enter, because this “narrow door” will not remain open forever.
The “narrow door” which Jesus is talking about is HIMSELF!! In John 10:9, Jesus literally states, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Jesus gives us the way to enter into the paradise of heaven through the Holy Cross wherein He was crucified for our sins. God, through the human and divine natures of Jesus, sacrificed HIMSELF for OUR sins!! If we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom on earth AND in heaven, we must follow Jesus’ path, which includes “the way of the cross.”
The word “strive” from verse 24 can also be translated from the original Greek to mean “agony.” To enter the narrow gate one must labor against the vigor of, and our sometimes profound weakness to, temptation to sin – and other obstructions from doing the will of God – such as apathy, laziness, and indifference.
Many Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that ALL “Jewish” people would automatically gain entrance to heaven, except for a few clearly obvious “sinners.” I would bet the proverbial “tax-collector,” leper, and prostitute were on the Pharisees “barred from heaven” list! Most Jewish leaders believed “Israel” was specially chosen by God when He established a covenant with them and thus guaranteed, in essence, a slot in heaven no matter what happens.
This last paragraph makes me ponder the “saved by faith alone” versus the “saved by faith and works” arguments. How many people believe they automatically have a slot held for them in heaven – – just because they believe they are saved by God?
Heck, Satan even believes in God!!
Sadly, this belief is not just a protestant tenet anymore. I know of many Roman Catholics endorsing this error in faith. Jesus warns that ANYONE can be excluded – permanently BANNED – if one does not endeavor to enter the “narrow door” through faith AND works!
Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question asked in verse 23: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” However, His response is strikingly interesting for two reasons. First, Jesus says that being a member of God’s chosen people, does not automatically give one a ticket for entrance through the narrow door into the kingdom of God.
Second, Jesus’ words were a warning of rejecting His teachings’. Jesus declares that many “Gentiles” from places outside Palestine would also enter heaven; God’s invite is open to Jew AND Gentile alike. Some Jewish people would have their “places at table of the banquet in the kingdom” taken from them and given to Gentiles from the “four corners” of the world. Many Gentiles would go through the narrow gate to paradise BEFORE even those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended: the chosen Jewish people.
In Luke 14:15-24, a parable about “the great dinner” is a further example of rejection by most of the Jewish people towards Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of heaven, AND the addition of the invitation to all the Gentiles of the world. Also invited, in Luke’s parable are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who Jesus grouped as those who recognize their need for salvation.
Please remember that we do not go through this “worldly” struggle alone. God is always with us, giving us His grace when we are open to receiving. As we struggle, we are promised an open “narrow” door as long as we maintain our faith and works – – for ourselves, others, and God!
“Prayer for Success in Work”
“Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph. Such shall be my motto in life and death. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)
Dominicans honor one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day.
Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.
In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honor and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome.
During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns.
Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance
In the name of the Lord!
Concerning Those Who Do Penance
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).
We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).
We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).
Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.
Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:
“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).