Someone asked Jesus in today’s gospel, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
This is a topic most Catholics are concerned about as well. It is a difficult subject to think about and we would rather not think about it if we can. Many Catholics believe everyone will go to heaven, that there isn’t such a thing as hell. They believe that God is loving, forgiving, and merciful, and would never send anyone to hell. But, this view is simply a personal opinion, it is not based on the catechism or the scriptures, which is most evident in today’s gospel.
Jesus answered the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” by saying that we should strive to enter through the narrow gate. He said that many would try to enter but would not be strong enough. The master of the house will lock the door and there would be people who knock on the door asking to be let in. But the master will reply:
“I do not know where you are from.”
Did you notice that Jesus repeated this statement a second time in today’s gospel, for added emphasis? “I do not know where you are from.” The master did not recognize them, he did not know who they were.
When these people responded, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” The master told them, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” Jesus went on to tell how we might be cast out of heaven, but have to see everyone else be admitted to the banquet in the Kingdom of God, except for us. This is a very clear indication that not everyone is going to go to heaven.
The main point of the gospel story seems to be that, it isn’t enough to just show up for Mass every week, receive communion and hear the word of God. We can go through the motions of these things without giving it very much thought, or allowing the Eucharist and the Word of God to genuinely affect our lives. Many people think that the Mass is boring, but if you develop a regular prayer life and participate in the life of the parish, the Mass will literally come alive. Our efforts in our spiritual life needs to take place during the week, before we ever show up for Mass on Sunday.
If we do not regularly pray and develop a relationship with Christ during our lives, then how will he know who we are when we show up at heaven’s door? If we do not participate in any of the parish’s ministries, then how will anyone get to know us? That is a very good question for today. Do our fellow parishioners know us by name? Or are we just a face in the crowd that shows up for Mass each week?
Another thing to consider is the Christmas and Easter Catholics. Today’s gospel seems to apply especially to them. But, we can not only pray for them, but make them feel extra welcome when they do come to Mass with us. It isn’t enough for the priest to welcome them, and to invite the visitors to come to a class about Catholics who are interested in coming back to the faith. The faith isn’t taught. It’s caught. We should make our parish warm and inviting, in the worship space, but also in how we treat everyone at Mass. Something small like smiling and moving to the center of the pew so someone else can have a seat at Mass too, can leave a good impression on our visitors. In a small parish, inviting the visitors to bring up the gifts is also something they would never forget.
Jesus said to strive to enter the narrow gate, and the first reading for Mass today elaborates on how to do this in everyday family life. Children should obey their parents – but, parents should not provoke their children to anger either. This is a major problem in many families. Children act up, and parents overreact to what they did, to the point that their anger at their child is worse than the offense the child committed. Even the mention of the slaves and masters in the first reading, illustrates the need to treat one another with respect.
We receive Love itself in the Mass, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The Word of God provides us with guidance each week, on how to live out this love during the rest of our lives. Do we listen attentively, pray devoutly and recieve Jesus reverantly, but maybe get busy with other things during the week and put off what we learned? Today is Wednesday, the middle day of the work week. Do you remember what the readings were for this past Sunday? Or what the priest said in his homily? See how easy it is to get sidetracked?
Daily Mass Readings:
Ephesians 6: 1-9 / Psalm 145 / Luke 13: 22-30