Aug 21, 2016

21st Sunday In Ordinary Time

Luke 13:22-30

“How many will be saved?” the Lord is asked. What is more important is not how many, but how. Listening carefully to the voice of the Lord in today’s Gospel, we can note that there is a sense of sadness in his voice that many who presume their own salvation is assured, will unfortunately be denied the very salvation they believe they will receive. (cf. St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 9) Although the Holy Scriptures do promise salvation to those who have faith in Christ, nowhere does the Bible promise that we will be protected from self-deception. There is a great difference between making a commitment to Christ and fulfilling that commitment faithfully.

Luke’s Gospel for today makes this point very clear and summarizes Matthew’s Gospel which tells us that "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven. “(Mat. 7: 21.) The Lords also warns us about deceivers who will presume to speak with Christ’s authority. We are reminded that how we respond to the needs of others will also affect our salvation. (cf. Mat. 25 and 26).

To help us, unlike the angels and saints in heaven who have constant, unwavering and unchangeable faith in Christ, we can easily change our mind, decide otherwise, rebel against God or ignore his help. Because we can commit ourselves to Christ one day and ignore him the next, God has given us the gift of time. We do not wait to the last moment or waste time in the present. The gift of time provides us the opportunity to test the strength and durability of our faith against the circumstances of our lives (c.f. Second Reading. Heb 12:5-7, 11-13). This way, we are able to discern what we are truly made of, if we are in fact cooperating with God’s grace and have what it takes to enter into heaven (through the narrow gate) when our lives are spent. (cf. CCC 1344)

Writing towards the end of his life which he knew was near, St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). But St. Paul could not have said this earlier, even in those early days after the dramatic event of his accepting the Lord as his savior. Writing to the Church in Corinth in his early days, looking at the state of his soul he would say, “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore [friends] judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes," (1 Cor. 4:4ff).

Can a Christian who makes a commitment of faith in Christ as their savior, one day be assured of their salvation and the next day loose that assurance? Yes. Even St. Paul tells us so in the Bible saying that, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Even though we may have the will to be saved, remember the words of the prayer that the Lord taught us, “Thy will be done be done”, not “my will”.

In a day and in an age when so many individuals will claim that they are saved and have the personal assurance of heaven, how do we as Catholic Christians respond?

“Am I saved?” It is my hope that I am, and it is that hope that keeps me pressing on towards the goal (Phil. 3:13) with Christ’s Church pointing me in the right direction and strengthening me, as she and no other can, with the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. (Luke 22:19, John 6:52ff, Acts 2:42, 2 Peter 3:13-18). It is my prayer, that now and on that eternal day, it will be not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me. (Gal:2:20)

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