I’m in Riverton this weekend for a formal visitation to St. Margaret parish. There is nothing like being with the People of God, listening to their lived experience of being Church, celebrating the sacraments and preaching the Word of God. These realities all come together for greater clarity regarding my role as bishop, and our common work in fulfilling the mission of the Church.
The readings this weekend make two things clear. First, the Prophet Isaiah gives expression to God’s desire to gather the nations of every language. He will send his messengers to all the nations to proclaim his glory. (Isaiah 66:18-21) Second, Jesus when asked “will only a few be saved?” responds that we are to try to enter through the narrow gate. He also says that “many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
This should serve as both encouragement and warning. It is comforting to know that God wishes to gather us, people of all lands, religions, languages into the one family of God. It is heart warming to know that God’s will is that we grow in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) To accomplish his Fatherly will, God sent his only Son to be our savior.
Jesus tells us that he is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) Jesus challenges us today to see Him as the ‘narrow gate’ by which we are to enter the Kingdom. He tells us this in simple language in John’s Gospel: “I am the sheepgate.” (John 10:7)
We are to be wise in hearing the truth from Jesus, and careful in discerning the false message of our time that wants to limit God’s message to the first half, namely that God wants to gather all into the his family. Today’s false message tells us that we can do whatever we wish as long as we do not hurt anyone, and God’s love and mercy will take care of the rest.
If we look a little further at Paul’s instruction from 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that tells us “God’s will is that we be holy,” it continues immediately: “avoid immorality.” The second reading this weekend from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that God admonishes those whom he loves.” The Book of Judith tells us the same thing: “It is by way of admonition that he [God] chastises those who are close to him.” (Judith 8:27)
Jesus in his own words today tells us it is not enough to be saved that we know him. It is insufficient to simply claim that he taught in our streets. His words to such pleas in the Gospel today: “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” (Luke 13:27)
The message is very clear. God has done, is doing, and will continue to do everything possible for our salvation, including honoring the free will he gives each of us. To those of us who know Christ and have heard his teaching, “much has been given, and much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) We are to freely live our faith in Christ. We are to put this faith into action by loving our neighbor. ( Matthew 22:39)
The mission of the Church is threefold: 1) proclaiming the WORD, 2) administering the sacraments, and 3) exercising charity. Jesus is the Living WORD of God. Jesus gives us his life and nourishes his life within us through the sacraments. We carry Christ to others through our concrete acts of love for our neighbor.
This is who we claim to be as Catholic Christians. Our faithful presence in the church each week stirs and strengthens this life of Christ within us. We are then sent forth, as the Prophet Isaiah expresses today, to glorify the LORD by our lives. Let us live our life for Christ. May our life lead others to Christ, his Church, and his Kingdom.