Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Abundance of the Narrow Way - Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, August 26, 2007

August 26, 2007 Year C

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time/13th Sunday After Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings 

By Dennis Hankins

Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117:1-2

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Theme: The Abundance of the Narrow Way

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. (Hebrews 12:11)

God's discipline of Israel in scattering them among the nations is a work of mercy.  And this mercy not only works to the good of Israel but for the nations among whom they wandered.  So much so that the Gentiles embrace the God of Israel and together with the Israelites return to the mountain of the Lord, a phrase denoting worship in spirit and in truth.  

It is interesting to see how the first reading with the Epistle and Gospel unites to frame a picture of the glory of discipline, that is, how God treats us as sons.  This is a kinship that should give us pause.  Not only because he loves us but also because he loves those who share in our life as friend or as father or mother or son or daughter.  Consequently, for the sake of our families, indeed for the life of the world we should not lightly regard the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when he reproves us. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son he receives. And oh how he loves you and me.  So much so that if we will let His Spirit blow in our hearts every where he desires, our confessions will be fuller, more probing and revealing of the deceptiveness of sin and its pleasure so called. Our parents disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure.  But the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life disciplines us for our good.  To such goodness we must bear witness, creating in our places of responsibility a culture of life.

The strictures that make us better sons and daughters of God is discipline for our good and that we may share His holiness.  Sharing His holiness is what St. Peter describes as 'partaking of the divine nature.'  And the way to this redeeming fellowship within the Holy Trinity is through a door Jesus described as narrow.  Not wide thus allowing every undisciplined thought and manner.  But narrow.  A narrowness that brings us to what Jesus introduced as life and that more abundantly.  

This discipline of the Father is in contrast to those who are not sons, that is, undisciplined.  Undisciplined is a spiritual condition only remedied by humbling oneself under the gracious hand of the Father.  And those under the Father's merciful hand are the inspiration and the protagonist's of sonship among those not yet in the family of the Father.  

The results and fruit of life in the fast and wide lane are all about us.  This way is always inviting and pleasurable but never peaceful.  It is anti-climatic and chaotic, strewn with broken dreams, broken lives, broken promises.  Look into the sunken eyes of a prescription drug addict or empty heart of a porn gazer and you immediately know that the wide door, the broad way is filled with death and more death.  But the narrow way, the narrow door, the path of all discipline, while not immediately pleasurable, results in the peaceful fruit of righteousness, to those who have been trained by it.  

A worldwide gathering of the elect from every corner of earth is in the making.  Along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we will sit at table in the kingdom of God.  The abundance of the Father will culminate in everlasting joy for those who take the time and discipline to find the treasure hidden in the field.  

May we not succumb to the spirit of the age that blinds the undisciplined minds of those who do not believe.  Today, when you receive the body and blood of the Lord, be drawn to the beauty and fullness of the narrow way.  Let His life feed you till an appetite for sin holds no more power over you.  Indeed the table is narrow but filled with all of the abundance of life and that more abundantly.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you do not call me to an undisciplined chaotic way of life.  Help me to not ignore the narrow door that leads to abundant life.  You are that door. You have declared to the world " I am the Way,"  " I am the Door." It is through you and with you precious Jesus I hope to walk more willingly, more lovingly, more faithfully; so much so until my heart is completely formed in the likeness of your holiness.  Amen. 

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