Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Fan or a Follower

Reflections on the Readings
August 25, 2013 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C

A Fan or a Follower

And some one said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luke 13:23-24)

No Pain, No Gain

A popular work out motto is: "No Pain, No Gain!" It means there are measurable results in muscle tone with appropriate and sustained workouts. Our youngest daughter spent this summer strengthening her core. Ballet and Tap and other dances require that the mid section of the body is firm. If it is not a dancer will wobble and tilt and fall. Heidi's summer training did not stop after the Summer class sessions which also included a one week Intensives Class. Additionally, she entertained us during the TV commercials. Lying on the floor she did for herself and her mid section exercises my mid section hasn't seen since PE class in High School. 

Heidi's commitment has given her an advantage. Did she get sore from all of the effort? The grimace on her face carried a self satisfying expression after workouts. Now back to the Conservatory for her Fall classes her efforts this Summer have not gone unnoticed. 

Exercise is a narrow door. It takes effort and discipline and time to have results. Even walking 30 - 45 minutes three times a week seems achievable until it seems you can't ever find the time to do it! It's a narrow door that never changes. It requires getting serious about lifestyle improvements. 

The Open Door of Salvation

Salvation. Our eternal destiny. The life the Father wants us to have. This also needs our attention. The spirit of the age captures our attention and energy and before you know it, prayer and the Church and all that is important and holy takes second place. Leaving the Love that loved us first causes our love for God and for each other to grow cold. 

All of the teachings of Jesus speak of making our relationship with God a priority. Christ invites us to make first things first. I understand that many think that the best part of waking up is Folger's in your cup. But is it really? Is that the best part of waking up every morning? What if you wake up one day and realize that the first things we need have become second or third or hardly at all and now its a struggle to make it to Church only at Easter and Christmas? 

In today's Gospel the message is that the door to salvation is open. It's open now. But it won't be open forever. Our relationship with Jesus matters. It matters because where we spend eternity matters. It matters because if we only have a cultural relationship with the Church - it goods for business and such things - then we must ask ourselves if we really know Jesus for ourselves. 

Jesus spoke of the kingdom as treasure hidden in a field. Finding that treasure and digging it up and possessing it ourselves is life's highest calling. Growing in the grace that has touched our lives doesn't just happen. We grow in Christ when we do the things that help us to, well, grow in Christ. Just like exercise makes healthy bodies, remaining in communion with the Church, listening to and learning the deep teachings of the Church, and growing in fellowship with one another makes healthy souls.

In the reading from Hebrews today, Paul speaks of the daily trials of life and the discipline the Lord means for us to take from those trials. Every day we are to see through the eyes of faith what the Lord is making of us. There's not a week that goes by that I haven't felt neglected, misunderstood, taken for granted, or wrongly blamed. Such times are painful. But it's supposed to be painful. Only when we allow that pain to do its work, when we press through it and receive such discipline as God's love, will the peaceful fruit of righteousness begin to show in our lives. May God help us to wear the grimace on our face with a satisfying grin of hope that one day we may be all we are meant to become in Christ.

A Casual Acquaintance or an Ardent Lover

The Gospel for today concludes with an important challenge. After Noah and all who were with him entered the Ark, the Lord shut the door. (Genesis 7:16) Much like the door to the Ark was shut, the door to heaven will close. Time will be no more and all who have prepared and made themselves ready will partake of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

In the Gospel before us Jesus speaks about those who bumped into him on the street. Many had casual encounters with Christ. They ate and drank with him and gave him a little time by listening to his talks. But they never committed. They never accepted the deeper opportunity to follow him. Unlike Peter and John and company, who had left everything to follow Jesus, many could not, did not, make knowing Jesus a priority.

Some will say, "But we ate and drank in your presence." Various interpretations of this line include the notion that these are those who ate and drank Christ in the Eucharist, but didn't really know the Christ they consumed. Paul does make the case that we eat and drink judgment to ourselves if we eat and drink Jesus unworthily. 

So what are we to do? We make a simple but fervent prayer in the Holy Spirit asking the Father to make us true lovers and followers of Christ. Because it is not fans of Jesus who make it to heaven, but rather those who have forsaken this world and its spirit to know Christ, and him crucified. Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at:   Visit him at:

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