HOMILY WEEK 30 03 – Year I
Humble Faith, Lively Hope and Genuine Love
(Rm 8:26-30; Ps 13; Lk 13:22-30)
Two questions arise out of the readings today for us to consider: one, do we really believe St. Paul when he claims that “all things work together for good for those who love God”? and two, do we understand what Jesus is saying when he advises us to “strive to enter through the narrow door?”
The response lies within the message that we are to live lives of humble faith, lively hope and genuine love.
The “narrow door” mentioned by Jesus, when seen in the context of the whole passage, strikes me as symbolizing two realities: humility and agape love as key kingdom values. Humility has been described as a foundational virtue undergirding all the rest. It also serves as a foundation for the 12 Step program of A.A., especially in Step One which reads, “Admitted I was powerless over ….” God cannot work in a proud person’s heart, which becomes like a rock. But when that rock is crushed into the grey powder one uses to make concrete, amazing edifices can be built. What God wants is not our strength or perfection, but our weaknesses and imperfection, which can mix with God’s power and transformation can take place. As the Lord told St. Paul, “My strength is at its best in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, humility makes up part of that narrow door.
The people whom the Lord does not recognize in the passage are those who did not recognize, love or care for Christ in the poor – who did not live out the teachings of Matthew 25 – to care for the sick, visit prisoners, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty. In other words, those who for probably self-centered and selfish reasons were too busy to perform the corporal works of mercy which in that passage, seem to be the main criteria for entering the kingdom of God. As Ron Rolheiser OMI sometimes puts it, “No one gets into the kingdom of heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.” So, genuine charity and agape love makes up another part of that narrow door.
Psalm 13 reminds us that even when those who may by their words, actions and attitudes seem to prevail over us and leave us feeling shaken, we still have reason to hope because our faith is in a victorious God who loves us and is kind to us.
For his part, St. Paul focuses on faith – faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who as he puts it, “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” We are to have faith in our loving God who calls us, who offers us an eternal future with him (predestines us), who justifies us (forgives and heals us in Jesus) and who will share eternal life with us (glorify us). The good news is in that process, God will use everything that happens to us, the good, the bad and the ugly, to mold us and shape us into the person God wants us to be.
This touches on redemptive suffering. There are some lessons in life we will learn only through suffering. Suffering can make us bitter, or better. It is meant, with faith, to make us better. Think back over your own life and you will have to admit it was not the easy, successful or good times that made you a deeper person and formed your character. It was the challenges, the set-backs, the obstacles, the failures, the obstacles you had to overcome, in yourself, your family, your circle, your world that truly shaped, molded, mellowed you and led you to sink deeper roots of faith, perseverance, compassion and patience.
Ron’s narcissistic wife left him after she realized her dreams of a big house and car were not a priority for him. He also works in a toxic environment with bosses who are not just narcissistic but also master manipulators. He is torn apart by the fact that the children he loves deeply are not with him every second week, so much so that he has trouble sleeping without them in the house. He grew up in a dysfunctional family and survived by becoming very codependent and a people-pleaser to the extreme, almost losing his True Self in the process.
His redeeming quality is he is humble, has deep faith, keeps on hoping things will work out, and trying to love himself, his children and others to the best of his ability. He is praying like he never did before, reading helpful literature, seeing a counselor, has a spiritual director, has become part of a men’s movement, has taken a course on codependency, eats healthy foods, exercises well, journals regularly, expresses his emotions through poetry, and has again taken up some of the hobbies he had given up in the futile attempt to please his ex-partner (I am convinced their marriage was invalid, as she never really committed to it or did anything to help make it work).
I can’t help but think God is allowing him to be put through a crucible to teach him some deep lessons about life which will lead him to become a wise “sanyassin” or elder, able to share his wisdom with others – perhaps through a book he will author. Surely, although to him it may not look or feel like it, God is making all things work together for good for him, who loves God.”
Perhaps another way of wording the message from these readings today is we are called to be rooted in faith, living in hope and growing in love – the themes the Oblate parish in St. Albert chose for their anniversary year.
The Eucharist is an act of deep faith, a profound expression of hope, and an experience of God’s unconditional love through his Son. May our celebration empower us to live out these readings – to precisely ground us in faith, deepen our hope and strengthen our love for God, all others, ourselves and all of God’s creation.