Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Is 66:18-21
Responsorial Psalm: 117:1,2
Second reading: Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel: Lk 13:22-30
By Jem Sullivan
When a neighbor announced she planned to run a marathon, her motivation impressed us all. Even more remarkable was the transformation of her daily life as she prepared to achieve her goal.
In the months leading to the marathon, she kept to a rigorous running schedule, made changes to her diet, ensured she got plenty of rest, and fought through the physical aches and pains that come with an intense training routine.
Without the discipline required of marathon runners, she could not have accomplished her goal. On race day, she beamed with a sense of accomplishment while noting that every step of the rigorous discipline she had followed for many months was worth the satisfaction of completing the race.
If we desire to grow in the spiritual life, then spiritual discipline is a necessary part of the journey of faith. Jesus points to this truth when he speaks of striving to enter through the narrow gate.
However, in hearing Jesus’ words, we might conclude that the Christian life is an unrealistic and restrictive burden that few live up to. Jesus’ words point to a much deeper reality.
For Jesus is inviting us to the discipline of discipleship that strengthens us to complete the race that opens the door to eternal life with God. We were created for this eternal union and our spiritual discipline is the path to get there.
Spiritual discipline is never easy. Yet it is the only path that leads to inner peace and dependence on God in all circumstances of life. And so the author of the Letter to Hebrews reminds us of a truth we know well: “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
So what are some spiritual paths the church offers to those who strive to enter through the narrow gate? The discipline of making time for God in the midst of a busy day is a first step.
Then turning to Scripture in silent, prayerful reflection guides us on the path of letting God speak divine wisdom into the events, joys and challenges of life.
Pray for, and expect in faith, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who shapes our thoughts, words and actions to God’s will. And participate in the church’s sacramental life by which Jesus continues his saving and healing presence in our lives.
The Gospel begins by telling us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem when he answers the poignant question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
Jesus is on a journey that will lead eventually to his passion, death and resurrection, by which we are saved. For the grace to persevere on our spiritual journeys through the narrow gate we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How do you strive to enter the narrow gate of the Christian life?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.