Sunday Sermon for August 21, 2016, the Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk 13:22-30
In the first reading today God says through the Prophet Isaiah that He is going to send people to the various nations who have never heard of the Lord or seen His glory. These people will bring many to the Lord; some of those who come from foreign countries would be chosen by God to be priests. All of this is astounding, but to the Jewish reader it must have seemed truly unbelievable. Since only those born of the family of Aaron could be priests among the Jewish people, how is it that a pagan could be a priest of God? Of course, we understand the answer to that question in the light of our Lord, but we each have to ask whether or not we are being good representatives of God, showing His glory to others.
We have in our day a few problems that cause the glory of God to be hidden. It is like we put a bushel basket over the light of Christ so that it is not diffused to all around. How have we done this? First of all, by trivializing God. We all know that there is a God and that we are dependent on Him, but He is not really the center of our lives. Our decisions are not based on prayer to determine His holy will, our conversations are not about things that edify, when God is mentioned it is most often only because His Name was used in vain. We live like we do not need God or we only need Him when we are in trouble. On the flip side of that, there are those who treat the Lord like a vending machine: we said a prayer for what we want and it should be given how and when we asked.
Another way that we have failed to show the glory of God is by refusing to accept His discipline. St. Paul addresses our disposition to the struggles in life in the second reading where he tells us not to disdain the discipline of the Lord. St. Paul reminds us that these things are allowed because the Lord loves us. Our first failure in this is that we do not recognize it as love; in fact, we most often do not even see it as good. For this reason, we get angry at God, we speak negatively about Him, and we misconstrue what He is doing in our lives.
St. Paul tells us that God is treating us as sons. He says that a father who loves his son disciplines the son. The non-Catholic view of suffering is that it is a punishment. It is true that some discipline is meted out as a punishment, but any good parent knows that discipline is required to teach virtue, not merely to punish violations of propriety. For instance, children have to be given chores to do, they have to be made to do their school work, they have to be taught manners, they have to be told “no” when they are asking for something that would not be for their good. None of these things are punishments because the child did something offensive; they are discipline to teach the child to do what is right and to understand that they cannot just do or obtain whatever they want.
Sadly, we live in a day and age when parents are not disciplining their children in much of anything. The parents are more interested in being friends with their children rather than being parents. They do not say “no” because they do not want the child to hate them. They seem to think that they can buy the child’s love through constant gifts and giving in to the whims of the child. They do not realize that the child will love and respect them more and at a much deeper level if they would demonstrate their love in a way that is strong and constant.
Unfortunately, we have foisted these bad parenting ideas onto God. We want Him to be our buddy. We want Him to give us what we want. We think it is abuse if He says “no” to our requests. We fail to see that He is trying to purify us and make us holy. Jesus told us in the Gospel today that we are to strive to enter through the narrow way. We, today, have the false idea that because God loves everyone, everyone goes to Heaven. That is not what Jesus teaches, nor does the Church. We will show the glory of God only when God is the center of our lives, when we present the truth about God, we act in charity, and when we are growing in holiness. Are you able to fit through this narrow way?
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.