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08/21/16 Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

Many Jews at the time of Jesus thought that salvation was based on external factors, like race and ritual. Many Jews, in fact, believed that only Jews could actually live in communion with God. The non-Jewish peoples, so they thought, were destined to be second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Others believed that you not only needed to be of the Jewish race to win God's favor, but you also had to follow even the most minute details of the Law of Moses, as well as the many ritual practices that had grown up around that Law.

Jesus takes the opportunity of this question, about whether or not many people will be saved, to correct those wrong ideas. He explains that in God's Kingdom there will be people from all four corners of the earth - just as Isaiah had prophesied, and as we heard in the First Reading. So race had nothing to do with it. He also explains that many who "ate and drank" with the Lord - in other words, many who followed all the many external rituals that governed Jewish eating and drinking at the time - will be excluded from God's Kingdom. So exterior rituals aren't the ticket either.

But if race and ritual aren't the keys to salvation, what is?

It's the heart. 

Salvation doesn't depend primarily on external appearances, but on friendship with Christ, and that's rooted in our hearts. The people in his parable who were excluded from the heavenly banquet complained that the Lord had actually taught in their streets. But the Lord answers by telling them, "I do not know where you are from." In other words, they are strangers to him.

Maybe they did let him into their streets, but they never let him into their hearts.


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