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8/25/19 21st Sunday In Ordinary Time - Deacon Tony

Deacon Tony Conti

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 123

  • In last week’s Gospel we heard Jesus say: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
  • The division that Jesus speaks of does not result from our alienation from others but rather from our determination to follow our hearts and our consciences instead of the crowd... 
  • It’s the division that occurs when we challenge the status quo and ask questions that the world would prefer not to address…
  • It’s the division that results when we take what poet Robert Frost called “the road less travelled” (From “The Road Not Taken.”)
  • When we choose to follow our own path… when we choose the narrow gate that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel… there will inevitably be some who may turn away from us…
  • The narrow gate can sometimes be difficult for us to find…
  • The world constantly bombards us with things that it tells us need our attention… with things that it assures us will bring us happiness… with things that we must attend to immediately
  • The world commands our attention by promoting fear
  • Hate is all too prevalent in our world... and hate is always based in fear...
  • We live in a world dominated by fear
  • And it’s in this environment of fear that we can often lose sight of what’s really important in life and miss the narrow gate time after time
  • Jesus tells in 1st John 4:18 - “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
  • Love is always a choice... When we choose to love we choose to enter through the narrow gate...
  • The gate of tolerance… the gate of understanding... the gate of compassion ... the gate of gratitude... the gate of humility… the gate of mercy
  • The narrow gate leads us to a place where we allow God to judge and accept the fact that we’re not God and that we’re not called to be...
  • We unfortunately often seem to live in an “us and them” world…
  • It’s impossible to live our faith as it’s meant to be lived, while clinging to our differences... 
  • Our differences are irreconcilable only if we allow them to be...
  • Entering through the narrow gate requires us to leave behind those things that hinder us from bringing the kingdom of God into fruition on the earth...
  • Things like ego, selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, and fear...
  • The more we allow these tendencies to grow in our lives, the harder it will be for us to enter through the narrow gate... 
  • In many ways our journey to holiness involves the unlearning of many of the things that the world has taught us...
  • Perhaps this is why we read the following in the Gospel of Luke (18:16) – “Jesus however, called the children to Himself and said, ‘Let the children come to Me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”
  • Little children don’t know how to hate… they don’t know how to discriminate against those who don’t look like them… they don’t know how to not trust
  • These are unfortunately all learned traits from what we often refer to as the “real world…”
  • But is that in fact the real world… or is it just the world that we in our brokenness have created and settled for?
  • How can we call ourselves followers of Jesus if we allow ourselves to be absorbed into an environment of fear and hate and division...
  • God doesn’t need our unsolicited help in making the world right...
  • God simply asks for our cooperation...
  • And our cooperation begins by acknowledging the Divine in every human being... especially in those with whom we may have differences…
  • This is admittedly a tall order, and we won’t always succeed… but this is why we call ourselves Practicing Christians…

We’re all works in progress… and the only way we’ll make progress… is to keep working

  • When through life’s circumstances we’re compelled to face what really matters in life… we’re often forced to re-evaluate our opinions and our positions to determine if they’re really as important as we once thought they were...
  • If we had one week to live...
    • What would matter to us?
    • What would be important?
    • How would we spend our remaining time?
  • Would we spend it focusing on our differences with others, or would we spend it savoring every waking moment with those whom we love and who love us...
  • Would we finally realize how precious this gift of life really is, and try to live our remaining time making peace with those whom we may have had differences with?
  • Would not tolerance, and humility, and compassion grow within us?
  • The closer we come to appreciating what really matters in life...the closer we come to entering through the narrow gate where the kingdom of God is found...
  • This is the gate that we pass by each day we allow ourselves to become absorbed by the world...
  • This is the gate that we avoid when we choose our own self interests over the needs of others
  • This is the gate that beckons us into a new way of seeing... into a new way of thinking... and into a new way of living...
  • We will often miss the mark and fail in our attempts to enter through the narrow gate… but our success isn’t measured in our results… it’s measured in our efforts
  • Finding and choosing to take the narrow gate in our lives will not always be easy, and will inevitably take a toll on us… but failing to make the effort will take an even greater toll on us
  • I’ll close with a quote from Brennan Manning who wrote: “Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded…  We are each and every one of us, insignificant people whom God has called and graced to use in a significant way… On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honorsbut for scars.” (Ruthless Trust; Pg. 48).

 

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