21st Sunday in OT - August 21, 2022

It is no accident that the words “disciple” and discipline come from the same root in Latin; disciplina meaning “teaching.”  Learning begins with discipline.  We need it when we are tempted to compromise our behavior, or ignore our conscience and do something we shouldn’t, or fail to do something we should.  God’s discipline is given out of love to keep our values strong and our feet on the narrow path.  (Spare the rod, spoil the child.) 

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  We are told, in other words, to keep on the straight and narrow.  Later on in his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus will compare entering God’s kingdom to a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  Sounds like the answer to the question, “Will only a few people be saved,” is an emphatic “Yes.”

But wait, Jesus goes on to say that people are coming from every direction on the earth and they will all make it into the kingdom of God.  This repeats God’s words in Isaiah, “I come to gather nations of every language.”  The Jewish audience were the Chosen People, after all, the ones on that straight and narrow path.  Now they’re told they must yield to Gentiles from those far-off places.  For those who thought they had the inside track to salvation, it would be sobering to hear Jesus say that “Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.”

It is revealing that the same Jesus who warned us about the narrow gate opened his arms wide on the cross to redeem the world.  It is the evidence of God’s mercy, not our ability to stick on the straight and narrow, that determines whether we end up reclining at the table in God’s kingdom.  By all means, we should strive to be a disciple, to aim for the narrow gate.  We are called to focus our strength, our attention, our energy, and our discipleship, on what is truly important.  Discarding whatever distracts us from that focus, that prevents us from concentrating on striving toward the kingdom.  May we keep to the discipline of being a true disciple and resolve to learn from our mistakes.

Love, Peace, Joy,

Fr. Bob

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