August 21, 2022
The first thing/idea that strikes my attention is the question that someone asked Jesus. Maybe it was the Gospel writer or maybe the Gospel writer had heard the question asked many times:
“Lord, will only a few be saved?”
Hmmm, I thought to myself: I went back several Sundays – questions? Jesus’ question last week: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” Jesus’ question the week before: “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge?” Or the week before, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”
The questions are addressed to first century followers of Jesus to answer in their own lives. And they are the same questions for us to answer in our lives today.
What does it mean to be saved? I would put the answer this way? To be saved means to have a purpose for my life, that I live my life praising God and being grateful, serving life and others in my life, being open to and receiving all the blessings that life can give and being generous, being inspired and being led by God in my life, trusting God and his promises.
(Being saved is not a place in the future. Being saved is how we live in the present.)
Why the preoccupation then, about how many would be saved? I believe it has to do perhaps with the impossible expectations that Jewish law and religious practice had created for people to follow. Could it really be done? And the same holds true for doing all the expectations, rules and regulations created by the Catholic Church today.
We can become so spiritually and religiously self-conscious that we have no confidence in our own spiritual lives and their direction.
Someone could have asked Jesus the question, the other way around: “Lord, will everyone be saved?” The possible answer is “yes,” everyone will be saved, because that is God’s wish and goal and God does the saving, not ourselves.
How did we even get into this habit of trying to control God’s mercy and love and promises?
So let me be very clear, dear brothers and sisters, we do not have to do anything to secure our place in heaven. In fact, there is nothing I can do, no amount or collection of graces I can accumulate to be assured of heaven, not even thousands of indulgences. There is no way to buy heaven or secure heaven because it is a grace and gift, a grace and gift, and God is only too willing and ready to give us the gift.
We cannot open the locked door to heaven, only the master of the house can do it. All that language is metaphorical, of course.
At the same time as Jesus says that we don’t have to worry, accumulating prayers and good deeds, the only thing that Jesus says is, to know him, to be his friend, to let God be our good Father – that He and his Father’s love will draw us in the future.
The Catholic Church has inferred that we have to do certain things and live a certain kind of life to be saved, to get to heaven.
But really, what will get us to heaven is God’s desire for us to get there. It all has to do with God’s desire for us to be there, not our efforts to get there.
All we have to do is to be genuine, good, loving, and dedicated to serving life: God desires we live as positively and genuinely as possible. If we concentrated on that style of living and less on our sins or mistakes and selfishness, God will save us despite our worst instincts or actions.
God did not create us as perfect human beings and He has decided to save us anyway.
Jesus says that his Father is calling every human being, from every culture and language group and from every religious belief – “the people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and recline in the Kingdom of God.”
“For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last,” Jesus says. Who is first or who is last is not important. What is important is that we will all be together. A measuring rod does not determine, neither do our expectations or interpretations of what is good or just. It is up to God alone to complete our human nature and to honor us with eternal life. Salvation is free, but we respond to such graciousness with responsibility.
Listen to the Letter to the Hebrews. We are to live disciplined lives. We are not to lose heart. We are to embrace our trials as spiritual training. We are to try to live lives that are just and good. “Make straight paths for your feet,” the letter writes.
Our first reading is a vision for those who are saved, God gathering in the nations.
There together, we will thank God for his patience, his understanding, for leading us in the right direction, for walking with us through this life and accompanying us to the next: We will have trusted God and God will have put his complete trust in us. The work of salvation is God’s work more than what we do.
Something that we might want to think about today is how can we pay more attention to God in our lives, to ask God to help us to live from his heart of love – simply, humbly, effectively.
Then, we won’t have to ask the question of how many will be saved because God invites us all to be saved.
One thought on “18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Heaven is God’s Gift to Us”
I like all your messages, but this one is so good for so many of us to hear. Thank you for your love and insight and for taking the time to do this.