Homily by Dom Alex Echeandía
“Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem.” This is how this passage of the Gospel written by Luke begins. St Luke, here and in the Acts of the Apostles, makes journeying his basic theme. Jesus does not begin his ministry just seated on a chair, waiting for people to come and listen to what he has to say. He is always moving, looking for his friends, and towards his final earthly destiny: Jerusalem. Those who want to listen to what he has to say must follow him in his journey, they must travel. They need to move forward in order to experience what He offers. Jerusalem meant death and Resurrection. Thus the Master is bringing his followers to Jerusalem, the place where they will see His glory. They are moving with Jesus and towards Jesus.
Not just in Luke, but the whole Scriptures relate to movement, from Egypt to the Promised Land; the Chosen People sent away into exile and then back to Jerusalem; the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus, needed to escape into Egypt and then return. In order to follow Jesus and to be saved, we must move: we cannot simply stand still.
In the first reading Isaiah shows us how the Lord comes to gather the nation of every language in order to be witnesses of His glory in Jerusalem. They are invited to move up to find the Living God. To live is to move, from a limited understanding of this earthly world to a transformed and greater world.
This image of moving tells us about ourselves. We cannot just simply be satisfied by what we have done till now. We cannot simply say, I’ve got it, I have done enough. The content of the Scriptures always shakes us out of our comfortable life. God may possess us but we don’t possess God. We cannot count our good deeds and say: “It is enough!” It is what Jesus let’s us know in the Gospel today. We could be surprised by God and hear what people in the story heard: “I do not know where you come from.” They thought they had enough: “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets.” Jesus is challenging us not to imagine that just because we have contact with God by coming to Mass or reading the Scriptures and other ways of meeting the Lord, we are assured of a place in the kingdom. The thing that matters is if we still thirst for God. We cannot go to a banquet if we are already filled and self- satisfied. It is the hungry who go to the banquet.
The problem is that those who think that have the right to be there could well be in a state of shock at the end. Perhaps we don’t possess what it takes to go through the narrow door. People probably think that they have already got the club membership without bothering to apply. Jesus says elsewhere in the Scripture, it is not enough to cry, “Lord, Lord” – we need instead to do the will of the Father. God is calling us to hunger and thirst for him, to desire to see his glory.
The disciples asked Jesus: will there only be a few saved? To hear what they were discussing, one may come to the idea of playing bingo or poker, because nobody is certain of what is going to happen to us. Jesus talks about the first being last and last being first. He seems to be warning us about how misguided our expectations can be. The difference here is that the One who leads the play, so to speak, is not dishonest to us. He is just and repays what we deserve. If we choose other goals, these goals will speak to us then. In spite of our failures and choices, we can also rely on His mercy because His mercy is infinite; however, we cannot stop trying to advance: we cannot simply rest on our laurels and mark time. We just cannot please ourselves with what we think is good and sufficient. We cannot rely on our own merits because what we will finally get is an image full of ourselves. That is the last thing God wants: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
So, to follow Jesus, his teaching and example implies sacrifice, to the point of losing your own life; not just once or twice, but always. The Lord will tell us how to live in the particular circumstances of our lives because He loves us. As the letter to the Hebrews tells us today, “The Lord trains the ones that He loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons.” Suffering is part of that training. We as sons and daughters of God are called to see God’s glory, to move towards him, to hunger and thirst for Him. Doing so, we can come into God’s presence as needy people who know they have nothing to offer but everything to receive. The good news today is that God’s door, though narrow, is still open. The real problem is our own door that does not allow Him to enter. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” Let us allow the Lord to enter into our lives today and let us eat together in this Eucharist.