Homily for August 21

Christ at the Door of Heaven by Elizabeth Wang

Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

I remember from my youth being taught in Sunday School
that the Catholic Church was the one true church
and the way to heaven.

I don't think I was precociously theological as a child
I do remember this teaching causing me some difficulty.
You see, I grew up on a block where there were three children,
my sister, myself and our friend Lewis.

Lewis and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Spates, didn't go to St. Mary's,
the Catholic church in Danvers:
they belonged to the Maple Street Congregational Church,
the big Protestant church in the center of town.

I was worried that although Lewis and his folks
were good Christian people,
their not being Catholic might mean
we wouldn't all meet one day in heaven.

As I mentioned, I wasn't precocious so I brought this problem
to someone I knew would have a solution - my mother -
and I asked her where non-Catholic Lewis and his parents
would be spending eternity.

And I was right - she had the answer!
She told me,
"Well the Spates family are very good people
so I'm sure God will find a way for them to go to heaven, too."

My mother's answer satisfied me then and it satisfies me now
because her intuition was, in fact,
what the Catholic Church teaches when it asserts that
"the Spirit of Christ does not refrain 
from using (separated churches and ecclesial communities)
as instruments of salvation..."

Does the Catholic Church teach, then, that it doesn't matter
what church you belong to?
No, it does not teach that.
It teaches that ours is the Church founded by Jesus
and that the fullness of Christ and his truth and grace
rest, or subsist, in the Catholic faith - even if
"the Spirit of Christ does not refrain
from using other faith communities as instruments of salvation."

The Catholic Church is not shy about saying and teaching
that it gets some things right that other churches get wrong.
And guess what - that’s just how those
“separated churches and other ecclesial communities” think, too!
They think that they’re right about some things
and that we Catholics are wrong about those same things.
Are they reticent to claim that? Not at all.
They became separated churches by protesting
that the Catholic Church was in error.

Do these differences matter?
Yes, they do!
If they didn’t matter, we’d all still be one Church.
The differences matter enough that tragically
groups within the Body of Christ have split off, one from another.
Christendom is a divided kingdom and that is a scandal.
It is a scandal that disciples of Jesus have failed in his desire
that we all be one as he and his Father are one.

The scriptures today get at the question of who will be saved
and give us several answers.

Isaiah envisions God’s people being gathered together
to make one offering of worship to the one God,
in Jerusalem.

Jesus echoes this when he says,
“People will come from the east and the west  
and from the north and the south  
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

But he also says that the door into the banquet hall of heaven
is a narrow one.
What’s it to be, then?
Will only a few be saved by squeezing through the narrow door?
Or will the banquet hall be immense and the table so long
as to accommodate all God’s people?

Here’s the answer:
the hall is big enough and the table long enough
to seat every man, woman and child ever created by God.

The door is narrow but remember:
the narrow door is only an image.

The narrow door is not a door but rather, an image of a person
- and the person is Jesus.

We will enter heaven through our relationship with Christ -or-
for those who have never known Christ:
through lives lived sincerely in love and justice,
such that they will immediately recognize Christ
not only as the door to life eternal
but also as the perfect mirror
of all that was good and true in their lives.

The question, then, is not so much,
“How many will be saved?” or “How narrow is the door?”
The question is much more
“Will I recognize Christ, when I stand before him?
Will my life and how I lived it, will my faithfulness to Jesus
and my fidelity to his goodness, truth and justice)
enable me to recognize the One
who can open the door for me?”

The door to heaven, through which ALL are invited to pass
opens to those whose lives mirror
the self-giving life and love of Christ,
to all who learned in this life
to love God and serve the neighbor.

Christ gave us the altar of his sacrifice, the Cross,
and this table of his sacrament, the Eucharist,
that we might “rehearse” even now
for taking a place at his table n the kingdom of heaven.

Christ is the door.
Christ is the altar; Christ is the sacrifice.
Christ is the table; Christ is the supper.
Christ is the server; Christ is the food.

If you recognize him here, come and share even now
in the banquet he has prepared for us - and for all.


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