Homily 21st Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 66:18-21; Ps 117:1-2; Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 and Luke 13:22-30
Christ, for Nations of Every Language
During the summer as you all know I led pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes, and other Holy Places in Paris and Rome. It was a wonderful spiritual experience. The group was universal in nature: 4 from Australia, 3 from Chicago, 4 from Iowa, 3 from Seattle, 2 from Milwaukee here, many others from New York Area and Los Angeles. Quite a universal group!
This image of universality is reflected in today’s scripture passages: universal salvation, a universal church, a universal kingdom. And to get to this kingdom requires prayers, hard work, perseverance and discipline.
Isaiah 66, (Third Isaiah) addresses the image of God who loves everyone, to a group of Israel returning from exile to a new Zion. The returnees have their own problem: brokenness, divisions, injustices, power struggle, and clashes with those who never went on the exile in the first place. There are also some situation of despair and hopelessness, like any given human society. Should those wives married in foreign lands be sent away or not!
Isaiah says, “I come to gather nations of every language, they shall come and see my glory” the glory of the Lord (Isa 66:18).
The Church of the new Zion will be Global and universal in nature as the Glory of the Lord attracts all nations of every language and culture. The Gospel will be proclaimed to every nation by the remnant, which is us (v.19). And “they shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all nations.” The Church will continue to strive to be holy, inclusive in nature and Levites and priests will come from every nation.
These we are already experiencing. Think of how Masses are said in different languages all over the world. During these Masses, especially on Sundays’ same readings are read and similar sharing of the bread and blood and the word of God are broken and shared according to various needs of every culture. Again think of the many priests and missionaries we have serving in our countries, in the Vatican. They are from different cultures and nations. And they speak and preach their sermons and homilies in different languages.
In fact, in these diversities, the central message, the central truth according to the today’s Gospel parable (Luke 13:22-30) is the same, namely; the Kingdom of God. Jesus keeps reminding us he came to establish his kingdom, the kingdom of God. In this kingdom in which Jesus has compared to number of things: the smallest seed that can grow into a big tree, it is a leaven in a loaf of bread, hidden, but enables the bread to rise and it has a narrow gate. It is full of surprises. Those you don’t expect may be first in that kingdom while those you expected to be first might come last. Above all still, “all people will come from the east and the west and from the north to the south and recline at table in this kingdom of God.”
What this implies is that there is a new way to live in relationship with God and with our neighbors. Accepting to love as Christ loved. Accepting to forgive as Christ forgave is a lot of work. This is the “narrow gate.” This is where the discipline that the second reading, the Letter to the Hebrews talks about, when it says, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him, for whom the Lord loves he disciplines, he scourges every son (“and daughters”) he acknowledges. Endure your trials as discipline” (Heb 12:5-7, 11-13).
Accepting to reach out universally to every nation with the Good news of Christ takes courage, and requires endurance. And to even believe that God loves you wherever you are seated, or live requires great faith. It is a lot of work. This is the metaphorical narrow gate.
So we pray at this worship that our broken world and divided society today may continue to work hard and strive to enter through the narrow gates of charity, forgiveness, and kindness, constant prayers and always realize the universal nature of God’s love and blessings upon each and every one of us, since Christ came specifically “to gather nations of every language and culture” to the Glory of his Kingdom.