Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Shawn Hughes


Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.
Father Shawn

Tough Scriptures today. This is one of those Scriptures when I say, the Gospel of the Lord, the good news of the Lord, and you say Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, I have to wonder do you really mean it. The Scriptures are very challenging today.

“Lord, will only a few be saved?” Jesus says that the door is narrow: “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many I tell you, will try to enter but will not be able”. (Luke 13:24-25)

The thought always crosses my mind when I am preparing a homily on this gospel that I should somehow barricade the doors and make it very difficult to enter for Mass. I wonder how many would persevere until they finally got in or would some give up and head home or move on to their next stop?

For some reason this gospel also always brings to mind something my home pastor said in a homily when I was just 10 years old. It was such a powerful image and so profound it has stuck with me over all these years. He said: “If Catholics truly believed in what the Church teaches about the Eucharist; that the substance of bread and wine is transformed into Jesus’ Body and Blood, that in the Eucharist Jesus is really present body, mind, soul and divinity… He said if we truly believed this, we would crawl over crushed glass to get to Mass every Sunday…I’ll never forget that comment…we would crawl over crushed glass to get to Mass every Sunday.

A similar thought occurred last Monday…at daily Mass we had the gospel of the rich young man who asked Jesus the most important of questions…what must he do to gain eternal life? It is the same as the prayer that we prayed in the Opening Prayer… “that, amid the uncertainties of this world, may our hearts be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.” Jesus simply answered he must keep the commandments and not be attached to his possessions. He had kept the commandments his whole life but he was very attached to what he had…the gospel says he went away very sad. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

The question of the image of the narrow door is: What do we truly treasure?

Sometimes we ask for or desire something without really considering the conditions necessary to obtain it. We understand that most things cannot be obtained for free; we have to work hard for any successes in this life …yet, in the spiritual life, we quickly forget this. What the rich young man asks for is the most valuable, the greatest possible achievement, “Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”… but he thinks to get it will be easy. The fact that we could want something, but not want to do what is necessary to attain it, should raise a question: Do we really want it?

This is the narrow door of today’s gospel. Do we really want to get to heaven? I think every single one of us would immediately answer yes! Do we want to do what is necessary to attain it? This is the narrow door of today’s gospel.

I have been very taken by an article that was sent to me recently. It is a talk that Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, gave at the end of June in Paris a couple of days following his visit to the ruins of the burned out Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.

Cardinal Sarah says that the burned out cathedral is a good image of the state of the Church in the West. The collapsed spire, he said, which once directed our gaze and our hearts toward God, has collapsed and like society we now gaze upon ourselves rather than heavenward.

He points to three things that we must do, to restore “the cathedral”… the whole Church…three things we must do to restore our heavenly gaze. This is his definition of the narrow door. The three things we must consider.
i) Adoration
ii) The teaching and study of the faith
iii) the examples of the saints.

Primarily Cardinal Sarah says we must do…to enter through the narrow door…is Adoration…I quote Cardinal Sarah who says: “I tell you without hesitation: You want to rebuild the Church? Then we must get on our knees! You want to rebuild this beautiful cathedral that is the Catholic Church? Get on your knees! A cathedral is first of all a place where people can kneel; a cathedral is where God is present in the Most Holy Sacrament. The most urgent task is to recover a sense of adoration! The loss of a sense of adoration of God is the source of all the fires and crises that are rocking the world and the Church.”

The Lord is here in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we acknowledge his presence with a devout genuflection? Do we reverence Him when we receive Him in Holy Communion? Do we make a point of stopping in for a visit when we pass by the cathedral…Do we spend some extended time in St. James’ Chapel with him where he is exposed all day every day?

Cardinal Sarah continues:
“We need adorers! The world is dying because it lacks adorers! The Church is parched for lack of adorers to quench her thirst! We lack people who fall to their knees like Jesus when he addresses his Father and our Father.” He quotes the gospel of Jesus in his Agony in the garden of Gethsemane: “Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed…My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want” (see Lk 22:41; Mt 26:39; Mk 14:35)…all of us have asked many times “let this cup pass from me.” How many times do we pray yet not what I want but what you want, Father?”
“We will not rediscover an understanding of the dignity of the human person unless we recognize the transcendence of God. Mankind is only great and most noble when we fall on our knees before God. The great person is humble and the humble person is on their knees!”

Secondly Cardinal Sarah says we can restore our heavenly gaze/ enter through the narrow door by loving the teachings of the Faith. He
“solemnly calls upon Christians to love the dogmas and articles of faith, to cherish them. Love our catechism! If we accept it with our hearts and not only with our lips,then the formulas of faith let us enter into true communion with God…It is time that the faith became for Christians their most intimate and most valuable treasure.

Remember last week’s gospel…That riveting first line…Jesus said: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already burning!” (Luke 12: 49) Cardinal Sarah exhorts us … “Dear friends, we must burn with love for our faith. We must not dilute it with worldly compromises. We must not falsify it or corrupt it. It is a matter of the salvation of souls, ours and those of our brothers and sisters! The day we no longer burn with love for our faith, the world will be cold, deprived of its most precious good. It is our task to defend and announce the faith!”

This is why, here at St. Mary’s we try to offer programming that deepens our understanding of the faith…So that hearts will burn with love for it. Check them out and prayerfully consider taking one of them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is one of the best books we can own. It encapsulates the teachings of the Church. One can literally sit with it and pray with it, it is so beautifully written. If you don’t already have one you should get one and study it.

Thirdly, Cardinal Sarah points to the example of the saints…the models of virtue that have gone before us…He says let us think especially of those Christians of our own time…“of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who are butchered for the name of Jesus…It is time that the faith became for Christians their most intimate and most valuable treasure.”

In light of Cardinal Sarah’s talk today’s gospel is very challenging…

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ (Luke 13: 24-27)

We need to ask ourselves… do I truly know the Lord? What will he say when I meet him? Personally, I found this gospel very challenging. Imagine after a life of thinking I know the Lord well hearing: “I do not know where you come from.” I have to ask myself…What is the quality of my adoration? What is the quality of my study of and my teaching of the faith? It propels me to strive to know him more and more…to make his teachings and the teachings of his Holy Church more and more part of my daily life.

Cardinal Sarah’s words ring out very strongly. He says:
“Dear friends, we are not called to be mediocre Christians! No, God is calling our whole being, asking for a total gift even to the martyrdom of our body and soul! He is calling us to sanctity…Our very lives need to make God credible. Our communities must put God in the centre. At the centre of our lives, our thoughts, our actions, and our liturgies.”

“The Faith is like a fire, but it has to be burning in order to be transmitted to others. Watch over this sacred fire!”… He concludes his talk with this beautiful image: “When a fire glows in the night, men and women slowly gather around it. This is our hope.”

The door is narrow. But not impassible.

According to Cardinal Sarah three things are necessary: a) getting on our knees in adoration b) understanding and studying the Faith better and c) living lives of true holiness, saintly lives.

The goal is heaven. Again, the Opening Prayer we prayed…“that, amid the uncertainties of this world, may our hearts be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.” The goal is heaven. We would all agree on that. Are we willing to do what is necessary to attain it?