STRIVE TO ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
August 25, 2013

STRIVE TO ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE

The vision spoken of in the first reading is an event that was close to impossible during the Old Testament times. Jews would have nothing to do with gentiles. They were snobbis and definitely self-focused. If you want a 64 dollar word, here it is … they were ethnocentric. They looked at others not just with suspicion, but something stronger, more like disdain.

Be that as it may, the vision speaks about even gentiles and pagans brushing shoulders with the Jews to offer sacrifices to the Lord. It is therefore a heartwarming vision – something we all are looking forward to, something we all dream of, and long for in our lives, here and now.

Even as I write, Christians are suffering in Egypt. The “goyim” – that is, the non-believers, or more precisely those who believe in something else, make the lives of Christians a living hell. On the local scene, too, people are angry, people want justice done, after knowing just how much legislators and government leaders, along with a few private individuals have consistently pillaged and plundered money that rightfully belonged to the people.

But what really angered many, particularly the netizens who got plenty of information from social media, many of whom have lost trust in manipulative mainstream media, was the apparent hemming and hawing and the seeming indecision of the top leaders to do something about it.

The road to corruption is wide open, and the road to redress and retribution is so narrow, in a country where corruption and dishonesty and lack of loyalty are the rules of the game.

The road to everything other than that which leads to gospel liberation is indeed, very broad. It is easy to fall into the trap of all that glitters. Most of the names that surface in the emerging bigger picture are people who once “fought” for freedom and “worked” for justice. But the system, so deeply mired in a culture of impunity has taken the better of many of them.

They soon trodded down the wide open road of traditional politics, or business as usual, where being honorable was tantamount to being crooked, wicked, and greedy.

There, but for the grace of God, go you and I!

But I refuse to give up hope. The recent events show that, the narrow road notwithstanding, there are still people who choose and decide to follow it. The massive indignation of people who feel betrayed once more emerged and only the most dense and most insensitive could remain unaffected.

I would like to hold on to Isaiah’s vision. I would like to revel in Isaiah’s dream. Call me naïve, but faith calls for a certain naivete – that somehow the Lord can write straight with crooked lines, that one day, people who do not see eye to eye will offer the same worship together in the same temple.

I would like to hold on to faith. I would like to hold on, too, to our people’s innate inner strength that comes from an unlimited capacity for joy, even in the midst of pain. This is something that the second reading capitalizes on: “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him.”

But there is work to do. There is something else we all need to do. We need to “go out into all the world and tell the Good News.” And that good news is not the absence of pain, or the absence of trials. It is good news even despite all the challenges and difficulties that beset us as a people.

Nice girls they say finish last. Good boys seldom make it to the top, at least not as fast as one might expect. Cheaters, by cutting corners and edging others out of line, by pushing and shoving, get to the finish line ahead. Smart Alecks definitely make it to Hollywood or Wall Street fast and, brilliant schemers and cheaters definitely get all the breaks and all the perks, as the story of the notorious and much hated Napoles family shows. Who says the road to success is narrow? No, if you have the right connections, enough gall to edge everybody out of the game, by hook or by crook, or if you have deadened the voice of conscience inside you, the road to perdition is wide, and the road to heaven is narrow and dark and difficult.

Courage, little flock! What road are you on? Whose side are you on? This is the basic lesson from today’s liturgy: Strive to enter through the narrow gate. For at the end of it all, is not the proverbial pot of gold, but something infinitely greater that what glitters – life as envisioned by Isaiah! Care to join him in his dream?

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