Lydia Cristini


Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 21, 2016
Isaiah 66.18-21 | Psalm 117 | Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13 | Luke 13.22-30
August 15, 2016

Holiness is hard. Sometimes, Christians can get carried away with the "warm fuzzies" of the Gospel message. I do not mean to belittle the messages about love and forgiveness and joy and blessings from the Bible; they are important and truthful messages.

However, they are not the only themes the Holy Spirit has given through the authors of Scripture.

The health-and-wealth Gospel is a tempting way to read the Bible: If you believe in God enough and are faithful to him, God will bless you. You will not get sick, and you will prosper.

Who doesn't want to believe that? However, what happens if you do get sick, or if you're not rich? Is it your own fault? Are you not holy enough? Did you not pray with enough faith? What about suffering? What about the cross? What about discipline?

The Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts. - Hebrews 12.6

'The Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.'

Hebrews 12.6

Today's Second Reading reminds us that discipline is necessary to being a child of God. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says discipline, though painful, bears the "peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Further, the author says discipline is necessary for healing. Without discipline, our disjointed feet continue to be lame because of the crooked paths on which we walk.

The Gospel, meanwhile, presents a message Christians do not generally focus on. Jesus says we cannot be sure we have earned a place in his kingdom by spending time with him.

However, he also says people from far and wide will be allowed to enter the kingdom. He sums it up by saying, "Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

These messages are a good reminder of the relationship between foolishness and wisdom; and of God's mind and the human mind. Though we are created in the image of God, we are not God. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3, our wisdom is foolishness to God.

Most people do not enjoy the painful experience of discipline or suffering, but it can be a source of healing and salvation, and it is a sign of God's love for us.

Many who think they have a guaranteed place in heaven because of their pious activities will not be strong enough to enter through the narrow gate; but many others, who appear to be low on the ladder, will be welcomed into eternal joy. This seems to contradict human logic.

However, this jubilee year reminds us these messages also need to be put into the context of God's infinite mercy. God's children should devote themselves to living out the teachings of Christ, and to accept and practise discipline.

Nevertheless, salvation does not depend on us. The assurance of God's mercy means when we do our best and still fall short, we can trust that God will complete the good work he began in us and will unite us to himself through his grace.