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Salvation and rejection

Gospel Reading: Lk 13:22-30
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’

Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And 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. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Sometimes, when confronted with obstacles, we ask, “Where is God when I need him? Why has he forsaken me?” We forget the big truth that who we are now and what we are facing are merely products of how we have responded to God’s grace.

“I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory” (v 18). These words uttered by Isaiah on behalf of God remind us that in the hierarchy of grace, it is God who takes the initiative. God “comes” and “gathers” us first, before we can “come” and “see.” Such is the reality of grace that even the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as a favor.

Grace is “the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call” to become his children (cf n 1996). Today’s readings set the conditions where we can truly experience this initiative of God. First, Luke’s Gospel intimates that our “vocation to eternal life” (CCC n 1998) is offered to everyone, regardless of race, religion, sex, and age.

This is contrary to what the Jewish community believes and practices. Jews do not eat with Gentiles in their belief that they are the exclusive beneficiaries of the salvation God has promised. But Jesus makes this belief – “We ate and drank in your company…” – as a wanton reasoning on their elitist desire for eternity. All people “from the east and the west and from the north and the south” are offered this possibility of grace. God desires that everyone “will recline at table” in his Kingdom. In this sense, the Gospel points out that being a baptized Catholic and bearing that identity everywhere do not guarantee salvation.

Grace is a gift, yes, but it is also a task. As much as salvation is offered to everyone, we are all admonished to receive it and struggle to make it our own. Second, grace can be experienced even in one’s darkest hours. The Second Reading urges us to persevere in order to reap the fruits of God’s grace. It teaches us that although God does not cause man to suffer, God allows man to live through the mud and muck of life for man’s own good.

The Letter to the Hebrews refers to this encounter as the “discipline of the Lord” (v 5) since God “does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness” (12:10). In both conditions, it is God who makes the first move. God offers the possibility of salvation to everyone, even if we are facing humongous trials and pitfalls. Never have the words of a famed German art historian, Amy Warburg, been so true: “Der liebe Gott steckt im Detail!” The kind God is in the details!

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.