21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Outsiders becoming Insiders
Many Jews at the time of Jesus thought that salvation was based on external factors, like race and ritual. Jesus takes the opportunity of this question, about whether or not many people will be saved, to correct those wrong ideas. He explains that in God's Kingdom there will be people from all four corners of the earth - just as Isaiah had prophesied, and as we heard in the First Reading.
He also explains that many who "ate and drank" with the Lord - in other words, many who followed all the many external rituals that governed Jewish eating and drinking at the time - will be excluded from God's Kingdom. Salvation doesn't depend primarily on external appearances, but on transformative relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The same letter to the Hebrews also says that Christ, Son though he was, learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect he was made the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
By being incorporated into Christ through Baptism a person becomes a child of God: this is the very basis of the Christian life and it should be a source of serenity and peace in every difficulty we meet in the course of life. In view of the mission of the Church / Christ, about which was prophesied in the first reading, the disciple of Christ is advised and admonished in the second reading to strive for spiritual strength and avoid sin. However, we suffer from the effects of original sin and so as we endeavor to live continually in union with God, the divine life into which we were baptized, we can expect that God will paternally educate and correct us like a father who loves his children.
Jesus is the prime image of a disciple. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who endured the cross, for the joy set before Him. Like any athlete putting himself in shape for a contest, the Christian must ready himself by arduous training, the program of which is drawn up by God. Christian life is to be inspired not only by Old Testament men and women of faith, but above all by Jesus, the Architect of Christian faith. Reflection on His suffering should give everyone courage to endure hardship and to continue the struggle for love of God and Neighbor.
And all this leads to peace. Because we are true sons and daughters, God disciplines us as a necessary part of the path to holiness. When the soul is disposed to willingly accept trials the Lord sends or permits, it yields fruit of holiness which fills it with peace.
Disciples of Christ who grow in the love of God and are perfected by His grace and love will increasingly discover that they are able to live peaceably among others. This ‘living in the peace of Christ’ is essential to being free to be humbly obedient to God and in right relationship with others in such a way as to be able to go from inside the family of God to those on the outside and credibly invite them in, giving witness to the truth of God not known or rightly understood.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews uses the term “discipline” less in terms of punishment for doing wrong and more as the educational upbringing of a child by a parent, of pupil by teacher. In ancient times education and instruction always involved the idea of punishment. The second reading reminded us that discipline (or training) seems hard at the time, yet later it brings the peaceful fruits of righteousness, as we become more and more like Christ. God, therefore, as a good father brings up his children in an affectionate yet firm way. Adversity and suffering are a sign that this divine teaching method is at work: God uses them to educate us and discipline us.
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Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.