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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 21, 2022

[Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Pearl City (with blessing of new reconciliation room)]

Inclusion and diversity seem to be on everyone’s minds today.  Universities and businesses now often have an “Inclusion and Diversity Department.  This can be a good thing, even for our Church, because it is always good for us to notice who is not with us and to reach out to them.  Do we exclude certain ethnic groups from our activities?  Are our youth participating as robustly in our Church as we say we would like them to?  Do we pay sufficient attention to the elderly and to the middle-aged?  As we hear today’s first reading from Isaiah, it seems that this is what God wants, to bring all the nations to him and to open all hearts to come and worship him.  It is God’s desire to save all people in Jesus Christ.

By contrast, we have Jesus – who is usually so inclusive in all he does – teaching us that we must enter through the narrow gate.  He makes clear that, in the end, there will be those who are admitted to his heavenly kingdom and those who are excluded because he does not truly know them.  Yes, there are protests that he should know them, because they “ate and drank in his company,” but he seems to demand something more than mere presence with him.  He admits to his kingdom those who make the effort to truly come to know him and be known by him.

So it is important that we look at ourselves to see whether we are on the wide road, the bandwagon that everyone seems to jump on, or whether we take the narrow path that leads to life.

I think this applies to evangelization.  We Catholics are notorious for thinking that if we just lead good lives, others will know that it is because we are followers of Jesus.  Even though Jesus was very clear that he expects all his disciples to go out and tell the Good News of his love, we often try to live the Good News for ourselves but keep it to ourselves.  It is time for us to look at the narrow gate in which we take the risk of actually talking to our relatives and friends about Jesus and our relationship with him.  Here we must be careful we do not jump on the bandwagon of touting our wonderful parish, its beautiful people, its devoted clergy, its inspiring music, or its many programs without mentioning that we do all these things, and they all should be focused on knowing and loving the living person of Jesus Christ.  If we only speak of the trappings of our faith, they will inevitably fail.  The clergy may disappoint, the music may occasionally be off-key, the people may be difficult and unwelcoming.  But Jesus will still be here in our midst in his Word and sacrament.  The narrow way is to focus on Jesus, to speak of him, and that means we first have to invest the time in coming to know him ourselves if we are going to proclaim his saving love to others.

Another wide-open door is the door of sin in its many forms.  We can go along with the crowd when chastity is put down as old-fashioned, or when abortion is so readily accepted.  We can try to enter through the wide door of gossip, or wander into the wide-open range of vengeance and cultivated anger.  If we are going to enter the narrow door of virtue, we need to admit that we are sinners and to open ourselves to the mercy of Jesus.  That is why we will be blessing a new reconciliation room or confessional today.  It is indeed a narrow gate, because few take advantage these days of this incredible sacrament of Penance, of renewal, and of mercy.  It is easier to go through the wide door of excuses or procrastination than it is to actually come, kneel before the Lord, confess our sins in repentance, and be freed with the absolution administered by the priest, who acts in the person of Christ himself.  The more we put off admitting our sinfulness and asking pardon, the wider becomes the road to simply accepting sin as a normal part of life.

Yes, it is true that the Lord longs to save all, to welcome everyone into his kingdom.  But it is also true that he leaves the ultimate choice to us and our free will.  It is very easy to think we are welcome, but he makes it clear that we must enter his kingdom through the narrow gate.  It is the Holy Spirit of his love who always prods us through and scales down our big heads so that they will fit through the narrow gate of the wonderful kingdom of God.