21st Sunday Year C - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2013

I remember, years ago, a parishioner telling me about his once-in-a-lifetime trip to the United States.  The highlight for him was the couple of days he spent in Disneyland.  For me Disneyland would be totally mind-numbing.  I am not sure that any of the tourist spots in the U.S. would attract me all that much.  I would be more interested in doing a course with Richard Rohr at the Centre for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico  – which prospect, for many others, I suspect, would be hopelessly boring. 

Will only a few be saved?  What does “being saved” mean? Getting to heaven?  But, depending on what it is, for some heaven might turn out to be totally boring; and as for “forever and ever” – that’s scary.  When you think about it, “eternal rest” may not be much better!  How about “infinite happiness”? 

What makes for lasting happiness? location? company? climate?  Can others make us happy?  Can we make ourselves happy?  I fear that the harder we try, the more it may evade us.  If anything, happiness is a consequence – something that follows when we do something else.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be saying that it means slimming down, letting go, down-sizing  – enough to fit through the narrow door.  But he does not elaborate.  I think that the key is learning to love, to love others.  I like the description of loving that I read once in a book: “All that I am, just as I am, offered to all that you are, just as you are.”  That certainly asks for slimming down.

… “All that I am just as I am” – not what I am trying to be, not what I want others to see me as.  … “offered to you”.  Why don’t I offer that me to you? because I’m scared you might not like, approve, accept me?  because I’m unwilling to give, or, more accurately, to give up certain perks, wants, desires?  “All that I am just as I am” leaves me defenceless, exposed, feeling naked.  How narrow is the door – really?  Can’t I bring along with me anything extra? any bargaining chips?  What about the efforts I have made to ‘be a good boy’? to have a case full of merits? all the praying I do?

… Offered [willingly, whole-heartedly] to you “just as you are”… no conditions, no expectations.  What if you have hurt me? Is forgiveness necessary?  Come to think of it, why don’t I forgive? Why don’t I want to forgive?  What does forgiveness require me to let go of?  Why am I ultimately scared to forgive?  How narrow is that door?

And if I manage to love you, a bit, do I also need to love others?  Are there also other things I need to let go of if I am to love my neighbour as myself? … all those people who annoy me?  my judgments? my prejudices? my generalisations? my comfort zone? my unrecognised, and disowned, racism?

I think that the depth of my happiness is a factor of the depth and the extent of my love for others.  And my love for others is a factor of how much I can slim down until there is nothing left of me except me – all of me, just as I am.

God cannot simply give me heaven.  God cannot simply reward me with heaven.  Jesus cannot simply save me.  They only make it possible – but I have to cooperate.  Only I can love.  But even that is impossible until I first let God, through, with and in Jesus, love me … really love me, all of me, just as I am.  And to do that, God so often uses others.  Ultimately, that is what Church, genuine Christian community, is essentially about.