As we gather this weekend we remember all those who have got A level exam results. We offer a prayer for all those who have done well and we also pray for those who have not done as well as they wanted as they continue their education. We also thank god for our teachers, families and friends, all those who have helped our young people and journeyed with them along the way whatever the results.
In this Sundays Gospel Luke tells us about the door policy of the kingdom of God and how there is no such thing as automatic membership. While Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, someone asks him about the number of those who will be saved. Rather than speculate about the arithmetic of salvation, Jesus gives practical advice about the present time: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” The image changes from tight space to time up.
Those who wait until the door is shut try knocking, but the householder regards them as strangers. The latecomers try to remind the householder of common ties: they ate and drank with him, they listened to him teaching in their streets. In Jesus’ world (as in our own) there were “insiders” and “outsiders.” A person would be an insider by their birth into a family or group. Or, one might become part of the family/group by being invited to eat with the members. Thus, they are distressed because they are being excluded, the people in the story “prove” they are part of the group. “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.”
Jesus like the house owner is not impressed with this type of superficial acquaintance: people who eat and drink in the same restaurants and bars, read the same papers, watch the same programmes, don’t always share the same commitment to God. In the gospel stories Jesus has a habit of telling religious people not to get smug; in fact, the so-called “devout and religious” were the ones who rejected Jesus the most. He was most critical of the judgemental religious leaders who were the very ones to condemn him in Jerusalem – where he is determined to go… and where he asks us to follow and remember that includes the cross that Jesus carried to Calvary. Jesus is our example of the good and faithful person who goes through a period of trials and even death trusting God no matter what happens.
Through Jesus we come to know the faithfulness of God. For Isaiah, a faithful band of witnesses will announce the news of God’s restoring love and invite all people to Jerusalem to see the manifestation of God’s power and fidelity. For us, Jesus is the “sign” of God’s fidelity. The God who raised him from the dead offers us that same new life through him. Pope Paul VI said in his famous encyclical, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” that people listen more to witnesses than to teachers. Pope Paul was also right when he said that the most convincing messengers of our faith are those who speak from their personal experience of God – they are viable witnesses. Perhaps, they were sick and God healed them, or gave them strength and endurance for the trials of life. We are reminded today that everyone loves a humble person, because the humble person keeps a balanced outlook on people and events. And what is it that we are called to be as gods people we are called to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel message Passed down to us through the generations through the Scriptures and so many individual people. Our lives must be changed by our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are given the gift of faith; but a subsequent change of life is expected as our response to that gift.
During this Year of mercy we are called to show the love and the mercy of God to those around us may we not be afraid to be the agents of the mercy and love of God.