Sunday, August 21, 2022

Passport Renewal

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Readings: Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 116 (117); Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Picture: Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

My dear friends, do you need to renew your passport? As you know, it was announced just a few days ago that those whose passports are valid for only six months or less should apply for a new one now, if they wish to travel in December… We all know that a valid passport is crucial, not only for travel abroad, but also in order to return home. For a passport is what gains us recognition and access.

And isn’t the failure to gain recognition and access precisely the problem in the gospel? Jesus tells us to enter by the narrow door. For once the door is locked, you may find yourself knocking, but the master of the house will say (and he says it twice), I do not know where you come from. It’s as though the Lord is reminding us to renew our passports, so that we may be recognised and granted entry into God’s kingdom. How do we do this? What does it mean to enter by the narrow door?

It’s important to remember that, if the door is narrow, it’s not because those wishing to enter are too many, or the master too stingy. In the first reading, the Lord is so generous that passports are granted freely and widely, not just to the people of Israel, but also to everyone else. I am coming, the Lord says, to gather the nations of every language…. I will give them a sign and send (them) to the nations.

We Christians believe that this sign, this door, this God-granted passport is none other than Jesus himself. Who tells us in John’s gospel, I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved (10:9). Isn’t this why the door is narrow? It’s narrow because, to enter it, I have to walk the way Jesus walked, the way of humility and loving service, the Way of the Cross.

Unlike official travel documents, the passport that gains me entry into heaven is not printed on paper, nor can it be carried in my pocket or purse. No, the passport into heaven consists in a life moulded into the shape of Christ’s, and a heart made tender, like the one that was pierced through for our faults, and crushed for our sins.

And how is this moulding of life, this tenderising of the heart accomplished, if not by the method described in the second reading. Suffering, we’re told, is part of (our) training; God is treating you as his sons. Suffering, borne patiently, humbly and hopefully, in union with the crucified Christ, bears fruit in peace and goodness. Precious gifts that we can share with those around us who may be suffering even more. Such as those whom the pandemic has left much lonelier and more vulnerable, or those most affected by rising costs of living. 

Sisters and brothers, even as some of us may be rushing to obtain a new travel document, in order to enjoy a brief vacation overseas, what steps should we be taking to help one another ensure that our heavenly passports remain valid for entry into our eternal home?

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