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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Of Doors, Gates, and Tables

By Alice Camille

Recently deceased Mother Angelica insisted that those who love us tell us the truth. Jesus loves us with a great bounty of truth, but we can be sure not everyone receives such love with gratitude. We’ve spent this year proclaiming a Jubilee of Mercy, widening the door of admittance to many who’ve been—or perhaps felt—uninvited and unwelcome. This open Door of Mercy is received by the wounded as a sign of God’s relentless compassion and care. It’s also viewed by the self-righteous as an indication that church standards are at an all-time low, and cheap grace is being given away at bargain-basement prices.

Why not? The sower sows the seed with abandon on his own soil. It’s his to scatter extravagantly and even to waste if that’s his preference.

Yet today’s message seems to go in another direction. The open Door of Mercy is replaced with the metaphor of a Narrow Gate, through which many will find the way impassable. What’s the difference between an open door and a narrow gate? In a word, girth. Luke’s gospel pursues the theme that accumulating wealth, power, prestige, and even pious appearances acquires us nothing in the bank of heaven. Now comes the downbeat of that teaching: Not only does worldly advantage count for nothing useful, it’s actually detrimental. It makes us too “big” to pass through the standards of heaven. The untrimmed ego strives to lumber through in vain.

The next metaphor is even more devastating: that of the Locked Door! Once the door is barred, size doesn’t matter at all. We can vow to go on an all-alms diet at this point, but it’s no use. The time for making the better choice has foreclosed. Even the Door of Mercy can’t admit us if we’ve refused to seek it in the proper season, which is the season of the living. Jesus tells us the truth in love, but not all want to hear this. It’s especially disconcerting to those who “ate and drank” in the company of the Lord—a stunning reference to early church members who thought that fidelity to the Table of the Lord was the be-all and end-all of Christian practice. They find themselves treated no better than “evildoers”! Even though they showed up routinely, the Lord treats them like strangers!

What’s worse, folks from all points of the compass will find welcome through that same door: foreigners, the unclean, the patently unworthy, sitting at the table with patriarchs and prophets. Oh, how this truth would have shocked those around Jesus! And still does. If we hope to sit at the Kingdom table, the time to get in shape for that moral passage is now.

08 – August 28, 2016



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