Sunday’s Scripture readings are a great reality check for those who tend to see religion in very exclusive terms. Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims all have adherents that claim they and they alone are the true devotees of God, and therefore have a secure place in heaven.
For some Christians and Jews, “being saved” means, “I’ve obeyed all the rules and regulations and I worship on the Sabbath. That’s why I am 100% sure I will be in heaven.” Everyone else is quite simply “not saved,” and is on the outside looking in.
This weekend you’ll hear Isaiah, Paul and Jesus all say in one way or another “not so!” There’s a lot more to “being saved” than just obedience and showing up at weekend services. Jesus clearly states that no one, no matter who they are, has an absolute guarantee of being saved, of being accepted by God. No one is saved by claiming identity with a particular group or by carrying a particular name tag.
What Jesus offers to us instead is a narrow door. To be “saved” means to live and to die in a close loving relationship with God and with others. It is to share the vision of life that Jesus offered to us. It’s that simple, and that difficult. It’s an awful lot of work.
When we do come face to face with God – and hopefully we will – we may be surprised at who is not there. We may even be more surprised at those who are there: people we regarded as “pagans” (Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims), agnostics, even atheists, people who are “different” (homosexuals, people of color, the dregs of society).
Some of these people may in fact end up being in the Kingdom; because whatever labels we gave them here on earth, at their heart, they were loving, caring and sharing people – people who lived their lives for others just as Jesus did. These people Jesus will recognize. May the Spirit help us conform to Jesus’ way of life so that the Father will recognize us.
Love deeply, pray faithfully, in all things be joyfully grateful!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.