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We keep our eyes on the kingdom

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Aug. 25, 2013
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66:18-21
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

Through my adolescent eyes, Sister Henrica seemed ancient. Perhaps she was forty. She taught history and her class was the first of the day. Her prayer was short and seemed appropriate to us. “Lord, if I may, I’ll serve another day.” Of all the teachers’ prayers I have heard through the years, this is the one I remember. It is a prayer that is appropriate no matter what our age.

The last few days will never make my “hit parade.” Whatever could have gone wrong, did. During this time I haven’t been as grateful as I ought to be for the gift of another day. St. Luke’s focus on the table we will share in the kingdom of God puts my feelings into some sort of perspective.

What has happened, I fear, is that I not only want the gift of life, I want to set its boundaries and determine its day-to-day quality. When a day does not meet my expectations, who am I to say the Lord has sent me “damaged merchandise?” Life, in whatever form it takes, is something I have neither earned nor merited. I am indeed favored by the Lord in every moment of my existence.

These last days have been a powerful reminder to me that there is a kingdom beyond—the kingdom for which we pray at every Holy Mass. In a special way, this is the theme of today’s liturgy. This is the spirit in which today’s Gospel should be read. Jesus is not declaring that many are doomed from the beginning despite all of their efforts. He is telling us that we need to strive for holiness always.

Most of us will not be saved by a sudden conversion on our deathbed. Neither does holiness come in a single moment. While there might well be a “moment” of conversion dependent on our repentance, conversion itself is a process. Our understanding of our relationship to the Lord grows each day as does our response to that relationship.

St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews tells us that each of us must learn to see the loving hand of God in the trials and sufferings of life and accept them as Christ did. This is what “brings forth the fruit of peace and justice…” Life is more than a series of events that we have to endure to attain something more. Part of our happiness is being among the community of believers who eat and drink “in the company of the Lord.”

Today’s liturgy is not a commentary on those who will not see the kingdom. It is a celebration of those who will. Whatever trials we have are part of life as much as the joy that comes from simply being alive. Our celebration is the Eucharist extended to the world through us. Our joy communicates to those who observe us.

The Father has sent Jesus so we might know his generosity. We look forward to the resurrection as a believing community. For life today, we give thanks and praise to the Father.

Related Links:
• Liturgical readings

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