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Friday, 23 August 2019 19:49

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2019

Written by Fr Larry Nemer SVD

 

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2019

 

Fr Larry Nemer SVD 150In today’s Gospel the story is told of how one of Jesus’ followers asks him if many or only a few will be saved. Jesus does not give a direct answer. He says that it is important that one concerns himself or herself about being saved. And then He tells a story which has served as both a warning and an invitation to His followers down through the centuries.

The warning is that just because you think you are a good person who has done all “the right things” you might find Jesus saying: I don’t know you. What is missing? I think the story gives us a hint when it says that you will be surprised when you see people being saved that you thought would never have a chance to be saved by God. We can easily fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as good people because we do good things as we understand them to be. We pray, we are kind, we love our family and friends, we are generous with the gifts that God has given us. We can begin to think that we are saving ourselves – that we “deserve” to be saved.

But the story goes on to say that we will be surprised to see that many will be saved by God’s love who we might think do not “deserve” it. This is the story’s invitation to us to open our hearts to those who are lost and lonely, (and in our judgment don’t “deserve” to be saved e.g. foreigners, migrants, refugees, homosexuals, lesbians, transgender people, etc.), and to love them as God loves them. In this way we become true followers of Christ and God-like in our love and therefore will be saved.

This is an on-going challenge for all of us. I can still remember the first time I faced in this challenge. It was just a year after my ordination. I was in Grenoble studying French and living in a poor parish. One Sunday after Mass a couple invited me to have dinner with their family. I checked with the parish priest and he told me to go: They are good people. When I was getting ready to go he said: By the way, the eldest daughter is a prostitute and probably will be there with the family for the dinner. I didn’t know what to expect. But I found a very loving family. They all were helping the daughter with the raising of her child. And she was helping the family who were very poor financially. And for two hours they let me be part of their family and share in their love for one another. It opened my eyes to see love where before I would have been tempted to see only wrong-doing.

Perhaps that is why I came to love the opera La Boheme and the musical Rent. They both are stories about people that others might look down on, but they were people who really cared for one another. It sometimes is hard for us, but we are called to love these people often rejected by society just as God loves them.

I remember one night sitting with members of my family and a couple of my brothers-in-law began making very nasty statements about prostitutes. I got very angry at them. I said: you probably have never really gotten to know a prostitute. I had two of them in my room last night. Their jaws dropped.

A very good friend of mine, Edwina Gateley, ministered to the prostitutes in Chicago and established a home where they could get off the streets for an hour, an afternoon, a few days, or even a longer stay. I often went there to give my support to Edwina and came to know a number of the women personally. One night Edwina phoned and said she had two young girls alone in the house and she had to go to a meeting. She asked if she could drop the two girls at my place so that I could look after them. She was afraid that if she left them home alone their pimp would come after them and force them to go back on the street. They were delightful young girls and we talked music and film until Edwina came to pick them up again. Edwina told me later about the difficult lives they had had, but that evening I could easily see why God loved them and would happily embrace them for all eternity.