From the Pastor's Desk
We are ever in the mind and heart of God
past, present, and future
The missalette company sends the parish a little booklet with a few simple thoughts for each Sunday. Here is a paragraph from that booklet: Imagine if all the living former presidents of the United States were honored at the White House with a state dinner, and the guests chosen to dine with them were not the rich and powerful but refugees, homeless people, prisoners, and others who are neglected. No less surprising a picture is Jesus painting today in the Gospel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dining with people from the ends of the earth, Gentiles, while the residents of the towns and villages around Jerusalem are on the outside looking in. The outrage! Outsiders hobnobbing with leaders while VIP’s are excluded and called names! No wonder there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Years ago (I think I was eighteen at the time), a girl I asked out on a date, asked me to take her to a rock concert (the first and last I ever attended). It was on the university campus in Edwardsville, Illinois, but was held in a very large field, so they had school buses to shuttle the folks to the field. When the show ended, people mobbed the buses. People were literally pushing us on; I was afraid we would be trampled. I tried to hold her hand, but we were forced apart. I tried to find her but the crowds just kept pushing. I went to the car, hoping she would remember where we parked. Eventually, we got back together. I took her straight home, got chewed out by her father for bringing her home so late, and never dated her again.
I was reminded of this story when I read the Gospel. Someone asks Jesus if only a few people will be saved. Jesus, as he so often does, answers with a story, putting it into a larger picture of exclusion and panic for inclusion. Everyone is trying to get in, pushing and shoving for entry through a narrow door. The owner solves the problem — he closes and locks the door. But this only escalates the frantic push to get in. They shout, “Lord, open the door for us.” But the Lord refuses because he does not know where they are from. They say they listened to him teach, even ate and drank with him. The Lord still insists that he does not know where they are from.
Knowing “where you are from,” obviously means something more than geography or social gathering. Those who rely on these superficial contacts with Jesus for entry into the banquet are denied. They discover that they are grouped not with the righteous with whom they believe they belong, but with the evildoers. Rather than rewarded, they are punished.
The original question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” sounds like the questioner expects the answer to be “yes.” But Jesus rejects the speculation about numbers and focuses on the question of struggle. When Jesus answers, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.,” he is telling the man to forget about worrying about how many will enter, but to focus his mind and heart on the disciplined work of striving/struggling to enter. The door does not open because of who you know, but because of who you are.
The Lord only recognizes you if you are like him. He is not talking about a likeness of ethnicity, being from the same town or country. Jesus knows you if you come from the same spiritual place as he comes from. “I do not know where you are from,” means that you have no spiritual link with him. Jesus comes from the heart of God, a heart that loves all people. Only by living in the same way does Jesus know where you are from. From the heart of God!
I enjoyed my reunion very much. So many memories! So many stories! Some of which I don’t think I ever knew. And so much good represented by the men and woman in that room — 99 participants, former seminarians (about a dozen were priests) and many wives, who are also doing great things. One classmate works as a Parish Life Coordinator, running the parish in the absence of a priest-pastor. Another, a doctor of infectious diseases, is working with AIDS patients, even though he is 70 like myself. One classmate, who was an all-state trumpeter, is now living in a homeless shelter, having been diagnosed as bipolar shortly after leaving the seminary. Yet, he tries to help other men find their way. He says he entertains them by singing karaoke.
The connection I felt with these men, after 50+ years was both joyful and humbling. I found myself thanking God for them and for my own vocation.
I am so happy and proud to be your pastor. God willing, I will continue to do so for the next five years.
Peaceful Ridge Cemetery
Mausoleum - Monuments - Cremation
900 Main & Mahn Ave - De Soto, MO 63020 - 636-586-2288/515 Collins Ave.-Festus, MO 63028 - 636-937-4444