21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C (2)

Today’s readings teach us that Christianity is not meant to be something superficial in our lives, like a designer label. The Lord calls us to make Christianity our lifestyle, and that lifestyle requires a willingness to go to the distance, to discipline ourselves and persevere in the face of difficulty, and to welcome the Lord’s grace into our lives.

In today’s First Reading the Lord describes knowledge of him spreading to the ends of the earth, even where no one has heard of him. The Lord sends believers out so that all those who know and believe in him may come together and unite around him. If that implies going far and wide it also implies a long distance between the Lord and those who want to journey toward him. People must come from far and wide too, and a long journey is not an easy journey. It implies taking a direction in life and staying the course. It will not just be a long road, but a difficult and tiring one that requires discipline and determination to complete the journey.

In today’s Second Reading the Lord is described as a father coaching his children to train themselves well (quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) and to keep pushing and striving so that they are able to go the distance. Discipline is not meant to drain us; it is meant to strengthen us and give us endurance. A life of virtue is a life of discipline and effort; it can be tiring, but the long-term effects make it worthwhile. Life on this earth may be a battle, but when we are saved, it will all have been worthwhile. When a father is tough on his children they resent it, but, eventually, if they are wise, they thank him for it. When the Lord expects a lifestyle that we consider demanding we too must see the need to work toward achieving it as coming from a loving Father who wants to bring out the best of us for our own good.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord warns that salvation is like a narrow door where not everyone is admitted. It is not just what you know, but who you know. If you come to the master at the key moment and he sees you as a stranger, although you claim otherwise, it should be no surprise when he leaves you out in the cold. Our Lord is asked how many will make it, and he doesn’t give a number. He warns us that many will try, but few will succeed. The First Reading described news of the Lord spreading everywhere to enable people to come to him. The evildoer’s in the description of today’s Gospel come from a place unknown to the master: if there is somewhere where the Gospel is not found, it is where evil and sin are found. Sin takes us far away from the Lord and keeps us there.

Being in grace means being in communion with God; it means being part of his family and recognized as such, and God takes the initiative to offer it to us and make it grow in our lives. Through Baptism, sacraments, prayer, and a life of virtue the Lord gives us the grace to go the distance, persevere, and show people we are Christians. Don’t be discouraged by the distance and difficulty that still lies ahead. Our Lord has sent you the Gospel to get your bearings, your fellow Christians to coach and encourage you, and his grace to be welcomed in the Father’s house. When Christianity is a style of life for you, not just a label, you will succeed.

Marketers are very careful about avoiding anything that damages their brand, and Christians must be very careful about doing anything that gives Christianity a bad name, not just for the “label,” but for their souls and the souls of those seeking Christ through them. We become Christians through Baptism and that sacrament imprints something spiritual and deep on us, something meant to transform us and our way of life, whether we reflect it afterwards or not. Strive to make Christianity more than skin deep in your life.

Readings: Isaiah 66:18–21; Psalm 117:1, 2; Hebrews 12:5–7, 11–13; Luke 13:22–30. See also 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C.