The Narrow Door 8-25-2019

August 22nd, 2019

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could
use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes,
here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my
category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into
experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical,
and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I
became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to.
To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I
figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this
note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…
please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused
you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole
family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life.
Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone
and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was
praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation
program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was
then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace
and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn
more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I
must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come
into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has
blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in
my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself
more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely your, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The
door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris
from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder
how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to
struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat
Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians
are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in
stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the
wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose
them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but
because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke
22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like
it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow
Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and
the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown.
They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to
themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can
I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I
love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they
follow the Gospel.
Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name
only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide
serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone
pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not
because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are
Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a
sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do
we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only
through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-
boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft
Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before
us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.

Have Faith 8-11-2019

August 6th, 2019

It was an hour you did not expect. In fact, it was in the middle of a
dream that you are led to a huge hall, like a place for medieval banquets.
All along the beautiful carved panel walls are…large oil paintings of
your ancestors.
“Wow”, you say. I had no idea anyone like this was in my
family”.
“Take a look at your grandfather, Abraham”, whispers your
companion. “What a man! When God told him to travel, he didn’t even
wait to be told where. He packed up everything he owned, and the
people he loved…and just started walking. He knew God would tell him
where he was supposed to arrive when the time came. He didn’t need to
know details. He had faith.
“And blow a kiss to your grandmother Sarah. (point) No children
for the first sixty years of marriage, with a womb as dry as the Sahara.
God asked her to open her brittle body one last time to your grandfather,
because there’d be a surprise. Nine months later she was nursing a
beautiful baby boy.
You look down the hall, and there are hundreds of paintings of
other ancestors in faith. Noah, Samson, David, Samuel from the Old
Testament, Mother Mary, Peter, Paul, Martha, Mary of Bethany…from
the New, followed by Francis, Clare, Benedict, Elizabeth Seaton,
Mother Teresa, and on and on.
Your companion sighs. “Yes, you come from quite a family.
They had their sins, their problems, every kind of physical or emotional
or spiritual ailment you could think of…but they were people of faith.
They all lived by the conviction that somehow things would turn out.
They didn’t cave in. They trusted God. They trusted life…even when
things looked impossible.”
Your companion’s voice grows louder. “You come from good
people—the best—and now it’s your turn to live by faith. It’s your turn
to trust God and live according to God’s direction even when it appears
unworkable, irrational, nonsensical, unrealistic or even impossible.
Good lives, holy lives, always appear like that at times.”
You start to stutter. “I…I don’t know if I’m up to it.”
Your companion smiles, “You may not be up to it. But God is.
God will help you. God always does. Faith is confident assurance
regarding God’s promise.”
You look into the eyes of this companion and realize it is, and
always has been, Jesus.
He pats you on the back. “Do not be afraid any longer. Don’t let
fear rule your life. Have faith – the conviction that no matter what – in
this life or the next – things will work out.

The Richest Man in the Valley 8-4-2019

August 4th, 2019

There was a wealthy lord who lived in the Scottish Highlands. He
was more then richly endowed with this world’s goods and amongst his
vast possessions was a mansion overlooking a beautiful valley. But
there was a basic emptiness in his life. He had no religious belief, he
lived alone, possessed by his possessions.
In the gate lodge at the entrance to his estate lived John, his
herdsman. John was a man of simple faith and deep religious
commitment. With his family he was a regular churchgoer. God’s
presence was a reality in his home and often at night when he opened the
gate to admit his employer, the Scottish lord noticed the family in
prayer.
One morning the lord was looking out on the valley resplendent in
the rising sun. As he gazed on the beautiful scene, he said to himself, “It
is all mine.” Just then the door bell rang. Going down, he found John
on the door step. “What’s the matter, John?” he asked. “Are the horses
alright?”
John looked embarrassed. “Yes, sir,” he replied. “Sir, could I
have a word with you?” He was invited onto the plush carpet, and his
presence there pointed up the striking contrast between their lifestyles.
“Sir,” said John hesitantly, “last night I had a dream, and in it God
told me that the richest man in the valley would die tonight at midnight.
I felt I should tell you. I hope, sir that you don’t mind.”
“I don’t believe in dreams. Go on back to your work and forget
it.”
John still looked uneasy. “The dream was very vivid, sir, and the
message was that the richest man in the valley would die at midnight
tonight. I just had to come to you, sir, as I felt that you should know.”
The lord dismissed him, but John’s words bothered him so much
that he finally took out his care and went to the local doctor for a check-
up. The doctor examined him, pronounced him fit and said he’d give
him another twenty years.
The lord was relieved but a lingering doubt caused him to invite
the doctor around for dinner and a few drinks that evening. They
enjoyed a meal together and shortly after eleven-thirty, the doctor got up
to leave. When the lord asked him to remain on for a few nightcaps, he
agreed.
Eventually, when midnight passed and he was still in the land of
the living, the rich man saw the doctor to the door, and then went up
stairs muttering, “Silly old John…upset my whole day…him and his
dreams.”
No sooner was he in bed than he heard the door-bell ringing. It
was twelve-thirty. Going down he found a grief-stricken girl at the door
whom he recognized instantly as John’s teenage daughter.
“Sir,” she said, looking at him through her tears, “Mummy sent me
to tell you that Daddy died at midnight.”
The lord froze. It was suddenly made clear to him who was the
richest man in the valley.