Friday, August 31, 2007

Homily: 21st Sunday of the Year

Isaiah 66:18-21
Psalms 117:1, 2
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

Jesus passed through towns and villages…making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him,“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.

1. I find it very providential that this Gospel comes after last weeks Gospel in which Jesus very frankly and honestly says talks about how His teachings will bring division; that it will cause people to disagree. This disagreement has been seen throughout History as we as Catholics try to bring all people to the truth and the joy which is found in being Catholic. This disagreement and tension naturally comes to a point where the question asked in today’s gospel must be asked. “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

2. I know that after last week’s homily many in our Parish Family have been discussing and pondering a very similar version of the same question. Is it this: Is it only Catholics who can be saved? Does the Church rally believe that a person must be Catholic to go to heaven? It’s a good topic of discussion, something that Christians have been grappling with ever since the first division within the Church so many centuries ago. So for us to grapple with the same question is normal and even healthy. It makes us think. It makes us examine our beliefs, and it makes us ask another very important question, which I suspect is what the questioner in our gospel was really asking. I don’t think he really wanted to know how many people would be saved. I think what he really wanted to ask was “Lord, will I be saved?” This question too is a very important question; in some senses it is an even more important question than the first, because before we begin speculating about whether others will be saved we should take a good look at ourselves, and ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can do to make sure that we will be saved. What a pity it would be if we were so concerned about condemning others for their sins that we forget to work on our own sins. What a pity it would be if on judgment day the Lord did not recognize us, as he did not recognize the man in the Gospel parable.

3. The question about whether or not someone who is not Catholic can be saved is a very delicate question; one that can cause a lot of tension within communities and within families, but even so it is one that must be addressed. Sometimes we need to confront these difficult questions head on and without fear, trusting in God and knowing that ultimately He is guiding the Church.

4. So, is there salvation outside of the Church? Can someone who is not Catholic go to heaven? The teaching of the Church is very clear. As a wonderful article from a magazine entitled This Rock says in explaining the Church’s teaching “Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (Latin for “Outside the Church there is no salvation) does not mean that only faithful Roman Catholics can be saved. The Church has never taught that.” In fact, the Church has taught quite the contrary.

5. The Church, from the very early centuries of the Church has believed what we find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Catechism states that “Every man who is ignorant of the gospel of Christ and of his Church but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it can be saved.” So clearly, someone who does not know and understand that the Catholic Church is the path that God has willed for our Salvation cannot be held accountable for not choosing that path. They can be saved. This certainly applies to our protestant brothers and sisters who, through no fault of their own, do not understand and know that Jesus founded the Catholic Church specifically to be the door to eternal life. They can be saved. It would be unreasonable to say anything otherwise, and God, by His very nature is reasonable.

6. At the same time, however, the Church also teaches that one who knows and understands that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ to be the path to heaven, and having that knowledge, still chooses to reject the Church cannot be saved, because they are consciously and deliberately choosing something they know to be contrary to God’s will. The Second Vatican Council affirms this when she says “They cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or remain in it.”

7. So, can someone who is not Catholic be saved and go to heaven. Absolutely! Do we still want them to become Catholic? Absolutely! Even though it is possible find Salvation outside the Church, why not find it within the Church? Why not find Salvation in the best way possible, with the assistance and aid of the Holy Eucharist, The Sacrament of Penance, and the other Sacraments? As I said last week, we have a great gift in the Catholic Church, we have an assurance of grace and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, we have the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we have the assurance from Christ Himself that the gates of hell will not prevail against us. Why would we not want others to have what we have? Why not do what we can to help our friends and family members to experience what we experience?

8. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus desires all men to be saved, from the most ardent atheist to the most devout Catholic. Today as we gather as one family in Christ, let us ask our Eucharist Lord to give us the grace and strength to do everything in our power to achieve our own salvation and to bring others to know that same salvation so that one day, as one body in Christ, we will stand before the throne of God in Heaven and forever sing His praises.

Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
St. Rose, faithful daughter of the Church, pray for us. Amen.

N.B. Since this homily has the potential for rude and uncharitable comments I have decided to close comments for this post. If you have a constructive comment to make please e-mail it to and if appropriate I will post it.

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