XXI Sunday in Ordinary Time
25 August 2019
When my niece was about 3-4 years old, she was shopping with my sister (her mother) and my aunt. They were probably Christmas shopping because my aunt and my niece were walking about the store on their own. When they came across a dollhouse my niece grabbed the shelf and pointed. She wanted that dollhouse. So, my aunt told her – lets go find your mother and we will come back and we will show her this dollhouse. Well, my aunt led her all through the store, up and down different aisles thinking that she would never find this dollhouse and forget about it. My niece, however, was and is no dummy! She took my sister by the hand and brought her right to it, gripping the shelf with all her might! She would not let go … even as my sister tried to pick her up and walk away. She had a vice grip on that shelf!
How many people – Christians, non-Christians… look upon the Catholic Church as merely a set of arbitrary rules for people to obey. They see in this a formal, unforgiving, unsympathetic Church that is only a hindrance to people’s freedom. To many, the “narrow gate” of the Church resounds with the old saying: “pay, pray, and obey.” The teachings of the Church are far too restrictive … so many turn to their own way instead …
These sayings of Jesus stress that a great effort is required for entrance into the Kingdom – a decision, a commitment… passion for the ways of God – and that there is an urgency to accept the present opportunities set before us because the door will not remain open indefinitely. Underlying these sayings lies the fact that many will reject this way – Jesus own contemporaries and those of today – those not on board, those who see the way of the Church, of the teachings of Christ, the demands of the Kingdom as a hindrance to their own beliefs, values, and principles.
My observation is simple: why do so many see the Church as narrow and restrictive – because we carry way too much baggage. We cannot enter because we have too much stuff in our hearts and souls…. We hold on to so much. Its not that the gate, the Church, is narrow … we come to it with so much. God, our Father, desires to lift us up, to free us of our baggage … But so many of us are still holding on to the shelf. Then Church presents to us her teachings, rites, rituals, prayers, devotions and the sacraments, the gateway to eternal life – the opportunities that are set before us that are not a hindrance but a path … a straight path to the Heart of Jesus. The gate seems too narrow, it closes on those who do not accept, do not commit … it is not the Church that is restrictive – its us! We are the one’s with a narrow view.
How then do we let go of the shelf? My sister had to coax my niece to loosen her vice grip by telling her that maybe Santa would bring her the dollhouse if she was a good girl … What does God promise us in order lift us up? He does not just promise, He freely gives His mercy to us in the Sacrament of Confession – when we confess our sins, we loosen the grip, we let go of the hurt, the resentments, the lack of forgiveness, the vices and sins … He sets us free of the baggage … but we have to let Him, we have to be willing to voice those things that we hold on to and surrender them to our merciful Father – whose one desire is to lift us up and carry us to His heart … and there will we see the narrow gate as the straight path to joy, to peace … to a deeper relationship, deeper communion with God. If you want to let go of the shelf, go to confession … lay it out for God to heal and to show you His mercy …