Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 25th, 2013
Year C

Eventually, everyone faces hardship in life. Difficulties arise in all sorts of areas – family, school, work, etc. I think that it is safe to say that try our best to get through them and help others get through their difficulties as well. In my own life, I experienced this when I left college and began working full time. I was the director of the religious education program at a small parish in Uncasville, CT – right down the street from the casino! I was a new college graduate moving to a new area of the country where I knew no one, not one single soul and I was almost 3 hours away from my family. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy. The parish community, however, welcomed me with open arms and I soon became friends with many people, one family in particular. But I learned something. I learned how to lean on God in times of difficulty. I learned how to trust Him more deeply and with greater resolve. I learned that when things get rough in life – and they do – that it is not punishment from God, rather it is His way of helping me grow closer to Him. It was His discipline.

Perhaps this is what is spoken of in the Letter to the Hebrews. Written in the middle to late part of the 1st century by an unknown author who some argue is St. Paul, Hebrews addresses Christians of Jewish backgrounds and those attracted to the values of the Jewish religion. In this short section the author points out the fact that we would not really be God’s children if He did not discipline us. It is a reminder – as he says at the beginning of the reading: “you have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you…” – that those whom God loves He disciplines. It is possible that the author has the Book of Wisdom in mind when writing this: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them… Chastised a little they shall be greatly blessed because God tried them and found them worthy of himself” (Wis 3:1,5).

On a similar note, Jesus speaks of the “narrow gate” to His disciples in the Gospel. The gates to the City of Jerusalem varied in size and in purpose. Larger entrances to the city were meant for commercial traffic while others were small and narrow and meant primarily for people. Often, scholars believe, those entering the city on foot would have to bend down in order to get through the gate. One would have to make a concentrated effort to get through it. Without a doubt, Jesus is telling us to squeeze through the narrow door because this is way that leads to eternal life. It is a reminder that acceptance of one’s difficulties and hardships are necessary. The path of virtue and holiness is tight and we have to make a concerted effort with a sustained moral focus.

Yet, it seems to me that there is more to it than that. The Gospel continues with Jesus rebuking even those who ate and drank with Him. He is not talking about the obvious ones who will not be admitted to the kingdom… godless worldly rulers, serial killers, and the like - He is talking about individuals who profess belief in Him! Why would God cast them out of His company? Perhaps, these are the people who walked away when Jesus challenged them and their way of life. They enjoyed being in His presence, walking with Him from town to town but when it came down to the difficult teachings, the hard sayings, they were unwilling to change. They were unwilling to accept it – maybe out of pride or lack of understanding. Either way, when the going got tough, they gave up.

The same is a danger for us. This is what I think is the message of the Gospel today. If our faith remains solely on the surface and never deepens, we will cave when it comes to acceptance of trials and hardships. Worse yet, is that there is the risk of being cast out of the Kingdom. This is why the Letter to Hebrews tells us: “do not disdain the discipline of the Lord.” This is why Jesus tells us to “strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus is inviting us to a deeper, more intense and intimate living of our faith with a greater a moral focus. And this is especially true when He challenges us by way of His teaching. Many of the teachings of Christ are hard to accept. The point being is that religious profession is no substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the obligation that goes with it to obey His will. Our creed – that which we believe as Catholics, disciples of Jesus Christ – and our conduct must be in alignment. This is what makes the discipline of the Lord so important.

That which is placed before us today is both a warning and an invitation. The warning is not to fall into the danger of being surface-level Christians. Christians who are so in name only. This means we have to be willing to accept the struggles of life and the challenges in His teachings as the discipline of the Lord. Jesus, therefore, invites us to strive to dive deeper into our faith and love for Him. He invites us to make a more conscious effort to practice virtue, to engage in acts of penance, to accept the difficulties of daily life in a spirit of godliness as a means to draw closer to His heart – to get close to Him. In these ways, then, we will learn to trust Him and be rewarded with a place at table in His kingdom.

















Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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