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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Aug. 22, 2010

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

Aug. 22, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C Readings:

1) Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm 117:1,2

2) Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

Last month I took a few days of vacation to visit my brother at his cabin high in the mountains of Colorado. I was both excited and apprehensive: excited because I knew the view of the valley from 10,000 feet would be beautiful in the summer, but apprehensive because I knew what that same 10,000 feet had done to some of my other family members on a previous trip.

We had been lured, one and all, by visions of hiking, skiing and snowmobile riding, but a few unsuspecting travelers, younger and more vigorous than I, were completely derailed by a debilitating, 48-hour bout with altitude sickness. Fearing that I would suffer the same fate without the proper physical conditioning, I traded away some comfortable hours on the couch for a little extra aerobic activity before the trip.

Today's readings present the prophet Isaiah's vision of a vast gathering of peoples from all the nations on the holy mountain of God. Yet, only a few would be selected as priests and Levites.

Luke's Gospel parallels Isaiah's vision, noting that people from the "east and the west and from the north and the south" would recline at the table of the kingdom of God, but many would be left outside the gate to wail and grind their teeth.

It's a paradox I have struggled with from time to time: How is it possible that an unconditionally loving God calls everyone to be saved when the Scriptures are equally clear that the call does not guarantee entry?

The epistle to the Hebrews provides a key to this paradox. God's love, freely given, also makes demands on me, which I don't particularly welcome but which are for my ultimate good. This discipline -- the "narrow gate" to which Jesus refers -- most often takes the form of the various trials and challenges in my life. If I reject God's discipline and training, I'm trading away God's great gift, the "peaceful fruit of righteousness," for my short-term comfort. And on second thought, that doesn't sound like a good trade to me.


In what ways am I being trained and disciplined by the present circumstances of my life? How can I view these trials as beneficial training and discipline from a loving God?


"Strive to enter through the narrow gate" (Luke 13:24).


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