21st Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel –Lk 13: 22-30

"
God is Amazing, Awesome, Beautiful . . ."

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 25th August 2013

In today’s Gospel, when Jesus reminds us to “enter the Kingdom of God through the narrow gate” He is urging us to take up all the challenges of our faith and with God’s help live the vigilant faith that God expects of us.

When Jesus cautions us that “we have to try our best to enter through the “narrow gate,” He is also saying to you and me never to take the gift of faith that we have been given for granted, as the Jews, the Chosen race had taken Him the Messiah, and the gift of eternal life for granted.

If I were to say that God is amazing, awesome and beautiful, our immediate reaction of many of us would be that “I don’t know what you are talking about because I have not experienced God to be such.”  Many of us may say that “I believe in God and I know that He is real, but as to Him being an “amazing, awesome and beautiful God . . . I wish I could say that of my experiences of God.

If this is how we describe our general experiences of God, then perhaps we could have pushed God to the background of our lives and our relationship with God could be superficial or hopefully not, we may have been taking God’s love for us for granted.

       Fr Fr Joseph Galdon, S.J.
One of our Jesuit priest, Fr Joseph Galdon once shared about his visit to a woman in the hospital in Manila.  He said, “She is a wonderful person, full of patience and kindness, and she always seemed to be so happy.  She had travelled to most parts of the world and seen almost everything in life – pain and sickness, and the death of those she loved.  She had been suffering from cancer for almost a year and now she is dying.  But, she is still smiling.

Her son, Dave, a graduate from our Jesuit Ateneo de Manila university, had asked me to come and visit his mother and give her the Sacrament of the Sick.  He then later told me, “Father, I am only now beginning to realise how much my mother loves me and how that love never changed even thought I was never a very good son.  I got into a lot of trouble and caused mom a lot of pain at times, but she was always there for me; she loved me no matter what I did.

God’s love for us too is constant and never changes; infinitely faithful to us regardless of how much and how often we may have disappointed Him with our sins and the stupid things that we do in life.  Many of us can relate to the story of Dave and say how much our mothers too always loved us regardless of how we have let them down and caused them sleepless nights.  Many of us too can say that we have experienced God’s compassionate and unfailing love for us regardless of the countless times we hurt Him by our selfishness, our pride, our vanity and frequent ingratitude to Him regardless of how much He forgives me, loves me and protects me from harm.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was driving to the Archbishop’s house for a meeting, and as I was taking a corner, I suddenly saw a taxi in front of my car . . . . dropping of some passengers; I immediately jammed my brakes and swerved to my right and missed the taxi by a few inches.  Thank God no other vehicles were approaching on the right lane.  Because it was so sudden, if there were vehicles coming on the right lane, I am very sure there would have been an accident; perhaps, even a very serious one.

        

What is the moral of the story?  Some of you may say, “Never sit in Fr Heng’s car if he is driving!”  Others may remark, “Did you scold the taxi driver?”  Still others may remark, “Wow, you are so lucky!”  As for me, when all that happened, happened yesterday, I kept thanking God for His protection all the way to the Archbishop’s house; and I am sure many of us here would have done the same.

About two months ago, Fr Christopher had pointed out to me that my car tyres look pretty bald . . . which I didn’t notice.  So, two weeks ago, I got all four tyres changed.  If not for this, I too am sure that I could have crashed into the taxi.  What’s the moral of the story?  Don’t just know how to drive your car . . . learn to take care of your car too!  More importantly, never take God for granted.  Even though I am a pretty careful driver, even if I may say so, every time I get into my car, I make the sign of the Cross and pray because we all need God’s protection . . . When we do not take God for granted, we will begin to see and sense God’s Providence more clearly in our daily living.

      
                   St Ignatius DVC Youth at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil

I would like to urge you to read the personal sharing of our Parish youth’s World Youth Day (WYD) experiences in this weekend’s bulletin.  What struck me in their sharing was the “surprises” they experienced.  They shared about their experiences of the “unbelievable Brazilian hospitality, and God’s beauty in nature and their discovery of being able to be themselves . . .”  They experienced how throughout the WYD, God was “loving them immensely” and unfolding His mystery in the great crowds of “loving, like-minded pilgrims through the expressive and passionate Brazilian culture.

       
                St Ignatius DVC Youth at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil

They shared that the fruits of their WYD experiences were: to be able to find God more fully in nature, in the simplicity of their daily living and in their relating with persons . . . and more importantly to be able “to accept and appreciate” God’s love that can be found within their hearts . . . and in the great variety and multitude of people they met during the WYD.

       
               St Ignatius DVC Youth at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil

Thus, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that when Jesus urges us to try to enter the “narrow gate” that leads to the Kingdom of heaven because many will try to enter and will not succeed, He is not saying that God is like a strict parent who wants to give us the gift of eternal life only if we deserve to receive it.

On the contrary, Jesus knows that we are so easily distracted and gets drawn into the superficial and secular living of our lives so much so that we take God’s divine love for granted and pushes Him into the background of our lives.

When this happens, it is like Dave who only began to value his mother’s selfless, forgiving and unconditional love for him when his mother was about to die.  If this is to happen to us in our relationship with God, where we begin to appreciate God’s forgiving and unconditional love for us only at our deathbed, then would we not die with sorrow and regret?

         

But, if we consciously reflect more deeply on our lives and daily thank God for all the love, forgiveness and protection that He gives us, then my sisters and brothers in Christ, regardless of where we are – whether we are driving to the Archbishop’s house or supermarket or whether we are “at home” and not part of the WYD experiences, we will surely be able to find that God is present to us at all times.  This is the “narrow gate” that we all are challenged to seek daily and if we do this, then as the youth of our parish expressed, we too will find God to be truly “amazing, awesome and beautiful . . .

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

                                  

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