Make Straight Paths for Your Feet

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. Jim homily

4 minute read


Is. 66:18-21; Ps. 117; Heb. 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk. 13:22-30

(Audio recorded live, 21 August 2022)

Once again Jesus outlines for us the fundamental truth of the new paradigm, namely, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. This one teaching of Jesus turned the ancient worldview upside down. As far as the people were concerned, those who were first, those who were rich, those who had seats of honor, were blessed by God. But, as we have heard over the last several weeks, one’s life does not consist of one’s possessions, nor riches, nor status in society. Our life is not about what others think of us, but rather what God thinks of us.

The prophet Isaiah prophesies that God will gather nations of every language; that he will set a sign among them; that they will bring brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. St. Paul says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). In other words, the work of God is completed through us, through our participation. But, how do we carry it out?

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes how we might at least start to carry out the work of God: He speaks of discipline. He warns not to disdain the discipline of the Lord or loose heart when corrected by him. I am sure many of us are aware of the Lord’s testing in our life. We have all experienced moments of testing, some more difficult than others, and we are encouraged not to lose heart during those moments of testing. While it may be difficult to accept in a moment of trial, we do well to consider that the trials we undergo often lead to our growth, whether in the spiritual life, the moral life, or some other aspect of our character, for example, growing in virtue. I like to tell people who pray for patience to be aware that God does not help us grow in virtue by waving a magic wand, but rather by giving us opportunities to exercise patience. This is true for any of the virtues, like chastity, prudence, justice, and the like. When we pray for an increase of these in our life, God will provide by helping us put those virtues to use.

There is one piece of wisdom, however, that the author of Hebrews tells us: Make straight paths for your feet. What else would this be other than the exercise of discipline? So, do not lose heart in moments of struggle, but ask the Father for the grace to endure struggles well. Consider all that Jesus went through as he endured his passion.

Discipline and endurance go hand-in-hand. Jesus also gives us a powerful image to live by. He says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Ancient cities, like Jerusalem, often had small gates through which those who had the proper credentials could pass. A modern day image might be the VIP entrance of a popular club. Only those on the VIP list may enter. All others are left outside. Heaven is not just some club, it is perfect union with God. To have perfect union with God, we need to be more than just a name on a list, we have to live a certain way. We have to live as a child of God. Part of that life is discipline and perseverance.

By disciplining ourselves in keeping the commandments, living the life of holiness, coming to Mass every Sunday, caring for our families, loving our neighbor, praying daily, enduring hardships, holding fast to our faith, we are making straight paths for our feet, we are striving to enter through the narrow gate. By so doing, we will become so familiar to the attendant at the gate that being on the VIP list won’t matter. We’ll be a regular, like some us are at our favorite restaurants, where we can tell the waiter, “I’ll have the usual.” This takes work. It takes repetition, consistency, and time. But, for our perseverance, our endurance, our discipline, our reward will be greater than “the usual,” it will be out of this world spectacular.

And so, as we strive to enter though the narrow gate, may the communion we share today be a foretaste of the splendor to come, and may Jesus nourish our hearts and souls as we prepare to recline at table in the kingdom of God.

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