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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – First or Last?

“After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last’” (Luke 13:25-30).
Luke wrote his Gospel for people of Greek culture who were refined and intelligent. They were attracted to Jesus’ message and wanted to follow him as Christians. They were joining a community whose first members were all Jewish but who recognized in Jesus the fulfillment of the promises made to them in what we now call the Old Testament. The Jewish converts could look back on thousands of years of religious belief and practice: they had long believed in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth; they were familiar with speaking about “the Spirit of God;” their understanding of Jesus as Christ was enriched by all the prophets had said about the Messiah; their celebration of the Passover informed their understanding of the Eucharist.
For all the sophistication of their Greek learning, the Gentile converts could very easily have felt like second-class Christians. They were coming from pagan tradition, with its pantheon of gods and goddesses, and were now having to come to terms with monotheism, with one true God as Father and Creator.
Luke’s message to the Gentile converts is one of reassurance: do not feel like second-class Christians. Yes, those with a Jewish tradition may have been “the first to hear the word of God,” but “the first” could end up being “the last.”
– How does this reading speak to you about ways in which you think of yourself as “first” or others as “last”?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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