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“Hear the Word!” by Bill Ayres: Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time


A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 66:18-21)
 
The Book of the Prophet Isaiah was not written by one person all at once. There are three main sections, and today’s reading comes from the last chapter of the third section, written as the Jewish people were finally returning from the terrible Babylonian exile.
 
Isaiah writes, “I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. … They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. To Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
 
This was always the dream for Israel, to bring all the nations, including the many gentiles, to worship at Jerusalem. There were moments of breakthrough and hope throughout many centuries, but the hope was not fulfilled. Yet, many of the people maintained that hope. When Jesus began his ministry, there were those who wished that he would fulfill this promise. He did much more than that.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 117:1, 2)
 
“Go out to all the world and tell the good news.” What is the “good news” as you know it? What does it mean to you? How do you share it with those whom you love and with others whom you may hardly know? In the midst of some bad news in your life, can you still believe in the good news of Jesus?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12:5-7, 11-13)
 
We often think of discipline as harsh and painful, but the author here is talking about a different kind of discipline—God’s discipline. “My son, do not distain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. … At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.”
 
So, if we get into that “Woe is me” mentality and wonder where God is in a time of trouble, perhaps the trouble will lead to a breakthrough and healing. The key is knowing that we are not alone and remembering the times when we felt lost but found our way. That may be hard to do in the midst of whatever pain we may be feeling, but it can help us to overcome adversity and move on to a better place.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 13:22-30)
 
Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answered with a story, as he often did: “After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then you will 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.’”
 
Jesus was talking to traditional Jews who believed that they had a sure thing in entering the kingdom. But Jesus was widening the entrance to the Kingdom: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
 
Jesus is making an important point here. The Kingdom of God, or what we call heaven, is not limited to people who are Jews or have any other identity. It is for all people. So, just as the Jewish people of Jesus’ time did not get a free pass, so we Christians do not enter heaven simply because we bear the name of Christ. We have been given a free gift that we could never earn by being good or simply keeping the Commandments. It is in accepting this gift—God’s love in our lives—and sharing it with those close to us and those afar that we gain eternal life.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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