21st Sunday of the Year

A Message for each one of us

How do we think about the gospel? How much do we know about it? How aware are we of what it says to us? As practising Christians these questions are I believe important. It is possible for us to listen to the gospel story week by week but to not really hear its message. It’s only when we hear something radical and startling that it actually registers, and when that happens it can be disconcerting. Take today’s gospel as a case in point. The question put to Jesus – will there be only a few saved? – is a startling one. Have you ever asked it yourself and if so what was your conclusion? Well the response Jesus gives has some sobering consequences. “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!” Well, here we are at mass this weekend, eating and drinking in his company, and listening to his teaching and what is the reply…What does it mean?

Clearly it has to mean something more than simply being present is all that is required. We need to understand truly what our being present actually involves. No-one lives in a bubble. We can’t remain isolated and separate from one another. We are essentially in communion and that means in relationship. We tend to each other’s needs, we encourage and support each other, we help in times of distress and comfort in times of sorrow. We do this because we love each other and we express this love to those we know and towards those we don’t know. The source of this love and the way in which we have been shown how to witness it, is derived from what we do around the table of the Lord. The simple action of eating and drinking has a symbolic element which Jesus himself sacramentalised for us at the Last Supper. He has asked us both to do this in memory of him, and to copy what he did as the example par excellence of what he has done for us. So we are to take his example of love, as the principle way of living out his command to us in our relationship with others.

This mandatum or new commandment must therefore be the abiding action for all who
call him teacher. In living our lives in the way that he has taught us, and by the example he has given us, we live in communion with him and in communion with each other. And just as we communicate with each other through our words and interaction, then so must we do so with Jesus through our pryer and our presence at Mass. We are to receive him in the sacrament and in the scriptures and in each other. Thus our presence at this table today must be the launchpad for our loving action for tomorrow. And the same for next week and the week after and onwards throughout our life. The Lord will be present with us through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whom he has told us, will stand alongside us as our advocate reminding us of all that Jesus has taught.

So perhaps now we can look at the words of Jesus and understand that his response to the question posed, is predicated on what we do ourselves in taking up his example of love. Do we in our lives see the needs of those around us and apply our love to those needs by doing what he asks of us? If we do then let us pray that in the fulness of time our good deeds will go before us and gain us entry to take our place at the feast in the kingdom of God.

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