Thoughts on the Readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 2019

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082519.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this Sunday Jesus is asked an important question:  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  In one form or another, this question has been asked by people of every generation.   

Based on Revelations 7:1-8, those who take a fundamentalist/literalist approach to scriptures, argue that the number of those who will be saved is one hundred forty-four thousand.    It is interesting, though, that in our Gospel for this Sunday Jesus does not answer this question.   Instead Jesus told a parable about the people seeking admittance after the master of the house has locked the door.   They are told “I do not know where you are from.   Depart from me, all you evildoers.”   And at the end of the Gospel Jesus says:  “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and 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.”    

While on the surface Jesus words in our Gospel may seem confusing, I think they tell us three important things about salvation.   1.  They remind us that it is foolishness to try to determine or limit the number of people who will be saved.  2.  They tell us that salvation is not automatic, and not based simply on familiarity with Jesus.  3. They suggest that salvation is not something we achieve/merit, but rather it is God’s gift.    

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   The opening sentence is significant:  “Thus says the Lord:  I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”    These words are clear that salvation is not limited to a chosen few.   God’s salvific will is universal. 

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter to the Hebrews.   In it the author admonishes:  “do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him.”  Apparently, some early Christians had begun to lose their enthusiasm for the faith and had grown lax.  This passage reminds them that:  “for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.”   

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. There seems to be an endless curiosity about the “number” of people who will be saved.   Why do you think this is?
  2. If salvation is God’s gift, what do we need to do to accept that gift?
  3. It is interesting that discipline and discipleship share the same root.   What kind of discipline is expected of disciples?   
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