Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2007
The World Youth Day Cross and Icon arrive in our North Coast Deanery on Monday 26th September. On Monday morning there will be a reception at St John's College at 9am where students from St Theresa's at Sunshine Beach will also gather. Then in the afternoon there will be an event for adults as well at Sienna College from 3pm to 8pm.
What is the World Youth Day Cross? It is a wooden cross 3.8 meters high, 1.76 meters wide and weighs 40 kg. But what is it? It was entrusted to young people in 1984 by Pope John Paul II saying, "I entrust to you.... the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity."
It is telling the Good News of God's love for all revealed in Jesus. That was, of course, a particular priority of John Paul II and motivated all his own travels. World Youth Day calls on the young to continue telling that message. It is the message we sang in the Psalm today: "Go out to all the world and tell the Good News" (Psalm 116).
The World Youth Day Icon of Our Lady was introduced in 2003. It is a modern version of an old icon entitled "Protectress of the Roman People" (Salus Populi Romani). John Paul II presented it as a sign of Mary's motherly presence close to the lives of the pilgrims. She who was the first to recognise and follow Christ. To use this specifically Roman Icon, I suppose, represents the Pope's own role as Bishop of Rome and concern for those who take up the challenge of discipleship.
"Will only a few be saved?" is the question Jesus is asked by someone in the crowd. Jesus does not answer the question directly. But what he does say makes it plain that we are entirely free to choose to be saved or not. There is no force here. There is no coercion. There is no emotional manipulation.
A narrow door can become very congested when a lot of people are trying to get through it. Jesus in this parable says we must struggle through the crowd so we can knock on the door. Paul follows his use of the image of the athlete from last week with that of a father and child. A child needs training and discipline if it is to mature. Such discipline is necessary if we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us. There is sacrifice involved. And there is the cross of Christ. Yet even though we must struggle it is the Lord who saves. It is the Lord who answers the knock and opens the door and lets a person in.
It is not enough, however, to have cheered Jesus from afar like some pop star. Not enough to say you lived in his street. Not even enough to have eaten at his table as we do today at Mass. We must want to know him. Like Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus we need to want to know him. We need to do something about it!
The prophet Isaiah tells us that God wants to gather all people to the heavenly banquet (Isaiah 66:18-21). We are all saved in the sense that God offers it to us. God does not have favourites. Some times we think he does. Jesus in befriending the tax collector and sinner makes it clear that there is no earthly situation we find ourselves in that could exclude us. No matter how bad we might be God does not withdraw his offer. Jesus death on the cross is testament to that. That pledge is what we celebrate at the Eucharist. It is our choice, however, whether we come and knock.
Even our presence here does not mean we are automatically have entrance into the Kingdom. Following the World Youth Day pilgrimage does not mean we have a place set aside for us. We must live and act as disciples. World Youth Day like our presence here at the Eucharist is an opportunity to hear the invitation and say our "Yes! We will follow Jesus way."