We must freely accept his offer of salvation

08-21-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In the olden days, way back before handheld calculators were common (!), school al­ways began the Wednesday after Labor Day, no matter how early or late this holiday was. As time has moved on, school often starts before Labor Day. Colleges and Universi­ties often start at the start of the third week of August. Lower education often begins the last week of August. It does not really matter when education formally begins, we all know as we creep along in August and as the evening sun has less time that our school year and Autumn way of life will soon be beginning. There is however a theme for this weekend that supersedes this time of change and new beginnings for education. We learn in the passages this weekend that we can always learn how to be better followers of Jesus Christ. We need to continually listen to His Word in sacred scripture, reflect upon it, and put it into practice in our daily life.

What we discover in our first reading this weekend is an exotic and earthy vision of uni­versal salvation. The geographic names that are used are from places and sites that have long been abandoned, even back then millennia ago. Sometimes their exact location is lost in the fog of memory. No one then or now really knows where Mosoch and Javan are. We know that Tarshish is in modern Spain, Put and Lud are in northern Africa, and that the "Ionian Islands" refer to Greece. What is also dramatic and intriguing is the list of how people got about: by foot, by wheel and hoof, and also by a beast. Lots of people came in lots of different ways.

The scene of so many people in the first reading contrasts picky counting going on in our Gospel passage. As in the first reading, people are walking and moving, this time along with Jesus. Some are wondering about who will be saved. They worry it will only be a few. Perhaps they thought this answer made sense in light of what Jesus expected from his followers. They may have wondered if there was some other way to be with Je­sus in His Kingdom.

We realize that Jesus does not answer their big question directly. His answer of the Master locking the door on the late arrivers; does not really answer anything clearly. It is difficult to know who these late comers really are.

We learn again that Salvation does not depend upon great human effort: We tend to think everything depends upon us and heaven is monitored by a very frugal or parsimo­nious God. Jesus tells us heaven is not a result of figuring out how to get through a locked door, nor is it a result of the privilege of birth. The salvation which Jesus offers is different. The Salvation Jesus offers us does require our response. We must freely ac­cept his offer of salvation. When Jesus extends His hand to us, we must put out our hand and take His. A disciple takes the outstretched hand of Jesus and walks along with Him to learn His ways. We do not gain salvation by the good luck of being born to the right family or being in the right place at the right time. We must reach out when we are invited and take the hand of Jesus. We must then take on the work and put in the effort to learn and live the message and words of Jesus.