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Getting Inside the City
I always forget something at airport security. I forgot to empty my water bottle. “Step aside, step aside.” I emptied my pockets and forgot to take off my watch. “Step aside, step aside.” I forget to take my IPad out of the bag. “Is this your bag? Step aside, step aside.” Previously Dunkin Donuts had once put a plastic knife inside the bag with my bagel and cream cheese. “Is this your bag? Step aside, step aside.” My father, who rarely flies, was with me on one of my trips and we got by without a glitch. I said to him, “That wasn’t so bad.” Everything was fine until he discovered that he had left his driver’s license behind while taking off his shoes. We had to go through security again. Still, we are grateful for security because it keeps us safe.
In the ancient world, they did not have airport security; they had narrow gates. You would go through a narrow door, then down a narrow corridor. Then you had to enter the city through another narrow door.
Jesus tells us that Hell has a wide gate. The whole Visigoth army can just walk right through the opening and rob everyone in the city. Hell does not care about security because the city is already full of bad guys. The kingdom of God is full of very good people. People who forgive seventy times a day. People who turn the other cheek and cut people a break. People who love enemies and pray for persecutors. People who would give their shirt away if someone didn’t have one. People who make sacrifices for the benefit of others. So there you are in front of the gate, but before you can enter, you have to show history that you are one of these people. It is not enough to go to a Jesus conference, or say “Lord, Lord.”
I was invited to a catholic college in West Virginia to promote vocations to my religious order. I set up my table in front of the school cafeteria. Every student in the school walked by my table to get lunch and not one person stopped to talk to me. No one was interested in my work or what I do. I can understand why. It was during the clergy sex abuse crisis and the students would rather have had lunch with their friends than be seen with a priest. Just before I was ready to pack up for the day, I heard a voice say, “Petah, is that you?” I asked, “Amy?” It was my old girlfriend. When she came over, I apologized to her for dumping her so I could go to the seminary. She said, “No problem when I dated the next guy I blurted out ‘Hands off, God, this one is mine.’” She told me that she had married a doctor, then introduced me to her beautiful children who were progressing well in their education and described her house overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. When she updated me, she took a step back and exclaimed, “Just look at you, you’re a priest.” After a long day of people passing by showing no interest in me and in my work. I replied, “Ya, I guess.” She then continued, “Think of the people whom you are going to be able to help.” It took my old friend to turn on the light for me to see with clarity.
One time someone described himself as a “recovering alcoholic.” I responded, “Think of the people you can help.” One person stated that, while growing up, she was abused. I said, “Think of the people you can help.” Another person described herself as a successful business person, so I gave the same advice–“Think of the people you can help.” Someone finally found a job after a long unemployment only to work for a company that loses money. I told her, “Think of the business and the people in it that you can help.
The kingdom of God is made up of social rejects, losers, sinners, and winners who turn their lives around to help others. Everyone loves to be with a group of people who are willing to make sacrifices for your benefit. But if you want to be in their wonderful company, you have to first be like them yourself.Back to All Homilies