A Moral Litmus Test

Why would someone take the hard way around in life? Why would anyone scrape through brambles and climb hills where there is little path and a narrow gate, when there is a wide, paved open road before them? One would assume that the right thing to do is take the easy road. Often a rule of thumb for human choices had a bottom line–how good will this make me feel? You could say feeling good has become a litmus test for morality.  This Sunday’s gospel and case study both morally point us to the contrary; discomfort.

narrow gate pexels

Gospel LK 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. 
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” 
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough. 
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from. 
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the 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.”
Reflections from the group: 
…But will not be strong enough…
If we were conditioning for a marathon we would participate in strength and endurance training.  What is akin to that in the spiritual world? Our strength comes from the sacraments and as this scripture points out, knowing the Lord.  It’s not enough to be in the same “vicinity” as him, but to really spend time in his personal company.  To know him, we must make time to enter into the silence of prayer; listening closely to His gentle direction.
Will only a few souls be saved?
Some say salvation is just a matter of faith alone.  To proclaim Christ is to be saved.  Some recognize that it is much more than just faith.  As this scripture points out, people coming from all corners of the world will be saved.  Whose idea of salvation is right? When we truly learn to know Christ we will understand how he calls us to live.
Wailing and grinding of teeth…
There is a great urgency with which Christ convicts his listeners.  The order of which we are saved (the last, first and the first, last) seems to hinge on humility.  How can I exercise humility? Remembering that true love puts God above all and then the “other” helps me focus on His grace and mercy and not my own capabilities.
You will recline at table…
Jesus talks of a place prepared in Heaven for me, his believer.  When I meditate on this idea it is all I need to sustain me.  He waits on me, accompanies me, and wants me with him.  I tend to let the intricacies of how to get to heaven distract me in this life.  When I focus on him and his quest for me it convicts me of his love and spending eternity with him.
…to enter through the narrow gate…
We want to have everything but avoid any discomfort.  We don’t like that we may be uncomfortable, even as parents with our children who are not behaving as they should.  We are called to confront the sin in others and ourselves.  It’s not easy; and We have experienced that often the more difficult a decision is to live, the more likely it’s the right one.
Continuing from last week, often we think freedom means avoiding pain and indulging ourselves in our own self-righteousness.  “Speak it” is the new motto to proclaim the gospel of “me”, rather than the gospel of truth and salvation, which may require us to give up something of ourselves.  Counter-cultural to what usually lands us at happiness; this kind of self-sacrifice, difficulty and suffering leads us to understand we are not our own God.
A Case Study of Self-Sacrifice
He worked for two years, part-time, earning money doing odd jobs all while continuing his high school education. In the end, he was able to achieve his goal.  He purchased a motorized wheelchair for his friend who’s manual wheelchair had become cumbersome and heavy.  Presenting the wheelchair to his friend as a surprise not only brought about an award-winning smile of gratitude, but it inspired the rest of the school community to pitch in an help celebrate the young man’s new “wheels”.
Looking at the world through a lens of faith as we do with our cases, we see the incredible selflessness and charity that exists in this young man who would work for years to make his friend’s life easier.  He knew there was nothing in it for him and rewarding the friendship of the other was his sole intent.  The world may wonder at such generosity–or even suspect it of insincerity–but the contagious spirit of this selflessness young man took over the hearts of others who witnessed it.
The virtue of charity emerging from this case casts light on further exercising justice in our lives.  When we have so much, how can we ignore the lack in the lives of those around us? The compassion with which is exemplary in this case motivates us to:
Act: Reach out to a neighbor on our street that we have not met or barely know.
Pray:  Once a day, pray the prayer of St Francis with our hearts. Known and loved so well for its simplicity and beauty, it will be a guide toward living my life more toward God and others.
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
El_Greco_-_St._Francis_Venerating_the_Crucifix_(San_Francisco) (1)
Case study based on the following:

3 thoughts on “A Moral Litmus Test

  1. Another excellent post, Meg! So love the prayer also! I just learned that this prayer was not written by St. Francis but by an anonymous priest who wrote it on the back of a picture of St. Francis. It doesn’t make the prayer any less than it is though. I have it by my bed in Italian!

    Liked by 1 person

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