Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Left Out

Feeling left out is one of the most painful of human experiences. We are social beings and long to belong and feel accepted. When we are rejected, ridiculed or ignored because of the color of our skin, because of the way we look, because of the way we talk or because of our economic status, it can be among the most humiliating of our memories.

If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that, in order to fit in, we have sometimes compromised our values and beliefs. We have acted in ways that are contrary to our conscience so that others would accept us. Too many times we have so feared the rejection and ridicule that society threatens to those who will not conform to its values that we have not always been true to ourselves and to our faith. It is a sin which all of us have been guilty of at one time or another in our lives - so powerful is our desire to fit in and belong.

But there is a new society breaking into human history. There is a new community being gathered by the Word of God. Jesus' death and resurrection has made it possible that those whom the world rejects can find a new home. In Jesus' day it was the leper, the tax collector and the adulterer. In today's world, it is the homosexual who seeks to live a chaste life, it is the person who earns less but gives more, it is the divorced person who longs for communion with God and it is the victim who chooses forgiveness over revenge. God is gathering such people in his quest to renew the earth.

Now, we have a decision to make. Whose friendship do we desire? In whose company do we wish to be found when the doors are closed for the night? We cannot be in both places at the same time. What do we desire more? Are the pleasures offered by the beautiful people so valuable that we are willing to exchange our ideals, our principles and our beliefs -- essentially, our souls -- for them? Or will we prefer the society of those who are saved by the One Who created us with those ideals, principles and beliefs? Will we belong to the world or will we belong to Christ and His Body, the Church?

The gate is narrow. Jesus tells us that there are some who will not be strong enough to enter. There will be some on the outside because the master does not know where they are from.

Why would the master not know where they are from? Because he does not recognize their ideals, principles and beliefs. They are the values of the world, not of the Kingdom of God.

Why might we not be strong enough to enter? Could it be because we have never strengthened our muscles by fighting for our ideals and principles? Could it be that we have grown weak because we have decided to “go with the flow” rather than defend our values and the teachings of our faith?  

And why might the gate be too narrow for us? Could it be because we are too bloated from feasting on the world's riches, pleasures and vanities at the expense of our soul? Could it be because we have hoarded everything we could get our hands on rather than sacrifice ourselves to feed, clothe and shelter the needy around us?

God is offering us eternal friendship with Him through Jesus. Unlike the world which only loves those who meet its standards and ideals, God loves us unconditionally no matter how we look, no matter our social status and no matter our past sins. However, to be on the inside with God, we have to be on the outside with the world.  We have to be cast out by the world to be cast into the net of the fishers of men. We have to be misfits in contemporary society to fit into the Kingdom of God. There is no way to reconcile the two value systems for they are at odds with each other. We will belong to one or the other. We will be mastered by one or mastered by the other.

Jesus chose the narrow way. He was the most powerful man to ever walk the earth, yet He chose the company of the weak and powerless. He was the most holy man who ever lived. Yet He chose the company of sinners and scoundrels. He is the Creator of all life, yet He chose to give His life on the cross, suffering the most humiliating of all deaths. He chose poverty so that we might be rich. He chose weakness so that we might be strong. And He did it all so that we could break the hold that the world has over our souls. He did it to free us to follow Him on the narrow way. Are we willing to turn our back on the world’s greed and lust to walk the way that Jesus showed us no matter how difficult?

We are gathered here today to share in the master’s banquet. The Eucharist is the feast of poor souls. Its dry bread cannot compare to the juicy steaks or the creamy pastas we would enjoy in the world’s best restaurants. The sips of wine we wash it down with are closer to the homeless person's ripple than the rich man's bourdeau. But, for those of us on the outside, we see our opportunity to both be poor like Jesus by sharing His meal with sinners and to be rich like Him in His intimacy with God. We get a taste of where we are from and where we belong, and we are ushered in by Jesus to the Master's house before the door is bolted fast behind us.

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