21st Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Have you ever seen a celebrity? Have you ever met a political representative? Did the encounter leave you with newfound acting or musical abilities? Did it give you a grasp of the intricacies of the latest city ordinance or controversial law? Talents, expertise, and skill are hard-won traits, not rewards that spread by contact. Our life of faith is also not so easy.
“We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets!” In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus notes that it requires moral strength to enter the kingdom of God. It’s not mere proximity to righteousness that saves. Rubbing elbows with the righteous is not the same as being truly holy ourselves. Unfortunately, we can have this attitude in many areas. It’s easy to see who may seem “first” in the eyes of the world. This occurs in our workplaces and among our public figures. It can also happen in our schools, local parishes, and the larger Church. For some of us, the temptation to have the popularity and prestige rub off on us can be fairly strong. If only we are in the right place with the right people, surely others will associate us with what they possess!
But salvation is worked out in each individual life. It is our task not merely to show up, but to be transformed. And the truly transformed may not be everyone we expect. “People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south … some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Some who seem first in reputation now may be last in the kingdom of God. Others who appear now on the furthest fringes of society — but better imitate the lowly holiness of Jesus — will be first in his kingdom. What are your concerns? Proximity and reputation? Or prayerful righteousness?