Gathering Unto the Lord of Glory!
Readings: (1st: Ish 66, 18-21; Ps: 116, 5-7. 11-12; 2nd: Heb 12, 11-13; Gos: Lk 12, 22-30)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
The readings of this Sunday, especially the first and the gospel are closely related. Both bear a very strong message of hope: God’s firm resolve to gather and restore his people unto himself. It is not only Jews nor Christians that the Lord will gather unto himself, but people from all nations who submit themselves to his loving discipline and care. One remarkable and interesting thing about this gathering and restoration of people unto God is that it has both a universal and individual dimension.
Kim was the only son of his parents and his father owned a multinational company. As Kim grew up his father noticed an extravagant tendency in him. He made frantic efforts to help Kim become more frugal, accountable and responsible but it was to no avail. Instead Kim accused his father of being wicked and not loving him. In order to equip him with managerial acumen and prepare him to take over the leadership of the company, after his first degree, his father sent him to study in one of the best school of management in the world. In spite of his academic qualification, Kim refused to learn his lessons and continued seeing his father as a dictator who would not allow him live his life the way he wanted. Unfortunately, Kim’s father got involved in a plane crash during one of his numerous business trips abroad and died. Few months later, Kim took over the leadership of the company. Just a year after, the company went bankrupt and completely collapsed. Kim took to drug trafficking business in order to make quick money so as to sustain his extravagant lifestyle. Though he succeeded a number of times, however, on one of such trips he was apprehended in a country in Asia with a large quantity of Cocaine. He was sentenced immediately to death. Before his execution, Kim dropped this short note for his mother through a friend who visited him in prison: “Mummy, Daddy was right and I was absolutely wrong. My stubbornness and waywardness has killed me. Forgive me and do pray for me and Daddy. This is the last time you will hear from me because, I will be executed in a couple of hours from now. Please forgive me Mummy. Bye Mummy!”
The first reading speaks to a time when God’s people were back in Jerusalem. It is an assurance that God will fulfill his promises to us. Here the prophet makes three important points. First and foremost, is the fact that God will soon make well his promise of restoring us to himself. He will surely do this to show his might and saving power. The second is the fact that God has a purpose for this gathering which is for the glory of his name. In order words, every work he does or uses us to do must have the remote aim of giving him glory. Hence, Thomas Aquinas clearly defines the remote aim of spirituality as the glory of God, while its proximate aim is the sanctification and salvation of the human person. The prophet’s third point that we must consciously reflect upon here is the fact that not only will God gather us his people unto himself from different nations; he will also make us afterwards his AMBASSDORS to other nations. Of course, this is when we must have learnt from him through the signs he gives to us: “I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations…to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory.” The purpose of this is simple. To witness to the glory of God! What this portends is that we are also partakers in the “business” of helping our “lost brethren” return or gather unto the Lord. God initiates it and then uses us to accomplish it. Each one of us therefore has a role to play here, irrespective of our calling and status. Hence the God commissions us to: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news.” The core of this good news is that there is hope, that our God will gather and restore us to our lost glory, for the sake of his own glory. We are to proclaim it because the more we do, the more we are enriched by its aroma.
The second reading from Hebrews reminds us that it is through loving obedience and discipline that we can be better positioned to hearken to the clarion call for us to return and gather unto the Lord. Neither the path to this gathering unto God nor the effort to witness to the glory of God promises to be very easy. It will involve walking through the wilderness, thorns and thistles, physical and spiritual chastisement from God our Father who allows it in order to strength, toughen and guide us along the right path we must walk to achieve a better result. Therefore, only those who endure and yet see God as a loving Father will succeed in life. It is often said that: “for a doctor to be kind he must be ‘cruel.’” The doctor has to pierce one painfully in order administer some drugs effectively for the good of his patient. This is the way God also handles us. He is the porter and we are the clay. He knows what shape he desires to get out of us. So he crushes, rough handles, and finally moulds us into a beautiful finished product (Jer 18, 1-17). Unless we learn to endure and obey as Christ learnt to obey through suffering and death on the cross (Phil 2, 4), we may not see or witness to the glory of God. Success is achieved through hard work and hard work through discipline.
In the gospel, Jesus answers a very difficult question: Sir, will there be only a few saved?, in a smart way: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door…! Through this, he reminds us that in as much as the gathering unto him has a universal character and outlook, it does not preclude the fact that we must struggle as individuals. In order words, it behooves us as individuals to make effort to be in the glorious gathering of the saints. Paul therefore admonishes us to: “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2, 12). What this means is that we have to put ourselves together by making use of the available opportunity in order to get ourselves prepared at all times. We are therefore called upon to train ourselves in the act of righteousness and discipline if we must be relevant to the great gathering of the saints by the Lord and for the sake of his glory.
Peace be with you all!