Friday, August 19, 2016

A Simple Choice

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

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Jesus rescuing sinners from the mouth of the devil.
When Jesus is asked how many people will be saved, He doesn't give a number. Instead, our gentle Savior speaks of "wailing and grinding of teeth" from those who will be cast out.  

You have to feel a little bad for homilists who have to welcome freshmen on the first Sunday of the new semester by preaching about wailing and grinding of teeth (hopefully not a commentary on what your time here at Western will be like!).  It would certainly be easier to preach on some of the more comforting words Jesus gave us.  Be not afraid.  Love one another as I have loved you.  Consider the lilies.

Yet this gospel reading is very appropriate for the start of a new year on campus.  Jesus' harsh words remind us that we have a fundamental choice to make -- do you want to go to heaven or not?  

A priest recently began a homily by telling his congregation that they could either become a saint or go to hell.  We don't often hear it stated so bluntly, but that's entirely true.

We tend to think of saints as the heroes of our faith who lived lives of virtue unobtainable by most of us.  They are heroes, and they did lead virtuous lives, but we are mistaken if we think saintly virtue is only for the few.  God made us each to be saints.  We may only know the names of a few saints that have been formally canonized by the Church.  But there are countless other saints whose names we do not know.  Being a saint is simply about living virtuously and becoming the person God made you to be.

We can't do it on our own.  Jesus is not saying, "Be good enough and you can earn your way into heaven."  None of us deserves heaven.  Yet God made us to be saints, but that is an end beyond what our nature is capable of.  By making us for sanctity, He calls us to something higher than ourselves, and for that we need to rely on Him.  Holiness requires cooperating with God's work in your life.

God will not force us to be something we don't want to be.  I saw a political cartoon recently that showed a "pro-choice" politician standing before God on Judgment Day.  God said, "I am personally opposed to hell, but I respect your right to choose."  If we choose to turn away from God, He will respect that.  This is the definition of what hell is -- eternal separation from God.  God doesn't send anyone there, but many choose it on their own.

College is a time of choices.  Not just your major, but other important, every day choices.  What friends will you make?  How will you spend your time?  Who and what will you allow to influence you?  Will you go to Mass?  Will you make your faith a priority?  Will you cooperate with God's will for your life?  Will you strive to enter through the narrow gate?  Will you grow in love and holiness during your time here?

At the end of the day, all of these choices will help you to make the one fundamental choice that we all must make.  Will you become a saint, or go to hell?

If you choose to become a saint, we at Catholic Campus Ministry will do everything we can to help you along that path.  We can't wait to make that journey with you.

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