Every Person Decides – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily August 25, 2019

“Certainly our scripture readings this evening are somewhat challenging because the words of Jesus there that not everyone will enter the kingdom of God.  It seems that sometimes in our day and age we think Heaven is a given that all of us necessarily go to Heaven because God loves each and every one of us and because God loves us, he will make sure that we go to Heaven.  Well certainly salvation is for all people as our readings indicate today, that universal call to salvation is there for each and every human being. Christ died for each and everyone of us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is gonna be saved because it has to do with the question of response and Jesus says that you have to enter through the narrow gate.  The narrow gate is Jesus himself in knowledge and relationship with Christ Jesus and it is only as we enter into that spirit as we enter into deeper union with Christ that we truly know the power of salvation, the power of eternal life and so the challenge for every one of us is to enter through the narrow gate, but that gate is always there for us and always open and beckoning us.

Some time ago a young man sent a letter to a priest and he said the priest could use this letter in any way he wished and so I share this letter with you.  It was not sent to me. It was sent to another priest, but here’s what the young men wrote. He says, ‘I was one of the top swimmers in my category in Canada, then one day I let my friends talk me into experimenting with drugs.  I got hooked and soon my mental, physical and spiritual health deteriorated badly. I knew I was all messed up. I became lonely and terribly frightened and there was no one I could talk to. To make matters worse I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000.  I figured my only way out was suicide so I went home and wrote this note to my parents:

Dear Mom, and Dad,

I’m sorry to cause you this pain.  Please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive I would have caused you a lot more grief than by what I just did.

I love you and all the family.

Christopher

And then I began to drink to overcome fear as I began to take my own life.  Then at the last moment something made me stop. I grabbed the phone and called a crisis center.  I didn’t know it then, but my mother was praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehab program and soon I regained my physical and psychological health.  It was then that I started reading the Bible and the more I read it the more peace and joy I felt and this led me to put all my trust in God. Meanwhile there developed in me this growing desire to learn more about Jesus and to get to know him better.  It’s kind of funny, I must have prayed on my knees at least ten times asking Jesus to come into my life. That was before I realized that he was already in my life. All this happened about five years ago. Since then God has blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic High School.  I’m active in a parish community. I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself more and more to the love and mercy of God our Father.’

To me, that’s a beautiful statement about an individual entering through the narrow door.  He tried the wide path, the wide of self-pleasure, satisfaction, but he realized that that was a dead end street and he began then to enter in to the narrow door, to make that choice of entering in to his own self-worth as revealed in Christ Jesus and that’s the call for each and every one of us.  That’s the challenge that we have and I think that one of the more important points of that letter is when he said, ‘I prayed over and over again for Jesus to come into my life and then I discovered that he was already there. That’s true for all of us. Jesus is already there. He’s already present to us.  He is already dynamically in love with each and every one of us, but it is for us to open ourselves to His grace, to His strength, to that power of the Holy Spirit.

Some time ago I read about someone who described Christians as boats and it’s kind of an interesting image for Christians, but he said, ‘Some Christians are sailboats.  They’re like the sailboat because they’re out there in the midst of the water. They have a sense for where they want to go in the boat. They’re sitting at the rudder. They keep an eye on their goal.  They play with the wind and allow the wind to fill their sails and allow them to move forward to their destination and that’s really that power of the Holy Spirit represented by the wind, but people in sailboats are the ones who are actively engaged who really want to work towards that goal of eternal salvation and in doing so they know it’s not a question of the minimum, but rather a question of how much I can do?  How can I love greater? How can I be more faithful? The next people were cruise boats and cruise boats have a different quality to them. I recently was on a cruise, so I know this first hand. When you’re on a cruise you’re kinda disengaged. You’re kinda just there. You’re along for the ride. You hope that somebody is going to get you to the goal. You hope you’re going to get to your final destination, but in the meantime you’re just kinda treading water and with that disengagement comes a certain attitude, kind of a laissez faire, well we’ll get there someday, you know the driver of this boat is gonna get me there.  But being on a cruise is a lot like people who are just kinda along fir the ride in the Church. ‘What’s the minimum I need to do? What’s the least I can get by with? And if I’m not too faithful this week, maybe next week.’ But it’s that complacency, that indifference and the third ones are the life raft Christians. The life raft Christians are ones who have little regard for Christ or the Church or God until the challenge comes, until the difficulties come and then it’s ‘God where are you? Come on, save me! Why aren’t you here right now when I need you? Why aren’t you my life raft?’ The life raft Christians are trying to live their life without an awareness of what the real purpose of life is or what relationship with God is truly about.  Those three images can speak to us in our own way and we need to stop and think about ourselves, ‘Am I a sailboat Christian, am I a cruise boat Christian or am I a life raft Christian?’ And all of us are called to enter by the narrow gate, to enter by the narrow gate, to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ and to realize that yes, Christ is always there with us. It is but for us to follow his way, to walk in his steps, to enter more deeply into intimacy with him, to acknowledge him truly as our Lord and savior for truly Christ is with us and so each of us as Jesus is reminds us is called to enter by the narrow gate, to choose that direction for our own lives and what direction we will go and I’d like to close just by paraphrasing a poem by an English poet by the name of John Oxenham.

‘To every person there opens a way, a highway, a middle way and a low way and the high soul takes the highway and the low soul takes the low way and in between in the misty flats the rest drift to and fro, but to every person there opens a way, a highway, a middle way and a low way and every person decides the way his soul will go.’”