Homily — 21st Sunday Ordinary Time C August 26, 2007
The Baseball Season is of course in full swing (no pun intended), and all the teams in their different leagues and divisions are trying their hardest to make it into the fall playoffs.
The players know all too well that Many will attempt to enter the post-season, but will not be strong enough to do so.
And when at the end of October itâ€™s all over, many a manager and many a player will wail and grind his teeth in remorse for not trying harder throughout the season to win.
Todayâ€™s Gospel speaks about people trying to get not into the World Series, but into the “Life of World To Come” (as we call it in the Creed) — into the Eternal Life of Heaven.
While Jesus, being God, knows how many will be eternal winners and how many eternal losers, He doesnâ€™t let us know those statistics.
What Jesus does tell us, is that, just as many baseball teams arenâ€™t good enough to make it into the playoffs, so many people will attempt to enter Heaven but will not be strong enough.
And unlike baseball, where “thereâ€™s always next year,” at the end of our life, when the last inning has been played out, there is no “next year” — we are either reclining at table in the kingdom of God with Abraham Isaac and Jacob, or weâ€™re cast outside with the doors to Heaven locked to us forever.
And so we, like the Red Sox and the Yankees, need to realize that this is hard ball weâ€™re playing, and therefore we must strive to enter through the narrow gate of discipline.
Each year, ball players have both an intense period of discipled training in the spring, and ongoing weekly disciplined exercizes to keep them in shape for the season.
It is the same way in our spiritual life — we need to take very seriously our spring training season which we call Lent.
And we must also have a weekly regimen of disciplined spiritual exercizes, if we donâ€™t want to end up being one of the many who arenâ€™t saved.
As the letter to the Hebrews says My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord.
At the second reading describes, there are passive disciplines that we must undergo — the Crosses and trials of life God permits us to bear for our salvation. But there are also active disciplines we must also embrace, for example:
The discipline of attending Mass each Sunday.
The discipline of every Friday throughout the year, abstaining from meat or substituting some other sacrifice or prayer in memory of Jesusâ€™ Passion on Good Friday.
The discipline of moderation in food, drink and material pleasures, the discipline of chastity according to oneâ€™s state in life.
The discipline of almsgiving, of a daily prayer life, of going to confession on a periodic basis.
Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord . . . at the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
Those who do disdain the discipline of the Lord, who blow off these spiritual exercises bring shame upon our religion in the same way ball players who use steroids bring shame upon the Baseball Profession.
May we not take after them, but rather be inspired by those true Hall of Famers, the Saints of the Church, to embrace the disciplines of the Lord which will win us the crown of victory.
Finally, perhaps some of us today are striking out in the spiritual life, we keep losing game after game to the world, the flesh and the devil.
Perhaps we think our prospects seem bleak of even getting into Heaven as a wild card pick.
If this is you, donâ€™t despair, but strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees, and make straight the paths for your feet into the arms of Godâ€™s mercy.
May we all keep fighting the good fight, never forgetting that some who are now last will be first before the gameâ€™s over, and some who are first now, will finish last if they cease striving to enter that narrow gate of life in Christ.