The last will be first.

October 27, 1999

Romans 8, 26-30 + Luke 13, 22-30

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Today Paul teaches an important, but hard, truth. All things work together for good for those who love God. Sometimes this is very hard to see and indeed in our humanity we may not always be able to believe in that Providence. It's not an endorsement of fatalism, but rather an affirmation of the truth that our existence is Beauty, and that structure of justice is superior to the demonic structures of sin and evil that afflict the world.

Fortunately, the "Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness." We hardly even know what to pray for (as the saying goes, "be careful what you pray for, you might get it.") So the "Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." Paul wasn't a hermit. When he looked out his window he saw the Roman Empire, in all of its cruel and terrible grandiosities. Men and women hung on crosses at the city gates, slaves were bought and sold in the marketplace, Christians were persecuted, there was much then that inspired despair. So it is today, different context, same culture of death structures.

It's a day for hard sayings, because Jesus gives us a few too, not the least of which is "some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last," echoing ancient themes from the prophets and wisdom writings. Some people may reject the Kingdom, but others will come -- from all directions to sit at the Table of Plenty.

Many people seek a comfortable Christianity, but today's Gospel is more in the direction of "afflicting the comfortable Christianity." Christianity involves a change of heart that leads to a change in ways and manners of living. We stop doing some things and start doing other things. Sometimes that change is rapid and dramatic, other times it is slow, incremental. It's a journey, a movement -- not in isolation or alienation, but rather in a new reconciling and redeeming community. Nobody has strength in and of himself or herself to challenge that 'gate' that is straight and narrow, but through the Spirit, who comes to the aid of our weakness, all things are possible, Jubilee doors are opened and new paths revealed., decorated and adorned with Wisdom, Beauty, Justice and Love.

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