#Remnant is the podcast for August 25, 2019, A remnant is not a carpet. Jesus’s words rest on our understanding of the remnant. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke13 #Remnant #ChosenPeople #Nebuchadnezzar #TiglathPilesar #KingdomofGod #Faith
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/25/2019 The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 13:22-30.
When I say the word “remnant” to someone who lives in the United States, I am sure you are thinking of loud commercials where the last section of a roll of carpeting is for sale at a greatly discounted price. So, what I am about to tell you needs a clearing of the deck in your mind. The idea of a “remnant” is key to understanding the question that Jesus is asked today in the Gospel of Luke, but it has nothing to do with carpeting.
There were two great exiles in the Bible. One was when Israel was exiled by Tiglath-Pilesar of Assyria. The other was when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Israel and took the people into the Babylonian kingdom into exile. There was usually left behind a remnant of the people to continue on in occupied Israel.
When the Jewish people were taken into exile both of these times, there was a crisis of identity. How could the chosen people, who were led out of captivity in Egypt be the people who are now being dragged out of Israel to another land as slaves? What then, in the face of such a collapse does it mean to be part of the Chosen People?
A few years ago, a conservative Rabbi said that he believed that the Jews were subject to the Holocaust because they were not as faithful as they should have been. He was castigated for these remarks. Yet, anyone who knows the history of the people Israel knows that one of the beliefs in the face of extinction for the Jews is that they were not faithful enough and God was reducing the people to a faithful remnant.
That faithful remnant would go on to become a small, convicted, and converting force to bring the world to belief in God. They would be holy small squad faith leaders. Their abilities, honed in being the minority, would be inspired by God and overtake the world to become the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus walked the earth, Israel was under the domination of the Roman Empire. Tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Empire. The Temple leaders did not serve as leaders unless they knew how to go along to get along with Rome. We can see this coexistence and quiet rebellion in the Crucifixion of Christ. He was presented by the Jewish people to the Roman authorities as someone who committed treason. So, the question of purity of faith is on the minds of the first century Jews constantly. They were in the equivalent of exile in their own land.
So, when Jesus comes and talks about the being a mustard seed and the leaven of the Kingdom of God, which are the two parables before the passage we hear today, the ears are thinking about the remnant of holy people saved on the ark with Noah and the remnant of holy people who were saved from exile in Assyria and then Babylon. Now, the question is, who would be the remnant keeping the true faith under Roman occupation?
So, the person who asks Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” he is asking from the framework of the holy remnant. Jesus’ answer is startling to us who believe. He said that those who enter will be few because to be faithful is not a matter of birthright, or a matter of status. In fact, when the end comes, there are those who ate at the table of the Lord who will be standing in the streets banging on the doors when the doors are finally closed.
I am struck by several things in this passage. First of all, that being saved to be with God forever and ever is something that people wanted. That is not something that is of a high value in our society. People were concerned they were going to be left out of when it happened.
The question that is begged here is, “Is the kingdom of God and being saved worth enough to us that we are concerned we will be left out?” Do we believe that there will be a resurrection of the dead and that evil will be banished from the earth? Do we believe that God is a god who loves us, loves others, and is working toward the renewal of the world through the saving work of Jesus Christ? Do we believe that truth enough that we are willing to live a life of a faithful remnant?
The next thing we have to notice is that some who thought they were going to be seated at the wedding feast were left standing outside. As Catholics, we need to be especially careful because we can get caught up in the fact that “we have all our sacraments.” It is like we have participated in the magic dipsy do to make us get in the gates of heaven. This is foolishness. If the Jews are told by Jesus that God could raise up children of Abraham from stones, then what makes us think that because we have gone to the proper church, participated in the proper rituals, that we are going to heaven without faith? The two must go together. We must live out the sacraments from our ardent faith.
The part of the passage that says people from all directions will be seated at the banquet table had to be shocking to the ears of Jews. It was saying that even those who were not of the “chosen people” would be part of the remnant who make it into heaven or are called to spread the faith throughout the earth. If not birth or circumcision into Judaism, what criteria is there for being part of the Great Banquet?
St. Paul says, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you believe this in your heart, you will arrange your life to be centered around worship of him at Mass on Sundays, make sure you meet with him daily in prayer, hear him daily in the reading of the Scriptures, make sure you are cleansed through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and are enlivened and sustained through at least weekly reception of our Lord in the Eucharist.
Your thinking will be rearranged around mercy for the poor, the unborn, the oppressed trapped in sin, those in prison, and for the immigrant and the stranger. The goals of God and his mission will become your goals and his mission. These are the requirements of admission to the Banquet of the Remnant.
One last thing to remember, Jesus is saying everything until we get to Christ the King Sunday on his way to Jerusalem where he knows he is going to die on the Cross. He is going willingly because he knows that his sacrifice is to give his life for your salvation. He knows what it is like to make this kind of sacrifice. He is not asking you to do something that he himself has not already done. He can lead you on the way to be part of the faithful remnant.
All you have to do is say yes to Jesus Christ. Say yes and turn your life over to him, renew your commitment and love for him. I ask you to renew that commitment of faith to him today as you hear my voice.
Join the remnant, the faithful remnant who will be with Jesus when he comes again. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian