Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sacrament of Confirmation

August 21, 2022
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church
Hillsboro, TX

Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

When someone asked Jesus if only a few people would be saved, His answer was not immediately very comforting. “Try to come in through the narrow gate; many will try but few will be strong enough.” He says the master of the household doesn’t seem to recognize those who stand outside knocking, even though they had been his companions. And the wailing and grinding of teeth that awaits those outside the door is not a pretty thought. Their love for sin has made them to become unrecognizable to God because they have become what they love: sin.

If there is no comfort in the thought that we might not be accepted into heaven, that can serve as an incentive for us to pay attention to what the Lord says to us and what He tells us to do. Jesus’ advice is for us to enter through the narrow gate. The narrow gate refers to the repentance and change of heart that we need to be disciples of Jesus. Those who remain hard of heart, not making time for the Lord and refusing to look beyond themselves, whose faith is a selfish matter and doesn’t lead to service of others, hurt only themselves. Those who only pretend to follow the Gospel seal their fate. Those who reject Jesus and His message and prefer their own way of sin and indifference to the Ten Commandments slam the door on their salvation. Those who refuse to be gathered by Christ are left to their own devices.

The narrow gates of ancient cities were only wide enough for one person to get through. Jesus refers to Himself as this narrow gate. In our thoughts about a life after this one, it is instructive to remember a disconcerting but calming truth. We most likely deserve a fate far less glorious than heaven since what would we be without Him? This is the reason Jesus has sent us another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that you will receive today enable each of us to pass through the narrow gate into heaven. They enable us to change what we enjoy in life from selfish and sinful exploits to the good things that God has provided for us and that we can share out of love.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are what enable us to follow the counsel of today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews “to strengthen our weary hands and our faltering knees; to walk on a level path, so that the lame man no longer stumbles, but rather is relieved.” It is especially the gift of the Fear of the Lord that enables us to desire to love God more than our own sins.

When I anoint your forehead with Chrism in a few moments and you return to your seats, take time to feel the Chrism on your forehead and to inhale the sweet aroma of the Chrism. The aroma of the Chrism represents the sweet aroma of holiness, the sweet aroma of belonging to Jesus and to His Catholic Church, and the sweet aroma of a disciple who is able to enter through the narrow gate into heaven. Enter through the narrow gate, the Holy Spirit alone makes you strong enough to do so.

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