Sunday Bible Reflections
John questions Jesus from prison in today’s Gospel—for his disciples’ sake and for ours.
He knows that Jesus is doing “the works of the Messiah,” foretold in today’s First Reading and Psalm. But John wants his disciples—and us—to know that the Judge is at the gate, that in Jesus our God has come to save us.
The episode in today’s First Reading has been called “Israel’s original sin.” Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from His ways and fell to worshipping a golden calf.
Moses implores God’s mercy, just as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race. Just as He still pleads for sinners at God’s right hand and through the ministry of the Church.
Like a king making ready for battle or a contractor about to build a tower, we have to count the cost as we set out to follow Jesus.
Our Lord today is telling us up front the sacrifice it will take. His words aren’t addressed to His chosen few, the Twelve, but rather to the “great crowds”—to anyone, to whoever wishes to be His disciple.
We come to the wedding banquet of heaven by way of humility and charity. This is the fatherly instruction we hear in today’s First Reading, and the message of today’s Gospel.
Jesus is not talking simply about good table manners. He is revealing the way of the kingdom, in which the one who would be greatest would be the servant of all (see Luke 22:24–27).
Jesus doesn’t answer the question put to Him in this Sunday’s Gospel. It profits us nothing to speculate on how many will be saved. What we need to know is what He tells us today—how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door.
Jesus is “the narrow gate,” the only way of salvation, the path by which all must travel to enter the kingdom of the Father (see John 14:6).
Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24). And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.
The fire He has come to cast on the earth is the fire that He wants to blaze in each of our hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7) and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in Baptism (see Luke 3:16).
We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture (see Hebrews 12:1). We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm.
The Liturgy this week sings the praises of our fathers, recalling the defining moments in our “family history.” In the Epistle, we remember the calling of Abraham; in the First Reading we relive the night of the Exodus and the summons of the holy children of Israel.