Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C

Paul W. Galetto, O.S.A.
Saint Rita High School
Chicago Illinois

Isa 66: 18-21
Ps 11: 1-2
Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13
Lk 13: 22-30

I love grocery shopping, but the check out process not so much. Who decided that the limit for the express check out is twelve items? Does that mean twelve different items or twelve items total? If I have three bottles of ketchup, does that count as one item? The checker only needs to scan one of them, so what’s the problem? So, do they really mean twelve or can you get by with fifteen? When do the other people start to give you the stare that says, “What, did you fail elementary school arithmetic?” Some people are so sensitive.

The worst is when I get behind someone who wants to pay with a check. Who does that anymore? Haven’t they seen the commercial by the credit card company that shows the check payer slows up the whole world? Why didn’t they sign the check while they were waiting in line? Were they thinking of changing their name? I realize corporate mergers are happening at an ever-faster pace, but did they think the name of the store would change by the time they got to the front of the line? Come on, people, get ahead of the game!

The self-check out isn’t much better. It always seems that there is one adult who is technologically challenged who feels he or she can waste my time trying to figure out how to use a scanner. Then there is the parent who has her five-year old scan the items. He can barely reach the counter top yet it gives him something to do and keeps him entertained for what seems hours. I’m in a hurry! What are you doing?

The greatest crime of the supermarket, however, is when you have been standing in line waiting for the mother who has decided to shop once a month whether she needs to or not and has three carts brimming with items. Behind you are five other people giving her the stare. Miraculously, someone in the front office decides to open another register. God forbid that someone behind me gets to the newly opened register before I do! I don’t buy this, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” stuff. In the unofficial course entitled “Supermarket Ethics”, it’s all about me and my time – I was there first and so I’m number one.

So what is the point of today’s Gospel? It doesn’t seem fair. At a minimum, Jesus is telling us that if we view heaven as a supermarket check out line, we are going to be gravely disappointed. The people that are hearing the Gospel message as Jesus spoke it thought of themselves as entitled to heaven; these were the Chosen People. Jesus says, “Not so fast.”

The heavenly kingdom is not like the Magic Kingdom (for those with a preference for all things Disney). You can’t buy your way in and then just because you own an admissions ticket assume you can get a Fast Pass to salvation.

Heaven is not an entitlement. Just because we are born Christian does not mean we automatically have it made. Entrance into the kingdom is not about being but about doing. What does our faith call us to do? Do we have the courage to act on our beliefs? Do we believe in and act on love and reconciliation?

The great news is that heaven is a possibility for all. We didn’t need to be born in the right family. We didn’t need to have a certain pedigree. There are no lines with limits of twelve items only. All are welcome and all can make it. But we should not delude ourselves; it can be hard. When we act immorally and meanly, the Lord will not recognize us. We knock and we can’t get in. We distort our appearance when we turn away from the light of truth and live in the shadows of selfishness.

Going to Sunday Mass, saying the rosary and daily prayers are all well and good but there is no entitlement with them if they do not call us to do better and to be better.

Eventually, we all have to go to the check out line of life. It is nice to know that it is not like the supermarket with roadblocks, frustrations and limits. No matter when we arrived and not matter where we came from as long as our shopping cart is filled with good deeds we are welcomed.