Variety is the Spice of Life

August 25, 2019, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Variety is the Spice of Life”. Or so the old cliché goes. But think about it. What would life be like if we did not have Mexican and Italian food, Black music, Jewish humor, Irish politics and poetry, Polish warmth and enthusiasm, and Hispanic mysticism?

 

Think about what life would be like if children and adults led completely segregated lives. Think about what life would be like if you were only permitted to associate with people your own age, race, or creed. Think about how dull the year would be without the changes of seasons. A homogenized world would be dull and bland. “Variety is the spice of life” is more than a cliché; it is profound wisdom.

But there are times when the spice can turn to poison. Think of the ethnic and racial conflicts especially in the big cities. Think of the generational conflicts between parents and children. Think about the struggle between the old and the young in values, lifestyles, and so many other things. Think about the conflicts that weaken the love between husband and wife. Differences may be the spice of life, but they can also be the poison of life. Sometime it seems that maybe God has put too much spice into life.

 

Variety then, can bring both excitement and agony to life. If we can understand this, then we can understand the Gospel today. In the gospel Jesus is telling us on one hand, that it is as difficult to get to heaven as it is to get through a very narrow gate; and on the other hand, he tells us that people are going to pour in from every corner of the earth. What does he mean? This seems to be contradictory.

 

What Jesus is saying is that first of all, to get to heaven you must be good. All those locked out are called “evildoers” in the gospel. Secondly, it is because people will pour into the kingdom from all the corners of the earth that many others will have a hard time entering. In other words, it will be hard for many simply because so many other people are entering too.

 

The Gospel opens the door to heaven for ALL people, provided they are good people and not evildoers.

 

One of the great burdens of life for some is putting up with people who are different. By opening the door to the Kingdom for all humans, Jesus made it both attractive to everyone and difficult for everyone. Attractive because the gospel appeals to all human beings; and difficult because now we have to put up with them. It was good of Jesus to invite us, and we appreciate that, but why did he have to invite “them” too? Why did he have to invite all these strange and peculiar people? Why is there room for them in heaven?

 

If you ever avoided going to a party because someone you don’t like is going to be there, then you know the meaning of this parable.

So Jesus made it easy for us, but also difficult.  Once you start letting people of different races, languages, nationalities, creeds, and cultural backgrounds into heaven, then you create problems. Because now we have to not only put up with them, but we also have to share eternity with them.

Today we should look long and hard at how we relate to other human beings. Because the way it is now is the way it will be later. We better start practicing how to get along with everyone, or we will be the ones squeezing through the narrow gate. We better stop hating people who are different, and we better start enjoying and celebrating our differences. And we better start doing this now.

 

Mexican, Italian, Black, Jewish, Irish, Polish, Muslim, Hispanic – all the spices of life –– and also the kingdom of God. Amen.

Sunday Readings

Isaiah 66:18–21

[Thus says the Lord,] “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; they shall come and see my glory.”

Hebrews 12:5–7, 11–13

Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.

Luke 13:22–30

[Jesus said,] “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”