THE TWO ROADS OPEN TO MAN
Hezekiah and Jeremiah opted for faith in God against all odds.
The moralizing theme of the two ways, familiar to Jewish thought and also to Christian thinking from the early Church to the present – for example, Ignatian spirituality – underlies the readings today. Jesus says that there is an easy and spacious road that leads to perdition and a narrow, arduous road leading to life. Today’s wealthy countries have created themselves a life of comfort that is on the way of becoming self-destructive of nature, resources, and humankind itself. Would greater restraint not allow everyone on earth to live a life worthy of people, of the sons and daughters of God? Which way is ours?
Lord our God,
you ask us through your Son Jesus Christ:
which road do you want to take:
the one that is undemanding and effortless,
or the road and the gate
that are narrow and difficult
and full of obstacles?
Lord, whatever road or gate it is,
let it be that of your Son,
for he is our Lord for ever.
1 Reading: 2 Kings 19:9B-11, 14-21, 31-35A, 36
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent envoys to Hezekiah with this message: “Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by saying that Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria. You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all other countries: they doomed them! Will you, then, be saved?'” Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the temple of the LORD, and spreading it out before him, he prayed in the LORD’s presence: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned upon the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made the heavens and the earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Hear the words of Sennacherib which he sent to taunt the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and cast their gods into the fire; they destroyed them because they were not gods, but the work of human hands, wood and stone. Therefore, O LORD, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent this message to Hezekiah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, in answer to your prayer for help against Sennacherib, king of Assyria: I have listened! This is the word the LORD has spoken concerning him: “‘She despises you, laughs you to scorn, the virgin daughter Zion! Behind you she wags her head, daughter Jerusalem. “‘For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.’ “Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not reach this city, nor shoot an arrow at it, nor come before it with a shield, nor cast up siege-works against it. He shall return by the same way he came, without entering the city, says the LORD. I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.'” That night the angel of the LORD went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, and went back home to Nineveh.
Responsorial Psalm 48:2-3AB, 3CD-4, 10-11
R. (see 9d) God upholds his city for ever.
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth. R.
Mount Zion, “the recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold. R.
O God, we ponder your mercy
within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full. R.
Alleluia John 8:12
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
Today’s reading from Kings is illustrative of the gospel’s teaching. It is important to enter by the narrow gate, since the wide gate is the one that leads to devastation and destruction. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, was set on the destruction of Jerusalem and its environs, but, by the power of God, nearly two-hundred thousand troops of Assyria were destroyed and Assyria was forced to retreat.
The great irony of religious history is that things do not always work as expected. The size of the invading force did not outweigh the designs of God. And all too often it was human designs are forces opposed to Christianity that failed while Christianity survived. In our own times, we have seen religious men and women who refuse to bear arms or prepare for war for reasons of conscience.
Pope Paul VI pleaded in the United Nations, “War, war— never again.” One hopes that we have set upon a new course where mutual antagonism will be offset by diplomacy and negotiation. Many of the most diffident nations would choose to find peaceful solutions to solve conflicts.
Rather than engage in warfare, Francis of Assisi went to the Muslim world to engage the sultan in dialogue. We live by the Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers….”
– That we may not become demanding on others but ask the Lord to make us generous and mild in the way we want others to treat us, we pray:
– That we may never seek an easy way out through lies or passivity when life and the good of our neighbor demand sacrifices, we pray:
– That we may not tolerate people to be exploited or discriminated against, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God,
your Son Jesus chose the way
of humility and poverty
and he still appears among us today
in the everyday sign of a piece of bread.
Give to us and to your Church, we pray you,
the mentality of Jesus Christ,
that we may not try to impress the world
with power and prestige
but change it from within
with a poverty of means
and the simple gift of humble service.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer after Communion
God, Lord of life,
you respect our freedom
of choosing between two ways:
the easy road of self-will
that leads to nowhere
and the stony path of your will.
Let your Son stay with us
and walk by our side
on the only road that leads to life,
the road where your will is our will
and your happiness is ours
now and for ever.
“The gate is narrow and the road that leads to life is hard.” Yes, sometimes the road of the Lord does not look straight and, just like father Abraham of old, we don’t know well where it is leading. But our faith tells us to entrust ourselves to Christ. May almighty God lead and bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!