31 October 2007

Polish Your Mirror!

30th Week OT(W): Romans 8.26-30 and Luke 13.22-30
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

[Click Podcast Player to listen]

Along with “are you saved?” and “have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior?”, I grew up hearing, “If you were to die tonight, do you know where your soul will spend eternity?” As a religiously indifferent teenager and an Episcopalian college student, I found these questions more than just annoying; they were intrusive, simplistic, and downright insulting. Not only did these questions pry into my spiritual life, but they presumed the truth of an entirely alien theology as the judge of my spiritual destiny! With solemn indignity, I would answer these religious-bottom feeders: Yes, I’m saved; I’m baptized. No, Jesus is not my personal Lord and Savior; he is the Lord and Savior of the whole Church. Then I would glare for a moment and stalk off…quickly stalk off before they realized that I had left the last question—the question about the destiny of my immortal soul—unanswered. That question got too close to the preening heart of my superficial Gen-X Episcopagan spirituality.

On his way to Jerusalem, someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Let’s notice a few features of this question: 1) it is addressed to Jesus as “Lord”—the questioner is recognizing Jesus’ authority to answer questions about salvation; 2) rather than asking “how many will be saved?” or “will great numbers of people be saved?”, this Someone sets up the question so that Jesus can use the image of the Narrow Gate—not all will have the strength to make it through; and 3) by using the word “saved,” this Someone is prompting us to ask: “saved? saved from what?” This word always evokes for me images of life jackets being thrown to passengers who were swept off the deck of the cruise ship during a storm, or all those news stories from the 90’s where puppies or kittens or children were rescued from wells or sewer drains—the helpless shown mercy in their peril and freed from impending doom by those who dwell in safety. Not a bad way to think of being “spiritually saved,” but are we painting on the largest possible canvas in the shop here? No, we’re not.

Jesus is teaching us that his salvation is more than mere rescue from eternal peril. By offering us his saving hand, Christ is doing more for us than simply offering to pull us back from the edge of the devil’s bottomless Pit; he is, in fact, making it possible for us to be returned to the Father as perfect creatures, freed from sin, wholly and entirely renewed and refreshed, and intimately bound in the flesh and blood of His Anointed One, the Christ. Our rescue reclaims us for the Father, but we are not simply returned to our pre-disaster state; we are made new, given new garments, washed clean, and welcomed as guests at the wedding feast. So, we strive to enter the Narrow Gate…

. . .and the question arises again: who gets through? Jesus does not describe the person who gets through nor does he number those who get through nor does he issue a password or a secret handshake. What he does do is send his Holy Spirit to the Church,. Paul teaches us, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness…” Why? “…[Because] we do not know how to pray as we ought…,” so the Spirit advocates with God for us. How? “…the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” When we ourselves are unable to pray, the Spirit prays for us (instead of us), interceding for us before the Father. We are guaranteed then that when we pray in the Spirit, all the Father sees in our hearts, while searching us with His divine light, all the Father sees in us is His Spirit and His intentions for us shining back at Him. Though we ourselves do not shine out His glory, we polish the mirror that reflects it back. That mirror is the baptized Christian, living faithfully by grace, striving for holiness in good works, loving as Christ loved us from his cross, and coming to the fruition of a life soaked in mercy.

The brighter your mirror, the wider the gate to the Party. Your name is on the Guest List. Therefore, the more you look like Christ in this life, the less chance there is of the Heavenly Bouncer bouncing you into the street when your turn in line comes. Primp, perm, powder, and preen—above all, polish, polish your mirror, so that nothing from you shines back to the Father but His beautiful face.


  1. That question got too close to the preening heart of my superficial Gen-X Episcopagan spirituality.

    Hey, I resemble that remark. I don't know what was worse...being an Episcopagan or Whiskeypalian. Glad I swam the Tiber. Now I can stalk off and grumble, "I am not a Cafeteria Catholic."

  2. Anonymous2:29 PM

    let us, as well, see the dear hearts of those who ask, "have you been saved?" they mean well, bless their hearts. they really do! :-)

    Acts 11:23