Through the tender mercy of God, Jesus visits us to guide our feet into the way of salvation.
Someone asks Jesus, “Will only a few be saved?” The question suggests that the one who asks is worried about salvation.
It is possible, however, that he is self-righteous. Perhaps his disdain for others makes him pose the question in such a way that it betrays his belief that salvation is only for a few. Maybe he considers himself one of them.
But it matters little whether one asks with simplicity or with duplicity. One gets the opportunity, in any case, to learn a crucial lesson. And Jesus addresses it to all. He teaches the way of salvation to everyone.
So then, Jesus does not answer directly the inaccurate question. He uses it to point out that the right question is not the theoretical one that comes from useless curiosity and vain self-complacency, namely, “How many?” It is, rather, the practical question that impels us to repent, which is, “How should we behave so that the gate of salvation does not close down on us?”
Lest we find ourselves excluded from the Kingdom of God, we have to keep the teaching:
Strive to enter through the narrow gate.
There are those, of course, who make use of this teaching to strike fear into people’s hearts, as though fear could foster true religious observance. In contrast, Jesus urges us not to fear. When he states that some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last, he surely awakens hope in the folks whom the self-righteous despise.
Yes, God invites us all to the table in the Kingdom of God, which underscores that salvation is a gift.
No one has a right to it because of one’s birth, blood or heritage. To belong to the Kingdom is due to grace and not to our works. Not only can we not boast, but we also have to recognize we are his handiwork. And we will truly be so in an authentic Christian way if we walk with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem.
Jesus, the Suffering Servant, personifies the narrow gate. His example gives us the motivation and the courage to see to it that “his footsteps may be the rule of our own in the way of holiness,” (SV.EN XII:186), of salvation. And he is the one who strengthens our drooping hands and weak knees. Moreover, he guarantees salvation to those who follow him to the end, to the giving up of the body and the shedding of blood.
Lord Jesus, may the earth know your way and all the nations your salvation.
August 21, 2016
21st Sunday in O.T. (C)
Is 66, 18-21; Heb 12, 5-7. 11-13; Lk 13, 22-30