Jesus himself goes in through the narrow gate. His example gives us strength to go through and overcome all narrowness.
Someone asks Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” The question, in other words, is whether there is wideness in God’s mercy or narrowness.
Jesus answers, yet he steers the conversation away from the question of number. Finding out how many will be saved may interest thinkers who delight in endless speculation about religious matters. But more profitable for salvation is finding out and taking the way that leads to eternal life.
So, Jesus challenges instead the one who asks and the others also. For he answers them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate ….”
The narrowness of the gate surely hints at the hardship that repentance entails, which sends us back to Jesus’ Forerunner. People from all walks of life come out to receive John’s baptism and they ask what they should do.
John, then, warns those who take salvation for granted, because they are Abraham’s children, not to be too sure of themselves. And he urges the crowds to share what they have with the needy. He says, on the other hand, to the publicans and the soldiers to give up all greed and injustice. And emptying oneself in these ways is by no means easy.
Yes, it hurts —to recall last Sunday’s Gospel— to catch the fire that Jesus sets to rid us of sin. To love God, moreover, is to put forth great effort. For we are to love him “with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows” (SV.EN XI:32). No, loving God is not just a matter of having lofty godly thoughts or speaking sweetly and eloquently about God. After all, thoughts, feelings and talks of God must translate into practical love that reaches out to our neighbor also.
Narrowness needs overcoming also.
Besides being strong enough to undergo narrowness, we also need to overcome it. We have to get over the narrowness of mind, outlook or horizon that makes for self-righteousness, self-complacency, racism and nationalism. Or we may find ourselves cast out. Meanwhile, those we belittle and avoid recline at table in the kingdom of God.
Lord Jesus, make our sharing in your Supper an effective sign of our striving to go through and overcome narrowness. Strengthen us so that, with you, we too may go about doing good and so get to enter through the narrow gate.
25 August 2019
21st Sunday in O.T. (C)
Is 66, 18-21; Heb 12, 5-7. 11-13; Lk 13, 22-30