21st Sunday in Ordinary Time-C
August 25, 2019
Isaiah 66: 18-21
Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13
Luke 13: 22-30
Someone asked Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” And He answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
A writer diagrammed Jesus’ response this way. Think about a triangle without a base – like a teepee – and that open space at the bottom is a door that is very wide. You can enter quite easily, but the further you get in, the more confined and compressed you are. It looks like it offers absolute freedom, but once inside your freedom is seriously limited.
That same writer then said that if we think about what Jesus is teaching us in today’s Gospel, the diagram would look like a “V” with a very narrow entrance at its base. It is difficult to get in, but possible. And once you get in, the promises and possibilities are immensely widened.
The door to eternal life is a narrow door. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus teaches us.
Many of you are going back to school this week. Education is a narrow gate. If you had a wonderful summer, the temptation is to not go back to school and to prolong the leisure. But where would that lead you in the long run?
“Enter through the narrow gate.” Go to school and work hard. Seize the opportunities that come your way. Don’t just get by. Strive to excel, using all of your abilities. It will pay off by opening wide possibilities for your future.
Now, when you have finished school, having gone through the narrow gate, if you still want to work for minimum wage, you can! But there are lots of other choices that you will be able to make. Education is a narrow gate, and it pays off.
Physical fitness is a narrow gate. That may be an unexpected topic to bring up in church. But God made our bodies as well as our souls. And one day these bodies of ours that will die are going to be re-united with our souls as they are raised up in glory to everlasting life, as we profess in the Creed each Sunday. The last line of the Creed proclaims: “And I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” The Lord expects us to take proper care of our bodies – not over-indulging them, not neglecting them, and always respecting them.
Someone said that his original goal in life was to have a body that looked like a Greek god. But later on in life he ended up looking more like a Greek restaurant! Yes, neglect takes its toll.
Marriage is a narrow gate. Those of you who are married probably had several possibilities for a spouse, but you chose the one that you married. Eliminating all of the others for the one person that you are with can sound so limiting. Yet in a graced, faithful and loving marriage look at all of the abundant blessings that come to be.
A little girl had a doll collection. She was asked which one was her favorite. She went to her room and came out with a doll that even Goodwill would have rejected. Most of the hair had come off, one eye was missing and the dress was tattered.
When she was asked why this one was her favorite, she answered: “Because if I don’t love this dolly, nobody will.”
Well, there is not a single one of us that is outside of God’s circle of mercy and love. “God loves each one of us as though there were only one of us to love,” as Saint Augustine wrote.
God wants every one of us to be with Him in heaven one day. And He gives us the grace we need through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus. But God has also given us the gift of free will. We must choose the narrow gate to heaven, and we must renew that commitment every day.
The narrow gate leads to abundant life whether we are talking about education or physical fitness or marriage or any worthwhile thing. And the most important of these narrow gates is the one that leads to heaven.
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus teaches us. And you will be blessed with abundant life here and hereafter.