the narrow gate
Gospel Reflection for 21st Sunday Ordinary Time Year C -August 21st 2016
Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from”. Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men !”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. ‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’
The narrow gate is an interesting image. Only the essentials would get in and out. In the times a camel with all its load wouldn’t fit. Jesus is reminding us of how little we really need. Being with him, we can live in some simplicity.
Baggage… that can burden us — go to an airport and if you have little you get through quick. The little ways we build ourselves up to be important! St Ignatius lists three things that block us from God and from living the really alive life – obsessions with wealthy, honour and pride. Wealth – would it be the burden of debts for money we really didn’t need? Wanting to have the best. Honour – demanding others look up to us. Always feeling we have to be first and best, even how we dress and look. Pride – that we are in charge of our lives. Then we have less room for God.
The narrow gate is the happy gate. One of our pictures of it is of someone dancing in the narrow gate in Jerusalem. We need little to be happy. We need the rest to be satisfied. We can even have too much religious baggage. Too many rituals and prayers and not enough love and compassion. We can stuff ourselves with rituals and rightness and forget compassion.
But is it really narrow? The gospel and the first reading – when we live simply there is room for everyone. And the strangest of people will move in with us. It’s not really narrow – for all are to get through.
Jesus invites us to meet him at this narrow gate and be less cluttered. Then we walk with him, and will need no more.
Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger