God has promised salvation from that first fateful fall of humanity made by Adam and Eve. God has never forsaken us. While salvation is a gift freely given to us by God, we must choose it, work at it, desire it with all our hearts. This weekend’s Gospel uses two (2) images that indicate to us that we have our work cut out for us: a “narrow gate” and a locked door. We must squeeze out any weakness that leads us astray. We must push anything aside that gets between God and us. To squeeze and push our way to salvation, we must be strong.
What strength is needed to enter “through the narrow gate” or “through the locked door?” The strength comes from living so that the “master of the house” knows us and opens to us. The strength that comes from faithfully living in the “Kingdom of God.” The strength of conviction in following Jesus and seeking His Way over our own way. This strength only comes from God who offers it to everyone, those “from the east and the west / and from the north and the south.” Because of this strength, we choose to journey to Jerusalem, we choose to pass through death to Eternal Life ... we choose salvation! Only this strength is truly “strong enough,” for it is God’s very Self ... God’s very Life. Yes, God desires that each and every one of us be saved. The door of salvation is open to all who have chosen to pass through the “narrow gate” of self-surrender and the locked door of curbed passions and false desires. So, why would we choose this journey? Because the immediate destination (Jerusalem, with its promised death) is the way to a greater destination (new and Eternal Life).
By “making His way to Jerusalem,” Jesus is being faithful to His own mission. By going to Jerusalem, He fulfills His Father’s Will, even when that means He must suffer and die. Jesus walks the journey with us and shows us the way to what we should desire most in our lives – salvation. Our salvation is a great gift from God, but it is not without its cost. We must pass through the “narrow gate” of conforming ourselves to Jesus Christ and participating in His dying and rising. Being disciples of Jesus, then, demands more than being in Jesus’ company (for example, being faithful to personal prayer or celebrating liturgy). It means we must take up the mission of Jesus to die and rise, that is, we must be on the way to Jerusalem.
What limits the scope of salvation is not God’s reach (which is to east, west, north, and south – that is, salvation is offered to all people), but as beings with free will, our response limits the scope of salvation. We gain eternal salvation by choosing the difficult and demanding path of following Jesus Christ on His way to Jerusalem. We do this by dying to self and being His faithful disciples.
We might all claim to know Jesus. After all, we are, for the most part, faithful church-goers who weekly eat and drink in His company. This weekend’s Gospel warns us that this isn’t enough. There is an urgency about our Paschal Mystery living. We don’t have forever to make up our minds to respond to God’s offer of salvation. Each day we must take up our own cross, die to self, and live for the sake of others. This is how we enter the narrow gate and this is how we get to know Jesus intimately enough to receive salvation. We must all live and act like Jesus. Becoming least is a metaphor for dying to self. This is what Jesus asks of us: that the first will become last. What limits the scope of salvation is not God’s reach, but our weak response. We must beg God for the strength to respond fully. Our strength and our hope comes from God.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!