Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Lord, Will Only A Few People Be Saved?" - Strive To Enter Through The Narrow Gate

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C  25 August 2013
CHRIST THE KING Parish, Evansville, Indiana                            
Gospel Luke 13:22-30

1. There is no doubt that some followers of Jesus realized that His teachings were rather difficult and there was a lot of uncertainty in being his disciples because someone asked: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” 

It is quite likely this was a question on a lot of the followers’ minds or being whispered among themselves, but only one had the courage to ask it.

But even though only one person asked the question, Jesus answered THEM in the plural: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. 

ASKING JESUS A QUESTION CAN BE DEADLY. OUR OLD IDEAS MIGHT BE challenged or shaken by getting us to really examine our faith, our own beliefs.

See how the person asks the question about others and see how Jesus then turns the question back to the questioner and has the person examine his own path: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

Are we on the narrow path? Jesus is quick to quench any judgmental attitude, especially any elitist attitudes that places oneself above or better than others.

Instead of asking “will many be saved?” the person asks: “Will only a few be saved?”  Was it because he only wanted a few to be saved?

It seems some of the disciples already began to approach the kingdom of God with a scarcity mindset that believes that there’s not enough for everyone to have a share.

Why, if we let “those other people” in, then some of us will be left out.
And one may wonder how they asked the question? Was it asked to make sure that only their select few friends, “our kind” of people were going to be saved? Certainly not those other people. Why, they don’t even speak English – I mean Hebrew.

I don’t think I could ever share heaven with him or her or those people.

And, you know, I could never spend eternity with those other people.

Strive to enter through the narrow gate. 

2. Isaiah proclaimed: “I come to gather nations of every language.” All the children of earth would be welcomed into covenant with God. So we know that it’s not just an ethnic thing.

But the people of Israel believed themselves to be the privileged “few”. Those who were unsaved included Gentiles, tax collectors, the unclean and the rest of the decent sinners.

Jesus turned their belief upside down and insisted that membership in the kingdom was not for the  righteous few who were certain that salvation was theirs simply because they were born into it.

Even if we think we know Jesus and walk with him, unless we have a change of heart, we too could lose our salvation.
Jesus reminds us that God cannot be confined to our 
categories of saved and unsaved.

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” 

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate

3. JESUS never directly answers the question, does he? He turns the focus from a curiosity about the salvation of others, to concern about one’s own salvation…

When Jesus tells us to enter the narrow gate, he is saying the road to salvation is difficult; but he is not saying that only a few will be saved. 
But what he is saying is that there are some who will not make the necessary efforts at entering the kingdom.

Either they do not respond in a timely manner or else they think that they can casually sashay into the kingdom without serious commitment to the cause of discipleship.

Then those who expected to be admitted, “no questions asked” are turned away, while those looked down upon as outsiders are the ones who will be seated around the banquet table.

Yes, there will surely be some surprises in seeing who is saved and who is not. Some of the insiders, the religious elites, may well be locked out, and the outsiders, the outcasts will be welcomed in.

We cannot be a spiritual country club for the Catholic elite, but we must humble ourselves to serve the Word, become disciples, and evangelize the world with the good news. Otherwise we may become guilty of theological narcissism, and as Pope Francis cautions us: we run the risk of coming “isolated, sterile and sick Christians.” 

He coninues:  We cannot keep ourselves shut up in our parishes…when so many people are waiting for the Gospel…we must go out…to seek and meet the people…in the nooks and crannies of the streets” (Pope Francis).
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

4. Yet salvation requires more than a dip in the baptismal font, receiving communion once or twice a year, or being a mere acquaintance of Jesus or His Mother.

But some will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company.’ But he will reply, ‘I do not know you… Depart from me.

He even challenges the idea that just eating and drinking in Jesus’ company or gathering in his name each week is good enough to get to heaven.

So even just going to Mass isn’t enough. Hopefully, we are participating in Mass and not simply punching our ticket. Faith and church attendance must be viewed as more than some eternal fire insurance plan.

Unfortunately there are many practicing Catholics involved in parish activities who do not have a living relationship with God, with Christ.

Yet no matter how busy we are – no matter how much church work we’re doing, “if we’re too busy to pray, then we’re just too busy” (Pope Paul VI).

It is absolutely essential that each of us enter through that narrow gate of personal prayer – setting aside time for prayer and meditation. And when we seek holiness, then God’s grace will overflow to others

But we might say, “I was a lector!” “I was a Eucharistic Minister!” “I was an usher!” Or “I was a Deacon!

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate

So even if we know all about the faith, and know all about God, and even receive the sacrament of the holy Eucharist, unless our faith is a lived reality, unless we truly love as God is calling us to love, then we are deceiving ourselves and we run the risk of losing the kingdom and being estranged from the Lord.

Unless we spend time with the Lord in prayer and spend time seeking out the lost and forsaken to bring them to Christ, we will be strangers to the Lord, and be cast out into the darkness where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Narrow is the road that leads to life.

We are called to a personal relationship with Christ, called to be disciples; we have to pursue Christ on the narrow road and through the dark valleys to enter heaven.

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Enter through the narrow gate.

No one is going to just stumble into heaven; it is a struggle.


For the narrow gate…is Jesus Himself.

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