August 25, 2019

21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The Narrow Gate

He passed through the villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…” (Luke 13:22-25) “…people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

How many will be saved? The man asks what seems like a general question, but Jesus understands it for what it really is, a very personal question – how will I be saved? And Jesus answers it in a personal way. To be saved you must enter through the “narrow gate”.

Entering through this narrow gate really sounds challenging. Who will the narrow gate be open to? Will it be just a chosen few? The answer is in both the first reading and the Gospel. “…I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them…”.

“And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.” This is a resounding response that the Kingdom of God, God’s desire for the world, is available to all people, not just a chosen few. Our God loves us – loves us all so deeply even with our flaws, that we all have the opportunity to enter the Kingdom of God – to be in relationship with God.

However, we must enter through the “narrow gate”. What does that mean? Entering through the narrow gate is not done by keeping a set of rules or laws, but rather by a set of values that we internalize as a way of life – of discipleship. Jesus focused these values in loving God and loving neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…”.

Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man fell victim to robbers as he walked on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. They stripped him and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest, a Levite and a Samaritan all came upon the man on the road. Being a priest or a Levite was a position of respect, of honor. Yet, the priest and the Levite walked passed the injured man, not even checking if he was alive or dead. The Samaritan was held in low esteem by society at that time. But upon seeing the injured man the Samaritan was moved with compassion. The Samaritan stopped and took the injured man to an inn and provided for the injured man. Who did God’s will? Clearly, the Samaritan who acted out of love and compassion for his fellow man.

More than a physical state, more than following the rules, the “narrow gate” is an internal state, a state of being. It is about our relationship with others. Being compassionate, kind, understanding, accepting, loving. In today’s world we are all very busy. We have relationship problems, financial burdens, problems at work, in school and at home. How do we get to this state of being that allows us to enter through the narrow gate? Prayer is the key.

Prayer opens us up to hear God’s voice, to feel God’s love. It changes us; it enables us to hear the needs of others with the “ear of our heart.” And when we hear with love, we are able to be love in action. Yet, being love in action is not always easy. But, even if it is challenging we are called to be love in action anyway. Each of us must find our own individual way, our own special gift that allows us to be love in action. For most of us it may be through small actions in our day to day life. Things we will do differently now that we have opened our eyes and ears and hearts to see, hear and feel the needs of those around us.

By entering through the narrow gate we enter the Kingdom of God in the here and now and also in the hereafter, because we are living in harmony with God’s purpose.

How are we each being called? Perhaps meditating with the poem below found on the wall in Mother Theresa’s home for children in Calcutta will provide some guidance:

ANYWAY
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self- centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Jesus
You gave us ears to hear, help us to hear with the ears of our heart
You gave us eyes to see, help us to see with compassion
So that we may reach out to others with love
As God loves us.
Amen.
Barbara Timpano

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