by Fr. Tommy Lane
How many will go to heaven? (Luke 13:23) “That is not what you ought to concern yourself about” said Jesus to the man who questioned him. Instead you ought to be concerned about your own salvation. Jesus uses the image of a door for salvation and says it is a narrow door (Luke 13:24). In the Gospel of John, Jesus says he is the gate and whoever enters through him will be saved (John 10:9). Jesus is the gate or door, Jesus is the means to salvation. The door is narrow because Jesus’ teaching is demanding. The challenge posed by Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke today is highlighted all the more in Matthew’s Gospel since the same words occur near the end of Jesus’ challenging Sermon of the Mount in Matthew (Matt 7:13). There Jesus says the gate and road to destruction is broad and many take it. Because many opt for that wide gate or road to destruction Jesus says in the Gospel today, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…” (Luke 13:24) Strive. In the Greek, that word is related to efforts of an athlete preparing for a contest. Jesus is using a metaphor from sport that hasn’t come through in the English translation. The Christian life is like the effort of an athlete preparing for a marathon, not like the onlooker eating ice-cream. Jesus’ teaching today is really calling for conversion now because it will be too late when we die. When the master of the house has locked the door, to use the words of Jesus in the Gospel today, if we were not striving, if we were eating ice-cream instead of preparing for the marathon we will find ourselves locked out. Pope John Paul II speaking at the canonization of Edith Stein in 1998 said,
The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says: everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and renunciation. I am speaking especially to you, young Christians…Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.
We choose Jesus the narrow door because he himself chose the narrow door of Calvary for us. The narrow door included Calvary for Jesus and includes Calvary for each of us also. When we endure our own personal Calvary, it can work for our good just as it did in the case of Jesus. So in the first reading today Paul writes to the Romans, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) So Calvary or no Calvary we strive to enter by the narrow door because that is the only door that leads to life, Christ Jesus.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2013