Monday, August 22, 2016

Enter the narrow gate

21st Week of OT year C 2016:
Today’s gospel seems to pick up right were we left off last week.  Jesus was talking about setting the earth on fire and was talking about divisions in families.  So, it didn’t seem like the most upbeat message.  This week it is more of the same.  Today we hear that the gate to salvation is narrow and that many people will not be strong enough to enter.  Then he tells us that the master will lock the gate and say: “I never knew you.”  Also, people from all over will recline in the kingdom, and others will be cast out.
I don’t know about you, but I find this all pretty confusing.  Is Jesus coming to bring us good news, or is he discouraging us?  I think the important thing to remember is that we have to read this passage in light of the whole bible.  This is a technique of reading the Bible that is called canonical criticism.  All that term means is that all parts of the Bible should be read in line with other parts of the Bible. 
Jesus says that we have to strive for the narrow gate.  But, in another place, Jesus says: I am the sheep gate.  My sheep hear my voice.  Another passage that is similar to this one, Jesus says: the path to salvation is narrow, while the path to destruction is broad.  Then he goes on to say: I am the way and the truth and the life.
If we read everything together I think we can construct a pretty important message.  For human beings, the road to salvation is narrow, difficult to enter.  But, Jesus came to open up the road for us.
We need a savior.  The sooner we realize this, the better off we will be in our lives.  But, one of the pitfalls of our modern society is this myth that we are self-sufficient.  We love success stories in America.  If you are like me, you have been watching the Olympics.  We love Katie Lydecki or Michael Phelps.  They prove to us that if we work hard, have discipline, and a whole lot of talent, our dreams can come true.  It’s a wonderful story.  But, I hate to break it to all of you.  This isn’t the case with salvation.  We are broken, sinful people.  No matter how hard we work, we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot earn salvation. 
That’s why I think Jesus likes to remind us about the pathway to salvation being a narrow gate.  Many will try, but will not be strong enough to enter.  In fact, none of us are strong enough.  But, the Good News is that we have a savior.  God sent his only begotten Son to free us.  He sent Jesus to break through that gate.  Jesus is the one who can lead us to the Father.  We cannot make it on our own.  But, that’s not the point.  The point is: “we have a savior.”  Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can go to the Father except through him.  The sooner we realize that lesson the better.  I’m not strong enough to make it to heaven, and neither are you.  But, Christ can take us with him.
This is why it is so important to have a living relationship with Christ.  We have to know him, love him, serve him.  If we are united to him in this life, he will lead us to his eternal kingdom.  The two major keys to being united with Christ are prayer and sacraments.
It is impossible to have a relationship with any human being without communication.  Go ahead, just try it!  If you don’t talk to someone, you don’t have a great relationship with that person.  It’s just that simple.  Do you talk to Jesus?  Do you talk to him every day?  Tell him about your life, tell him about your fears, your hopes, your dreams.  Let him talk back to you in the quite place in your hearts.
Sacraments unite us with Christ.  When we were baptized, we were washed clean and united with Jesus. We are reunited with him after our sins by the sacrament of Confession.  We are joined to him in a very special way right here at this altar with the Holy Eucharist.  He said in John’s Gospel: whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.

So, at first, Jesus’ words today might seem discouraging.  The gate that leads to eternal life is narrow.  In fact, it’s about as wide as the cross.  We cannot make it on our own.  But, thanks be to God, we have a savior, Jesus Christ.  If we are united with him, he will lead us to the Father.

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