Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Narrow Door opened to All

Twenty First Ordinary Sunday Year C

One of our greatest fears as Christians is whether we will be saved. We often think of God as a policeman waiting to catch us for every violation of his law or we may think of him as a strict judge who is waiting to condemn us. These images of God are wrong. In fact, it is the plan of God to save all men. This is what the Prophet Isaiah prophesied in the first reading: “I am coming to gather the nations of every language.” It is the plan of God to save everyone, irregardless of race, language or culture. ‘Everyone’ by definition includes even non-Catholics and non-Christians.

So how do we understand the parable of the narrow door which Jesus speaks about in today’s gospel. Jesus tells us: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” How do we understand this statement? Certainly, Jesus is not telling us that only a few will be saved. In fact, Jesus does not answer the question of the person directly. The man comes to ask Jesus, “Will there be only a few saved?” Through his answer, Jesus is directing our attention away from that question of whether a few will be saved to the manner in which we should live our lives.

Jesus is telling us that if we want to be a Christian or a good person, it’s not going to be easy. The ‘broad door’ is the easy way - the one everyone tries to enter. No – that is not the way of the Christian. The way of the Christian, the narrow door, is not going to be an easy way. If we wish to follow Christ, we must be prepared to accept suffering too. For to follow Christ means that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. To be a Christian would mean that we would be misunderstood by other people. To be a Christian would mean that people would tease us and insult us and call us crazy. To be a Christian means that we must not seek for positions of honour and power but must be prepared to be servants of others – “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

The second reading tells us that we should not be afraid of suffering. Of course, this does not mean that we should purposely look for suffering. God does not want us to suffer for the sake of suffering alone. Through his own suffering and death, Jesus has given suffering a new meaning. Suffering is not punishment for our sins. Rather, suffering can be a way of strengthening us – a kind of a training as the author to the letter of Hebrew writes. People who have themselves undergone suffering would be more sensitive and caring to others who are suffering. Through suffering, one learns to be more patient and understanding of others. Suffering also brings people together.

It is not enough that we carry the name “Christian.” It is not enough that we come to Church every Sunday. We must put into practice what we profess to believe. If we think that just being a Catholic puts us in a better position than others who are non-Catholics, then we must heed the warning of Jesus who tells us that “many from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

In today’s mass, let us pray for the strength and the courage to enter through the narrow gate. Let us not only try to enter alone, but let us help others to follow the Jesus along the same path.

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