Just as we feed on the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ when we celebrate Eucharist, we also feed on the Word of God at Mass because for us the Word is the Truth, the only Truth. Saint John the evangelist tells us in the prologue to his Gospel (John 1:1): “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
For Catholic Christians the Word is never disembodied, abstract, or merely philosophical, or just about “heavenly things” or “biblical themes,” although Scripture often helps clarify such matters. For us, the Word of God is the living Christ, in whom, and through whom, all has come into being. The Word draws forth from us obedience and humble submission, as Saint James tells us in his letter (3:21): “Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you.”
We especially look to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for wisdom, for insight into the very teachings of Jesus, trusting the Word to lead us into the tenderness and love and mercy of the Christ, so that through us and with us Jesus may continue his ministry of reconciliation in the world, so that the world may be redeemed of its sins and all people, all nations, may be restored to God’s original innocence, God’s original joy, God’s original peace and solidarity: In other words, so that all peoples, all races, will come to know the One True God and offer him an everlasting prayer, an eternal sacrifice: a True Worship of the True God.
But when we pay particular attention to the teachings of Jesus, especially the parables, we see that sometimes Jesus seems to contradict himself—and in a big way—like in today’s parable when Jesus seems to issue an ultimatum about the Kingdom, when He seems to be saying that not all people will be saved, that only some will know the blessedness and righteousness of God Himself.
The truth is that when we look deeper into this parable, Jesus is not saying that only some will be saved. Scripture scholars tell us that the question in the original Aramaic language of Jesus reads more like this: Jesus, is everyone being saved? So the question is of the present: Jesus, who is being saved—everyone?
And the answer Jesus issues is not ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Jesus tells the person who asked, “Be sure you yourself have the strength to make it all the way into the Kingdom of God, to pass through the ‘narrow gate.’ But how strange it seems, this image of the ‘narrow gate’: wouldn’t it make more sense, in light of the inclusive mercy of Jesus, for Jesus to say that the gate to salvation is wide open, so as to let all people in? Here we encounter paradox—and remember, Jesus often taught in hyperbole and paradox.
Jesus, right then and there, is making a point to his interrogator: If you are so interested in the message of salvation that I bring, what are you willing to do to enter into the banquet of my Father’s love, my Father’s joy, my Father’s mercy? Can you pass through the ‘narrow gate’ and get to where you want to be—in my Father’s love?
But just what is this gate? And where is it? Jesus is using a very concrete metaphor to make a real point: Whoever wants eternal life and accepts God’s invitation into eternal life, will indeed pass through into the Kingdom, into the feast where God himself serves His Love to all who are invited to the Messianic banquet and have accepted the invitation and come in: they have passed through the narrow gate which is everywhere, which is in us, in which we are rooted, from which we have come, in which we live, and move, and have our being: Which is Faith—which is God.
The narrowness of the gate is that there is no gate at all: Only invitation, Only God, Only Grace.
The ‘gate’ is to have the presence of mind to hear God’s invitation and accept it, to sit at the banquet of God, to be in Christ, to allow ourselves in Christ to produce good, holy, everlasting fruit: All in the service of God, in the service of His Christ, so that all of God’s creatures will feel and know deep inside of themselves the very holiness of God Himself.
So we continue to accept God’s invitation to pass through into life, one day at a time, over and over again: This is our privilege, our responsibility, our gift and, yes, our challenge; so we rid ourselves of whatever is holding us back, whatever is distracting us, whatever is not of God so that we may live for God, for Christ, and with one another in peace.