Nobody wants to be on a loosing team. We all want to win. We want to be the best!
Football season brings out the competitive spirit. We cheer for the winners and bow our heads if we lose. “Better luck next time” are the parting words as the busses leave. People in time of Jesus were not much different. They wanted to be on the winning team. “Lord, will only a few people be saved? Are we going to win?” They wanted advance notice. We all like an insight into the future. Jesus told them the truth. Salvation will not be easy. The gate is narrow—sort of like the International bridge—can’t pass anybody—have to wait. In the good old days when my parents had a ranch, we had to pass through several gates. The gates had to be opened manually. If the sand had blown and piled up on the gate, it was difficult to open. I usually wasn’t strong enough. My father would have to get down from the truck to help me. Jesus warns that many will not be strong enough to open the gate by themselves. A lot of stuff piles up in our life which makes our entry through the gate difficult. Resentments are the number one blockage. Resentments can pile up so high that we can’t even see the gate because of all the sand. The way to get rid of resentments is to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. If we just dwell on the hurt, the pain only gets worse. The gate gets stuck. We cannot get through. We need help. The One who can help us is Jesus Christ.
He is the Gatekeeper. He opens for those that He knows. However, the relationship with Him is not like the “Compadre System”. “I scratch Your back, you scratch mine.” The “Compadre System” is about one’s last name, financial status, level of education. Works well in the political arena, but not on the level of faith. In the story, Jesus is very explicit about how He sees our relationship with Him. We cannot rely on simply knowing religion; on saying the right prayers; on coming to church. Our relationship with Christ must be about recognizing our weaknesses, asking forgiveness and trusting in God’s mercy. Fidelity implies much more than going through the motions—which is where lots of people are. Countless believe that if they have the best devotions, visit the most popular shrines, light lots of candles then God will save them. The best kept secret is that we are already saved through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. Only the penitent person will pass.
The people who were listening to Jesus thought that they had salvation won because of their religion. Jesus called them “evildoers”! Jesus pointed at the least expected as the ones who will enter the kingdom of God. We all know who the least expected are—the ones that we think should not be receiving Holy Communion; the people who are “party animals”; the folks who vote the “wrong way”. The surprise in the story is that the people we do not like are going to be first. The people that we think should be first will be last. Some folks are still dumb enough to think that heaven is reserved for a chosen few. “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.” That’s pretty inclusive language, especially 2000 years ago. Scandalous words even today. Because we all like to think of ourselves as special. Yet, we are all special in the eyes of God. He just smiles at our narrow mindedness. The message of the Gospel gives us opportunity to hear the truth and to change our attitude. Jesus invites us to be more inclusive now because the kingdom is now. The Master embraces us as we have embraced others, especially the rejected of society, the least expected.
Our challenged is to look where we would rather not look. Only with God’s mercy will we enter through the narrow gate.