Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wide Gates and Narrow Gates

22Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"
   He said to them, 24"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'
      "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'
 26"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'
 27"But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'
 28"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

The gospel this Sunday, from Luke 14, was about striving to enter through the narrow gate. The wide gate leads to destruction. The narrow one leads to eternal life. Why is that? Why is it that the majority of people seem to be on the road to hell? It seems like being counter-cultural is essential to the faith. That the holiness that flows from the culture does not really impress God. It is too easy. If you love those who love you then what benefit is that. Even the pagans do that. What we need to do is something beyond what the culture does. You cannot get to heaven by going with the flow. You need to paddle against the current.

But does it follow then that the majority in any given culture are not going to be saved? I am not positive about that. There might be an illusion that you are in a minority. That seems hard but it might be possible. Saints can look very different. But evil needs to feel strong. There is a temptation to play it halfway. Do a little to make God happy and then please yourself on the matters closest to your heart. Be just good enough to tell yourself God should be pleased. Jesus is telling us that is exactly what does not please God. He wants us to surrender everything.

But what about grace? Jesus says, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."  God is going to tell many people, "I don't know you or where you come from". It seems a little unclear. I understand that we need to start with faith. That trying to enter without faith is futile. Works without faith is dead. We first need a relationship with God so He knows who we are and where we come from. After that we need to strive. God will insure we succeed because we are saved by grace from first to last.

But Jesus does not seem as to care that this is unclear. The contrast he makes is between those who try and those who "make every effort". Not trying to live a moral life but trying to enter heaven. The solution is not to let go and let God but rather to make sure your effort is serious. He soon gives us the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. So He does give us images of salvation protestants like better. But Catholics can embrace all these sayings.

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