From Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus responded to the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but not be strong enough.” A more intimidating parallel statement of Jesus is found in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” The “life” of which Jesus speaks is the life of the Kingdom of God, a.k.a., the Kingdom of Heaven. The lack of strength, lack of life and the destruction of which he speaks is the loss of the Kingdom of Heaven for any given human.
The rest of our Sunday Gospel from Luke seems to say a ‘we knew you’ presumption will be the cause of “many” being “cast out,” and that there will be a surprise(!): eternally blessed guests from all over the world with Jesus forever. Basically, the Christian notion “to be saved” is to wind up with Jesus forever in God’s heavenly Kingdom. Years ago, Gospel passages like this weekend’s led me to take them totally at face value. Then I learned how often Jesus spoke with hyperbole in his warnings, that we would take his Gospel teaching seriously deep into our hearts and lives on earth. And why should we? We must “strive” to be “strong enough” to enter the narrow yet open gate leading to eternal life.
Most of us are used to the two truths about God as the ONE who is “all-powerful” and “all-mighty.” Jesus our Lord does not always come across to us as the God of power and might. And the worldly human history of “power and might,” except as encouraging a similar amount of expended effort, is helpful only in the inverse. Wonderfully, we hear of strength, the strength to enter into Heaven’s realm, accessible to us here and now. Can anyone here now really know the numbers and percentages of those who will be saved and those who will be cast out? Seemingly the same or just subtle in any difference, the strength of Jesus is very often more helpful to us than his “power and might.” His strength to get us “entered” into the ways of God’s Heavenly Kingdom is our passing through the narrow gate, appropriately called the disciple’s “road less traveled.” We are pushed by Jesus to strive throughout life for that unique strength which is his love and his way applied by us in the times we live. Thus we ask, where am I already strong, and more so, where do I need to strive more for the Kingdom’s heavenly strength?
Striving with you,
Fr. Matt Ellis