Monday, September 13, 2010

The Narrow Gate

I had the opportunity to write a few bulletin reflections for our parish. I decided to reprint them here. I've included the date and readings for the Sundays for which the originally appeared.

AUGUST 22, 2010 (Isaiah 66:18-21 – Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 – Luke 13:22-30)

When I taught high school religion classes I would always end each week with the Question Box. I passed around a shoe box and my students could write down questions they didn’t want to ask out loud. Without a doubt the majority of questions always started out with, “Is it a sin if I…” Of course the motivation behind these questions was to find out how much I can get away with before God gets angry with me. In other words, what’s the least amount I can do to get into heaven and the most I can get away with without going to hell? I always tried to answer these questions be refocusing the issue on following Jesus and his example rather than dealing with the question directly. I would simply state in return, “If you’re focused on walking with Jesus & following his lead then you don’t need to worry about him leading you into sin.”

We see this type of issue dealt with in today’s readings. The disciples ask Jesus, “Will only a few be saved?” Of course they want to know if it’s going to be easy or difficult to get into heaven. Will it be an exclusive club like a private resort or a public beach with all types of people crowding in? In his response, Jesus tries to refocus the disciples from a superficial concern to a deeper wisdom. He basically says, “Don’t get hung up on numbers, but focus on doing what is needed to get there yourself.”

Jesus paints a picture of two ways, the wide and the narrow. Both are open to all who want to enter, but one path is easy while the other requires some effort. Making it through the narrow gate requires discipline, and like the second reading says “all discipline seems not a cause for joy but for pain”. Yet, it is discipline that gives us the strength to make it through the narrow gate. Like children we don’t always appreciate what is best for us. We want entertainment and dessert when what we need is to do our chores and eat our veggies.

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