21st Sunday of the Year
Isaiah 66:18-21 Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 Luke 13:22-30 "TRY your best to enter by the narrow door." What is the narrow door? Elsewhere Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14,6) and "I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe" (John 10,9). Jesus himself is the narrow door.
To enter by the narrow door is the way of faith. We so often try in various ways to save ourselves. We may do all kinds of good deeds, we may practise all kinds of asceticism, but unless these come from our faith in Jesus they are of no avail. It is through our union with Jesus that we come to the Father and in no other way. It is as we open our lives to him and allow him to lead us that we are saved.
This is so difficult for us to do. We would much rather save ourselves. We would do anything rather than abandon ouselves to the one who alone can bring us out of our constricted egotism into the pastures of divine life that he offers us.
Jesus passed over from this world to the Father through his death and resurrection. It is as we too are prepared to die with Him that we can be raised up with Him. We have to allow the Spirit to conform us to the pattern of His own life.
It is not a question of words, of observances, or even of spiritual experiences. It is not enough to say, "Lord, Lord, we once ate and drank in your company". The question is, are we now receiving the life of Jesus and allowing Him to transform us into His own image?
"Men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God". At the depth of every human heart there is a longing for God, a reaching out towards the ultimate Mystery. This may not be recognised or identified, it may be blunted in many ways.
But the seed of divine life is sown in every man and woman on the face of the earth. Every person is created in the image of God and has the potential to receive the divine life.
The question of our salvation is whether we allow this divine life to grow within us, to inform our whole being, that whether we know it or not we are being conformed to the image of Christ. There are many who may never recognise this in this life, who may never come to know the name of Jesus. But if they are yielding themselves to the mystery of God's life within them they are already in the kingdom of God.
The fullness of divine revelation is offered us in Jesus: His dying and rising are the one way for us to come to the Father. And the Christian community, the Church, is called to be the sacrament of Christ's presence and life for all people. But this does not depend upon language or tradition or observance. It depends upon our faith which is our surrender to the divine life within us.
To be a Jew or to be a Christian will be of value only if we are gradually dying to our own egotism and self-absorption and greed that the divine life may grow within us. And for this the purifying action of God is needed in our lives.
When we experience hardship and suffering it can be the refining action of God, as the second reading from Hebrews teaches us. If we keep our hearts on God the experience of suffering can help us to die to ourselves, to let go our own pride and trust in our own achievement. It can help us to abandon ourselves fully to him. God has to teach us and to train us to walk by faith. For it is not an easy path and does not come without the pain of selfsurrender.
But God does this to prepare us to climb the "holy mountain, to enter the "Temple of the Lord", as Isaiah prophesises. God is a holy God and only those whose lives have been purified by Him, can themselves enter into the holiness of God and be able to witness His glory when it is revealed.
Michael Simpson SJ