Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’
Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The story is told of Jack Kerouac who set out “On the Road” expecting to reach a moment of vision. But later on he wrote he had missed something. “I’d thought when I got to the top, and everybody leaves . . . , I will come face to face with God or Buddha and find out once and for all what is the meaning of all this existence and suffering . . . . but instead I’d come face to face with myself, no liquor, no drugs, no chance of faking it, face to face with ole Hateful Me.”
He was at the narrow door, self-recognition without faking it. It’s the essential struggle we all face, to be honest with ourselves as we look toward God in hope. What’s left now is to say Yes to our essential poverty, giving up the escapes, and trusting that the banquet beyond is truly meant for us, without earning it.
The question from the sidelines about who’s going to be saved is an effort to sidestep the narrow door. “Hey look, I’ve belonged to a fairly decent culture, a churchgoing family, a good parish. I’ve had the best education, and I know all about you, Lord Jesus: you remember, you taught in my school? I’ve eaten and drunk at your table!” What could be missing? Here, at the door of life? ME, I could be missing. Our actual self, our burden and our gift.
Such a learning for the disciple I wish it were easier. But no, the fakery is over. Our heart softens. We come to know the Lord now, encouraging us, heart aching for us. We begin again, as if for the first time.
So what about me—today, August 25, 2013?
—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati. He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.
Lord, you stand at the narrow gate encouraging us onward. You call out to us concerned that we have too much stuff to drag through the gate. Stuff wrapped in negativity, comparisons, grudges, and beaten down self-esteem. You remain at the gate faithfully coaching us through it. We take your hand. And you will pull us through the narrow gate.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team