TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Heart Longs for Heaven's Blessings. Strive to Enter by the Narrow Door
First Reading (Is 66:
18-21): The Gentiles wanted to worship God
“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.’ “ (Lk 13: 23-27)
‘Lord will only a few be saved?’ It seems that Jesus did not answer the question directly. It was not a topic about which Jesus wanted us to be concerned.
All areas of knowledge have questions specific to that area. Questions outside that area are so-called “wrong questions,” that is, they raise a wrong query. We cannot ask a question about drawing when the topic is music, or when talking about poetry, raise questions about science. This is a simple enough maxim.
The Bible is a book that does not fit any category. The questions it raises are likewise unique. Scripture asks only questions about life, especially questions related to the life of human beings and even more directly, to our salvation. The Bible is not a book of science, or ethics or philosophy. It is the Bible and one can only raise questions pertaining to the Bible, that is, those directly related to the life of each one of us. One cannot find there answers about science or philosophy.
The Bible is God speaking to us here and now. It is neither theoretical, nor analytical nor abstract. It is not even a book of moral exhortations though at times there is a strong sense of this.
“Will only a few people be saved?” As far as the Bible goes, it was the wrong question to ask, so Jesus did not answer it. Jesus knew too that answering it would do us no good, perhaps it would even be harmful. For example, if he answered that many would be saved, it might cause us to relax and become careless. If he answered that only a few persons would be saved, we might become discouraged, dispirited, even hopeless or despairing. Therefore, Jesus would not answer any questions about few or many people attaining salvation. It was a question that could do us more harm than good.
When answering questions Confucius' attitude was similar to that of Jesus. Once someone asked Confucius, “Do the dead have feelings, or do they not?” (1) They wanted to know whether the dead were still able to feel. Confucius replied, 'If I told you 'the dead do have feelings,' I am afraid those so-called obedient sons and grandsons would 'organize elaborate burial rites as if the dead were still alive.' If I tell you that 'the dead do have feelings,' I am afraid wicked sons and grandsons would not bury their dead parents, and would leave their bodies in the wilderness. Therefore, no matter what I say, it will do more harm than good. However, if you really want to know whether the dead have feelings or not, wait until you are dead and then you will know. Are you not asking this question too early?”
“Do the dead have feelings?” It is the same kind of question, doing more harm than good. It is a question that should not have been asked, therefore Confucius would not answer it directly.
But after all, salvation is an extremely important question for each of us. So Jesus still gave an answer that relates directly to each one of us: “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
The real question for each of us is: “Can I be saved? What path should I take and how must I live in order to be saved?” The answer is simple and direct: Each one of us can be saved because God has created us all to share his blessed life and because “he desires everyone to be saved. (1 Tim 2:4) The condition is “to enter through the narrow door.”
The “narrow door” is the door that God wishes us to enter, the path that God wants us to follow. That may not be the path we would like to take which is why it is a narrow door.
Most people like to enter through 'a wide gate and an easy road' (Mt 7:13) but that road leads to destruction. There are people who habitually lead a life of ease and pleasure, even prolonged dissolution, and still hope to attain salvation and reach heaven without any effort on their part.
There are others who are unwilling to enter the narrow door of Jesus but boast that they have eaten and drunk with Jesus and that Jesus was happy to teach in their streets. They are too sure or over-confident of their salvation just because they claim to believe in Jesus. That kind of belief is also a kind of “wide door and broad road.”
The great people of this world all go through a narrow door. The road they travel is not one the majority of people like to follow. Commenting on people of moral integrity in China, Tang Jun Yi said, “For men of moral integrity, when they died they repaid the bounty they received from their country’s culture. They did justice to the teaching in the books of the sages and all that they had learned.” (2) After one has read the books of the Chinese sages and gained knowledge, then one must live in accordance with the ideals of that knowledge, even at the cost of death. This is a kind of “narrow door”.
God is the source of life and happiness. If we are able to take the path God wants us take, then only the 'narrow door' is the true one, the brightest and safest highway!