Never A Walk in the Park

Reflections on Lk 13:22–30

Christ, in last Sunday’s Gospel reading, spoke of sowing division in his presence, something that also disturbed the people who were listening to him at that time.

This Sunday, Christ seems to be making it more difficult for us to follow and to eventually be with him. Here, Christ is on his way to Jerusalem, one that leads to the climactic episode of his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. He does not approach the city directly, but through towns and villages, preaching, teaching, and, though not mentioned, most probably also making signs and wonders through healing of the sick and various infirm.

But he is met with a question along the way,

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

We notice here that the way the question is phrased is quite interesting. Notice here that the person did not ask whether he or she will be saved, but focused more on the quantity, or as if there is a certain assumption that there is only a small group (perhaps himself included) that will be saved.

Yet Christ does not give a direct reply. Christ does not respond with a quantifiable figure on the number of people who will be saved on the last day. Instead, he provides them with an instruction, perhaps even a warning.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.”

Our Lord did not mince words in telling us of the difficulties that lie in following him. We know very well that so many first came to him to hear him, enamored by his presence and were so willingly to follow him at first. But the numbers dwindled, as they realized the difficulty of following him, with many going back to their old ways. After all, how many actually followed him to the cross? Even to this day, so many of us have chosen to turn away and not follow him, instead of taking on that constricted road and entering the narrow gate that leads to eternal happiness with our Lord.

Time will come when Our Lord will close the door, and those who will be left outside will no longer be able to enter. Even in our lives, time will come when the numerous opportunities for us to enter the narrow gate will come to a close and the gate will be shut. It will be a question of whether we will be shut in or out. So many of us will perhaps even appeal to our Lord, to have “ dined and drank wine with him”, or “be in his company.” But the question would remain:

Did they strive to enter through the narrow gate?

It’s one thing to say that we are with the Lord, but being with him entails so much more. It is a daily resolution and action to do what he wills, to follow in his footsteps, in his actions, perhaps not to the point of literally dying on the cross, but to die to the self and to let ourselves be filled of him so we can do as he does.

“And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

Christ’s message was difficult for so many of the Jews, because his call was that of a love that is to be shared, gentile or Jew. This was a major point of contention for so many of the Jews. Remember, Christ did not render himself exclusive to the Jews alone. He healed the centurion’s daughter, touched the life of the Samaritan woman, to name a few. Here, he even made clear that the kingdom is open to all, and he is that gate and gatekeeper that will make sure it is open to gentile or Jew, to people from all races, tribes, and tongues.

So, how do we really enter the kingdom of God? Who’d be able to enter, then? Is it even possible?

Remember, “for with God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37) The answer to these questions goes back to one and only one answer alone: Jesus.

We go back to Christ. Christ is our source, means, and end. Christ and his ways serve as our guide to walk the constricted road and enter the narrow gate. We are ultimately helpless in pursuing this path if we do not conform to Christ himself. And because we are conformed to him and his way, then it would be possible to enter Christ who himself is the gate. It will never be a walk in the park, the same way as Christ’s mission was not one, but it is possible. He is the gate, his cross is the way. Christ has prepared the way for us, constricted it may be. But because he has done it and has laid out the path for us, then it is ultimately possible. We may, perhaps, not enter at the same time, some of us being ahead of others. but we are assured, it is possible to get there. It is possible to enter the narrow gate, it is possible to recline at the table of the kingdom of God. It is possible to achieve this eternal happiness that God wants to freely offer to us. It is possible to be one with God in his Eternal Kingdom.

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