From the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time onwards the reading was progressing on discipleship. It started from the call, sending out two by two, prayer, inheritance and now we are reflecting on how many will be saved.
In the first reading, Isaiah answered prophetically a similar question about salvation. Jews were trying to recover from their long exile and enslavement in Babylon. The prophet sees great things for Jerusalem. He tells the people that someday people of all nations would come to worship. The third part of the Isaiah (56-66) tells us that He is God for all the people rather than Jews alone. It shows us that God wants everyone saved.
Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, and he was teaching. Some asked him an interesting question, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" We may want to know the answer too, isn’t it? First, we have to depend on the grace of God. We read in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God…” Second, it depends on our cooperation and obedience. We read in Philippians 2:12 “So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Jesus stresses the difficulties of entering through the narrow gate. There is a story behind the narrow gate. A narrow gate was a small gate built into the much larger city gates of a city. It allowed someone to enter after hours when, for security reasons, the main gates had been closed and locked. The gate was too small to enter with more than a few items. Animals, carts, weapons, and other large items had to remain outside the gate until the opening of the main gate in the morning. The night gate for the city of Jerusalem was nicknamed the “needle’s eye”. Jesus doesn’t answer the question regarding how many people will be saved. He was not interested in statistics. His answer was more personal…here’s how YOU can be saved. It is not easy to go through a narrow gate. You may have to wait or bend yourself. There will be challenges.
Spiritual life is not that easy, so only a few will enter the glory of God. In the Gospel of Matthew 22:14, we read, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” The final judgment will come at the end of time when the faithful will be rewarded and the unrepented will be punished. We read in Matthew 21:43, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Jesus also tells us that it is not easy when we see others from the east, west, north, and south reclined at the table in the kingdom of God, while we are cast out.
Jesus does not tell us all this to depress us or to discourage us, but he loves us. To know and experience his love, we just need to do is to look at the Cross. His love sums up there. He gave every means to enter the narrow gate. We have sacraments, we have Eucharist, and food for our journey: we listen to his words, eat His Body, and drink His Blood. We may fail from time to time, He gave us the Sacrament of reconciliation. He gave us fellow Christians to support and to walk with us. Let us ask God to bless us with his grace, so we can walk with him and grow in our discipleship and enter through the narrow gate.