Strive To Enter Through The Narrow Gate

08-21-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Manasseh Iorchir, VC

The Readings this weekend emphasize the universality of God’s reign, the Divine intent to replace the inadequate worship of God by ethnic Israel with perfect worship by all humanity in the future, and the absolute necessity of suffering of some kind as a means of self-training for acceptance into heaven.

The First Reading, taken from the Prophet Isaiah, presents the promise of the omniscient God who will gather His faithful from all the nations on purified vessels to Jerusalem where He will be offered true and universal worship. The glory of God will then be proclaimed to all nations. God is the Father of all mankind, he knows us all and is ready to commune with all who elect to establish and sustain the right relationship with Him irrespective of place of origin. He promised to gather his children, scattered throughout the world, so as to reestablish His original plan for mankind. If we understand and accept the universality of God’s Grace, we would be favorably disposed towards those who, in many ways, are not like us.

In the Gospel, Jesus is asked if only a few will attain salvation. His response is indirect. He defl ects His interrogator’s inquisitiveness from “how many’” to “can I” enter the kingdom of God. For Jesus, admission into celestial rewards would not be a consequence of mere acquaintances or even the fulfillment of sacred rituals, but of strenuous, persevering and consistent practical witnessing to faith in Jesus. This is why the Second Reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews which was written at a period of persecution, exhorts the despairing Jewish converts to Christianity to see their suffering as a sign of God’s Fatherly love. God disciplines those He loves in order to perfect their faith. The theological interpretation of suffering achieves thematic coherence with Jesus’ instruction in the Gospel to “strive to enter through the narrow gate.” This clearly means that the path of salvation, rather than being easy, would involve a difficult struggle at the end of which many may fail. The Christian is therefore not expected to worry about how many will make it to Heaven, but should be concerned with “Will I make it to Heaven?”

It is evidently clear, that those who seek to “simplify” the process of salvation by holding and teaching that salvation is by faith alone in such a way that the path of salvation appears to be an easy matter of just believing without corresponding growth in the practical pursuit of righteousness, as well as those who posit that all, in spite of their obstinacy and sinfulness, are irrevocably destined for salvation. All these have fallen into grave error and continue to do the Christian faith great disservice. Salvation has been won for all by the death of Christ on the Cross, but each soul needs to strive hard to appropriate salvation to themselves.

May we be aided by Grace to find and pass through the narrow gate of disciplined discipleship so that we may arrive at our heavenly destination.

Please be kind and may God bless you.

Fr. Manasseh