To read the texts: Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30
once said, “It is the very people who do not know what to do with this life who
are concerned about the next”. Concerns about the next life or what will happen
after death are issues that so many are worried and anxious about. In many cases, this leads to not being able
to live fully the present life which has so much to offer.
seems to be the background to the question that Jesus is asked at the beginning
of the Gospel text of today; “Lord, will only a few be saved?” In his response
to the question, Jesus does not state whether few or many will be saved. Rather, he asks all those who listen to him
to live fully in the present. The present will determine the future and so we
are not to be concerned with the future but with the here and now. Now is the
time when the effort must be made. Now
is the time when life must be lived. Now is the time to prepare for what is to
does it mean that one must strive to enter by the narrow door? The text answers
this question, though not directly. There are three reasons why many will not
succeed in entering. Some will be excluded because they will try to get in when
it is too late. Others will be excluded
because they will not have acted on the instructions of Jesus. Still others will be excluded because they
performed evil and not good actions. Those who did not act will have assumed
that words alone would suffice to get them through, but they will be mistaken.
These are the ones who will weep and gnash their teeth and for those who have
not teeth, a set will be provided.
the other hand, people will come from all corners of the world and gain entry
into the kingdom. These will have gained entry, not on their antecedents or
background but because they did strive to enter by the narrow door. They were
ready on time, they acted on the instructions of Jesus, and their actions were
good. They, who were considered last by many, will indeed be first. This is the
group mentioned in the first reading of today who will come from all nations.
This is not an exclusive group. Their works and thoughts are known to God and
through them, they have declared God’s glory. These are the ones who are
invited to the feast in the kingdom of God for they acted wisely and well.
it is not merely being familiar with the teachings of the Lord that is important
or even knowing the Lord by name. What is important is action. To be sure,
one’s good action alone is not the determining factor, since the grace of God
and God’s choice is also instrumental in the final list that is made. However,
even as this is true, one’s action is imperative, even vital, to gain entry
into the kingdom. This further indicates that the religion that Jesus urges
people to practice is not merely one which is content to recite a set formula
of prayers, or to participate passively in rituals, or even to proclaim aloud
that Jesus is Lord. No. The religion to which he invites his listeners is one
which will show itself in action. It is one in which prayers, rituals, and
proclamation will be informed and influenced by the loving actions that one
performs and not the other way round. The prayers of praise to God are the
result of the actions that show this praise.
kind of religion is not easy to practice, as the second reading of today points
out. There will be numerous trials that have to be endured and often, there
will be the temptation to give up. It will seem so much simpler to simply say,
rather than do. It will be so much simpler to mouth empty prayers, rather than
act on the Lord’s commands. What is called for, however, is a steadfastness, a
resoluteness, and a sense of purpose. What is called for is not worry about the
future and its outcome but to keep one’s eyes, mind, heart, and whole being,
fixed on the present. What is required is to know that the present determines
as Christians, are in special danger of not heeding the instructions of Jesus.
This is because, all too often, Christianity has been understood as a sterile
and theoretical religion. Many of us are content with fulfilling “obligations”
and with reciting prayers. We are content to give occasional alms and to
separate the practice of our faith from our lives.
of us think that, because we have been baptized, we are sure to enter the
kingdom. However, the readings of today point out that this is far from true.
None of us can take for granted that we will gain entry into the kingdom. It is
precisely for this reason why it is important for us, as disciples of Jesus,
not to be too concerned about the next life but to concentrate on the present
one and to live it fully. If we know how to live fully in this life, we will be
able to live fully in the next.