Jesus keeps making his way to Jerusalem. His journey is not that of a pilgrim who goes up to Jerusalem to fulfill religious duties. According to Luke, Jesus passes through towns and villages, “teaching.” He needs to communicate something to those people, namely, that God is a good Father who offers salvation to everyone. He invites all to receive his forgiveness.
His message surprises everyone. Sinners are filled with joy to hear him speak of God’s unfathomable goodness. Even they can hope for salvation. The Pharisees, however, criticize his message as well as the welcome he extends to tax-collectors, prostitutes and sinners. Is not Jesus leaving the door open to the watering-down of religion and to unacceptable morals?
According to Luke, an unnamed individual interrupts his journey and asks him about the number of those who will be saved. Will they be few or many? Will everyone be saved or only the righteous? Jesus does not answer his question directly. What is important is not to know how many will be saved. What is decisive is to live with a clear and responsible attitude in order to welcome salvation from this Good God. Jesus reminds them all: Strive to enter through the narrow gate.
In this way, Jesus nips in the bud the objection of those who understand his message as an invitation to laxity. That would be to make a mockery of the Father. Salvation is not something one receives irresponsibly from a permissive God. Nor is it the privilege of a select few. It is not enough to be children of Abraham. It is not sufficient to have known the Messiah.
In order to welcome God’s salvation we need to strive, to struggle, to imitate the Father, to trust in God’s forgiveness. Jesus does not lower his demands: Be merciful as your Father is merciful; Stop judging and you will not be judged; Forgive seventy times seven as does your Father; Seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.
To understand correctly the invitation to “enter through the narrow gate,” we have to remember Jesus’ words that we can read in John’s Gospel: I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10, 9). To enter through the narrow gate is “to follow Jesus.” It is learning to live as he did. It is to take up his cross and to trust in the Father who has raised him from the dead.
In this following of Jesus, not everything is worth it, not everything is of the same importance. We have to respond faithfully to the Father’s love. What Jesus asks is not legalistic rigor, but a radical love for God and neighbor. That is why his call is a source of demand, but not of anxiety. Jesus Christ is a door that is always open. No one can close it but ourselves, if we close ourselves to his forgiveness.
August 21, 2016
21 Sunday O.T. (C)
Luke 13, 22-30