Through the narrow gate…
By Niobe Rodrigues
“Sir, will there be only a few saved?”
A manager once mentioned to me, “You hardly ever answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question.” It was an observation that stayed with me.
People ask questions for a variety of reasons: for information, for support and, at times, as a trap. If your answer is a basic ‘yes’ or ‘no’, next thing you hear is: “Niobe say that…”
In this Sunday’s gospel, the person who posed the question is lazy. The questioner has heard Jesus preaching and has decided that it is hard to follow and because of that, only a few would be saved.
The questioner is looking for support for their inactivity. I mean, if is so much work to get into Heaven and I am still not guaranteed to get there then why waste my time? Better I just enjoy my life. Jesus, therefore, does not dignify his query with a response. It is a distraction. Jesus’ advice is to “strive to enter the narrow gate“.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines strive as “to struggle in opposition: contend”. Is the fight with the gate or what is attempting to pass through its limits? What strength is needed not only to enter but also to get into the protected place?
Gates have changed over the centuries. In Jesus’ era, once the gates of the city were closed, no one could enter. They could not even see what was behind the walls.
First, one has to know opening and closing time. The time that Jesus was here on Earth until now, the gate and the way to Heaven is open. One does not know when it will close. Be alert.
Modern gates are made of metal and in certain sections, you are able to see through to the other side. However, if it is locked and one is trying to enter without a key, it will take a long time.
Sometime ago I was expecting delivery of an item to my home and had not realised none of the gate keys had been left at home. I tried various ways to open, all to no avail. In the end, my husband had to leave work to come and open up.
Second: one may be struggling to access salvation alone. Yet, Jesus established a Church community that can help with the key to everything else.
What am I bringing with me through this gate? Maybe it is a semi-truck with a container that cannot even reverse into your street, let alone get in your yard. Or it may be a cell phone.
Which one would be more difficult to enter the gate with? The truck you say? The container can be unhooked from the truck. One can get out of the vehicle and breeze through the gate but if the rule is to leave the cell phone behind, how easy is that to do?
The third thing to note is: If one comes to the gate for help and wants to hold on to personal baggage, even if the gate is open, one may not be able to pass through.
The questioner is indolent. The questioner is me. I do not want to work for my salvation. I want easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy redemption. I do not want to fight. Yet what value is there in things that one does not struggle for, be it marriage, career, or salvation? The struggle for salvation is real; let us embrace it.
Lord, help us instead of looking for a way out, search for a way to build spiritual muscle and so find ourselves free to enter Your Kingdom. Amen.
Niobe Rodrigues is a Sign Language Interpreter, a skill she developed whilst working with the Touch of Christ Catholic Deaf Community. She is a wife, mother of three boys and a parishioner and catechist at St Joseph’s RC Church in Mayo.