Fr. David’s homily August 20, 2016.
The Narrow Door
The narrow door. Some people have a narrower door to get through than most of us, don’t they? It’s not a narrower door to heaven, but a narrower door to life. And for that reason, I suspect it’s a wide open door to heaven. If you watch the nightly news you know the grim scenes that continue to unfold. They seem endless. A beautiful 5 year old child, scared and scared; a hospital bombed in Syria, and the lone, remaining physician refuses to leave. “It’s my home,” he says, “these are my people.” The narrow door. The natural disasters here at home continue to take their toll. The responders come from distant points to the flooding in Baton Rouge and to the fires in California. They put themselves on the line. The narrow door.
Turn with me to today’s Word of God. The context is important. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die. He continues to teach as he walks from village to village. His heart and mind must have been heavy. He’s met resistance almost at every turn. His message of God’s love for every person and the challenge to his hearers to acknowledge that love and live it out in their love for one another, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Someone asks him a question.
“Lord are there few in number who are to be saved?” His answer is paradoxical. On the one hand he says: “Try to come in through the narrow door.” For some people life is always a narrow door. Their burdens are heavy; their struggle enduring. The narrow door is no problem for them. They’re used to it. But for others the narrow door is a problem. They expect the door to be wide and always open. When there’s an obstacle, they’re alarmed. They can shout through the door all they want. They can remind the Lord standing behind the door that they ate supper with him. The door of life for them shouldn’t be narrow, and certainly not shut. “No,” he says, “doesn’t matter.” It is not enough that they know what I look like, not enough that you can quote some of the things I’ve said. The sad fact is that your lives bear no evidence of any kind of relationship with me. You may know me, but I don’t know you. He tells them to go away. He sees no evidence of his teaching lived out in their lives.
Seems harsh, doesn’t it? And it is. Jesus’ message is tough. “Trying to come in through the narrow door” is not for the faint of heart. But the paradox comes in when he says that everybody’s coming from north and south, east and west, and they’re all taking their place at the feast in God’s kingdom. You may not get the seat you want, but you’re there. They’re there. Who? Well, Isaiah says they’re other nations of every language. They’re those you thought were outsiders. They’re coming and they’re bringing their lives and the sacrifices of their lives to the banquet. And then the zinger. They just might have a higher place at the table than you. Incredible! Hard words for folks who thought they had all the answers, certain that they knew “who’s in and who’s out.” Certain that they were going to be at the head of the line.
So it’s a paradox: on the one hand seems like only those who come through the narrow door are “being saved.” On the other hand, it seems like everybody’s going to make it, just that you might be surprised where you’re sitting, who you’re sitting with, and who’s sitting with the boss.
Let me suggest this. “Being saved” has little to do with heaven only by extension. “Being saved” is in the present tense. It’s an action that’s happening here and now. “Being saved” means “being with.” “Being with” means “being saved.” We’re in life together. Only together can we get through the narrow door.
I am sure that all of us, in one way or another, were caught up watching the Olympics this past week. There were a couple of poignant moments with the athletes. During the women’s 500m race, American Abbey D’Agnostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin were both sent tumbling to the ground. D’Agostino lifted Hamblin off the ground, but it soon became that the clear the American had come off worse as she urged her rival to carry on without her. But Hamblin was having none of it, and the duo continued to run for a short time before D’Agostino let Hamblin move ahead. Hamblin ended up finishing with a time of 16.43, over a minute-and-a-half behind the winner; D’Agostino finishing last in 17.10. Hamblin waited for D’Agostino at the finish line and the pair shared a warm embrace as D’Agostino was taken away in a wheelchair. Reflecting on the moment, Hamblin said: “When I went down, I was like, ‘what’s happening, why am I on the ground?’ And suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder like, ‘get up, get up, we have to finish this. “I’m so grateful for Abbey for doing that for me. I mean, that girl is the Olympic spirit right there. I’m so impressed and inspired she did that. I’ve never met her before. And isn’t that just so amazing?”
Indeed. The narrow door.
What for you, my fellow Christian, what for me? “Being saved” is in the present tense. It’s an action that’s happening here and now. “Being saved” means “being with.” “Being with” means “being saved.” We’re in life together. That’s the narrow door.
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
Gospel Luke 13:22-30
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”