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The Narrow Gate
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
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 gate, 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.”
Opening Prayer: “The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” Lord, I want to be faithful so as to grow in holiness. Please lift me up when I fall. Please raise me up when I am bowed down.
- Jesus Passed Through: In the life of every disciple, there was a moment when Jesus “passed through.” Perhaps it was a retreat, a birth, an illness, or a natural disaster that caused this person to take special notice of Our Lord. As their faith was nurtured, they walked more steadily with Christ by deepening their prayer, following the teachings of the Church, growing in virtue, and receiving and giving mercy. This path is the “narrow gate” for which many lack the strength. Do we think by simply calling ourselves Christians we are saved? Walking with Christ takes fortitude, perseverance, and total dependence on grace.
- Acquaintances or Friends?: The narrow gate is not a where or a what, it is a who. Jesus is the narrow gate. To enter through the gate means to embrace Jesus with our whole heart, mind, and body. Those in the parable who thought they knew Jesus proclaimed, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” They condemned themselves by their words, unwittingly confessing that they had no intimacy with Jesus. Any acquaintance could have made their claims. God wants our whole heart! More than one hundred verses in the Bible speak of God’s love for us. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (221), “God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” To enter through the narrow gate is to love Jesus and live according to his word.
- Last Will Be First: Are historical figures like Hitler, Stalin, and Judas damned? What about politicians or celebrities who call themselves Catholic but publicly sin? Do we dare speculate about the judgment these souls will one day receive? In these Gospel verses, Jesus reminds us that “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” We are not to judge the souls of others because our human discernment is never perfectly clear. We can be swayed by appearances, influenced by subtle prejudices, blinded by our own sinfulness, etc. St. James reminds us, “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, our faith tells us that God predestines no one to go to Hell. (CCC 1037). The daily prayers of the Church and of so many faithful souls gives me great hope for my own salvation and for those I love. I want to be worthy of entering the narrow gate one day. Come Holy Spirit! Pray for us, Virgin Mary, so we may all be saved.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will do my best to do your will in every moment so that I may one day enter through the narrow gate.
For Further Reflection: Homily on Attaining the Virtue and Gift of Fortitude so as to persevere until the end, by Fr. John Mary Foster of the Mission of Divine Mercy.
Nan Balfour is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She volunteers as a writer and speaker for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life.