The question about “who will be saved” has always been in the lips of Christians. Today, Jesus invites us to consider the question under two different aspects. The question he is asked presupposes something that is already taken for granted. The Jews do not ask him “who will be saved,” but “will only a few be saved”? This is because for them, it is granted that they are the only ones to be saved, not the Gentiles.
When we look around us, we will find the same feeling and assurance. We take it for granted that salvation is something we already have in our pockets. Now the question we ask is that of the number. Interestingly, Jesus does not respond to that question. I would say, his response to the Jews and to all of us who take salvation for granted, is “slow down; not that fast…”
To begin with, Jesus’ answer brings to light another truth the Jews were not ready to hear and to listen; that all are called to salvation. In other words, Jesus tells us that God offers and makes salvation available everyone who is willing to upon up to his grace. Jesus insists that “belonging” to the chosen people is not a guarantee of salvation. There is much more into that. For people will come from afar and will recline at the table of the Lord. So Jesus refuses to give an answer that could either encourage his listeners to just be complacent by taking salvation for granted, or to be discouraged because they would think there is nothing to do. That is why Jesus insists on “striving to enter through the narrow gate.”
From there on, we are reminded of a very important truth, namely that we all have to work hard to enter into the kingdom. We cannot take it for granted. Neither can’t we think we are entitled to it, no matter who we are or to what group we belong. So, to say the least, this is a warning for all and everyone of us. We are reminded not to take salvation for granted. Rather, we need to work for it, not as if we were buying it but because we have to respond to the call. The kingdom is at hands, and it is up to us to respond to the call to be a part of it or not. To work for the kingdom is to strive to go through the narrow gate, because only the narrow gate will lead us to eternal life.
The word Jesus uses is so revealing here: to strive. In Greek the word is agonizomai. We can hear the word agony as we read this Greek word. So, the word reminds us of the requirement to carry our cross to follow Jesus. The agony we are invited to experience to be saved is to fight against our selfishness and pride, when we either look down on others, or we exclude them from our love and mercy, or when we consider them as outcast or not belonging. We are called to follow and to keep the Commandments. So, today you and I are called to look at ourselves with honesty and see where we stand with regards to our understanding of what salvation requires from us. Is it enough for us to just claim salvation because we belong to the Church, the bride of the Lord? How do we work for the kingdom and to respond to the salvation God freely offers us? Do not we spend our time asking the question about how many will be saved rather than finding ways to work to embrace God’s salvation? Where and in what situation have I refused to strive (embrace agony) by choosing the wide-open gate rather than the narrow one?
Let us make this opportunity the Lord is offering beneficial as we strive to enter though the narrow gate, and let us continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.