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When the question came up whether only a few will be saved, Jesus cautioned everyone around that the door to the kingdom is narrow, closed and locked from the inside and isn't what they expect it is. There is no sense of entitlement. Opportunity knocks only once. No second chances will be offered. When the door finally closed, it’s closed. No one will be allowed to get in even through the backdoor. Period. He reminded them “to strive” to enter through it even if it meant passing through the eye of a needle. To sit back, relax, take things for granted and wait until we breathe our last won't work. This is particularly alarming to all of us who have been devout and faithful all our lives. Many in fact will try, to no avail but it's better than doing nothing at all. Mere acquaintance is not enough. Since no one gets in by accident, luck or walk in, their best chance is to struggle just like anyone else, though in the end, there's no guarantee to make it. God admits no party crashers nor doorbusters. It appears, salvation is something earned. That means, you have to work hard on it in order to gain it. Well, if that’s the case, that's pelagianism which claims that salvation is attained exclusively through human efforts irrespective of God's inspiration. That's not true, of course. Put simply, no one can come to God without the help of his grace at work in that person.  

Here comes the defense Jesus’ adversaries love to broadcast out of thin air, you dined with us and taught in our streets. Remember? We enjoyed your company and promised to have you back. We can even mimic you, recite your prayers and quote some of your famous teachings by memory. Hope that's an evidence strong enough to cite we've signed in for the long haul. Unfortunately, not. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Just because you sat down at table and shared meals doesn’t mean automatic entry. Seeing him in the streets performing spectacular healings isn’t enough either. It requires more than casual relationships. Worse, He said, Depart from me, all you evildoers! Jesus cared less. He didn't give a damn. He wasn't convinced and remained untethered all because their lifestyles bear no reflection of him. I’m not surprised if at this juncture many of us hearers slowly get frustrated because it surely makes all of us feel bad about our status with God. We didn’t realize at the outset there are hidden charges. We are tied up with the ordinary affairs of life, struggling to make both ends meet and today, we’re asked to do a little bit more.

Don’t feel bad. The Gospel indicates a stern warning to anyone who thinks that access to heaven is easy solely by virtue of baptism without the human component. It is directed to those who are so sure of their own salvation that they don’t have to do anything. It targets those who are overly confident of their entry expecting a free ride. It’s freely offered but can’t be taken for granted. For many, for as long as you’ve made a commitment to follow Christ, accepting him as your personal Lord and savior (an Evangelical wording, adopted by some Catholics), renders a free ticket to heaven. Such is a downright misconception according to the text. There is nothing automatic. There is no politicking with God. Everyone will be treated fairly.

To move a step further, the narrow door episode is addressed primarily to those who claim that the doors of the kingdom were entrusted to them so that they spend their lives focusing on other people's sins, pointing finger in just about anything, the religious freak. I’m sure you’ve encountered these people several times. I would be thrilled if we add the word 'strive' in the parish mission/vision statement because that's exactly what we need to do. To face the challenge, wrestle with it and put our lives in God's hands, is the name of the game. Much to our surprise, those we normally expect would be ahead in line with us possibly may end up at the bottom of it all, behind everyone else. "For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (Luke 13:30).

For the time being, it's important to refrain from passing judgment on our fellows. Let’s open wide the doors of our church and broaden our horizons for it is our best chance of getting into the narrow door. It is closed and narrow possibly because those of us insiders cherry-picked. Let’s open the doors to all people even if we have obvious differences of opinion and orientation. Let’s work together to put Catholics back in the pew, try hard, strive to go through it and leave the rest to God. It's his kingdom, anyway. Amen.





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