Bible Reading for the Twenty-First Sunday: Luke 13: 22-30 Passing Through the Eye of the Needle
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - August 25, 2019 - 12:00am

A prominent man died and was being escorted by St. Peter in heaven. They came to one room where people seem to be enjoying themselves.  The man was shocked to see the faces of some of the characters enjoying themselves there in the room in heaven.  How in the world did these characters manage to get to heaven?!

But soon he noticed the faces of the people there.  They were as shocked to see him there in heaven!  The person asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  It was from the Jewish belief that the kingdom of God was only for the Jews.  And that the gentiles would all be shut out.  They were created to be the firewood in hell.

The answer of Jesus must have come as a shock to him.  Jesus declared that entry to the kingdom can never be automatic, but is the result and the reward of a struggle.  “Keep on striving to enter,” he said.  The effort to enter in must be so intense that it can be described as agony or struggle of soul and spirit.

It is easy for Christians to think that, once we have been baptized, once we have made a commitment of ourselves to Jesus Christ, we already have it made.  We have reached the end of our journey and can relax and take it easy as if we have reached our goal or destiny, we are sure to go to heaven.

But there is no such finality in the Christian life.  A man must always be going forward or he necessarily goes backward.  Christian life is not like obtaining a diploma, or certificate, or attaining a membership card.  It is more like paddling your banca upstream and forward.  When we stop paddling, we get carried downstream.

The defense of the Jews, who were shut out was: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.”

There are those who think that just because they are members of a Christian group all is well.  They differentiate between themselves and the ignorant and blind pagans.  But the man who lives in a Christian environment is not necessarily a Christian.

It is not enough for us to be baptized, to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligations.  It is not enough to give big donations to the church, and pray novenas and rosaries.  The big question is how we live our lives.  And how have we followed the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, our model.  How have we love God and our brothers and sisters, especially those in need?

We may be enjoying all its benefits of our Christian faith, which others before us have built up.  But there is no reason to be complacent.   Rather it challenges us, “What did we do to bring about all this?  What have we done to preserve and develop it?”  We cannot live on borrowed goodness.

When Jesus warns us, “Enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough,” we may be tempted to think that it is God who makes the gate narrow so that people cannot pass through.

Rather, it is because we made it that way by our own doubts and unChristian way of living.  There will be surprises in the kingdom of God.  Those who are very prominent in this world may be very humble in the next; those whom no one notices here may be the  princes of the world to come.

There is s story of a woman who had been used to every luxury and to all honor and respect.  She died, and when she arrived in heaven, an angel was sent to conduct her to her house.  They passed many a lovely mansions and the woman thought that each one, as they came to it, must be the one allotted to her.

When they had passed through the main streets they came to the outskirts.  Here the houses were much smaller; and on the very fringe they came to a house which was little more than a hut. “That is your house,” said the conducting angel.

“What?” said the woman, “That?!  I cannot live in that!”

“I’m sorry,” said the angel, “but that is all we could build for you with the materials you sent up.”

The standards of heaven are not the standards of this world.  The world’s first will often be last, and its last will often be first.

It is not God who made the gate narrow and difficult to pass through.  It is we who get ourselves so cluttered with our concerns for the things and values of this world so that we cannot pass through.

What are these concerns that make it difficult to pass through the narrow gate?  They are concerns for pleasure and comfort, our grudges, and discrimination, our refusal to let go of possessions, power, and popularity.   All these make it difficult to take Christ seriously, to follow his footsteps.

There is a Peanut cartoon where Charlie Brown was looking out the window one morning and saw that it was such a beautiful morning to go out and play in the snow.  He put on all the warm clothing – sweater, outer coat, boots, and mitten, bonnets and so on.  He got so cluttered up that he got stuck at the door – could not move forward or backward.  So he stood there shouting at the top of his voice.

Perhaps some of us are like Charlie Brown so stuck up with concerns of this world that we are not able to enter the gate of the kingdom that Jesus is talking about.  Perhaps we have to take time out every now and then to examine if there are things in our lives that are keeping us from getting through the narrow gate.

Let us ask God for the grace of spiritual freedom to be able to struggle in this life so that we will have no problem passing through the eye of the needle.  For men it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.

BIBLE READING
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