The Gospel of the Day – 2016.08.21
The First and the Last
Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’
When Jesus encourages us to try our best to enter through the narrow door, he is encouraging us to live the best life we can, the best life we are able to live.
The narrow door is the way of justice and mercy, of compassion, of love, of forgiveness, and salvation.
Jesus understands the human condition, he knows that almost everybody wants to live this way, but few can live this way completely. He also knows that the world is a better place, in direct proportion to the efforts that each of us make, to live out our lives according to this way.
Our individual and collective well-being depends on our willingness to forgive those who injure us, to accept forgiveness from those whom we hurt, to be loving, compassionate, merciful, and just.
Jesus is not the master who locks the door, God is not the judge who tells God’s servants that he does not know them, does not know where they come from. God knows what is in the heart of every person, God knows, God, loves, and God forgives.
If the gatekeeper seeks to lock out any one of God’s children; God, creator of the universe, God the parent of all, they do so not because they are on the narrow path, but because they are on the other path, the same path as most of the rest of us.
The broad path is nevertheless a path, it is the way of most of us who are sinners, it is a way we share with the patriarchs; with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with the prophets, all of whom were sinners like ourselves, though nonetheless the objects of God’s love.
Every person is the object of God’s love, whether they are on the narrow path, or the broad path, whether they are trying to hold the gate closed, or keep it open, they are all welcome to God’s table, because God is love, and God is patient, and God is kind.
Always bear in mind the teaching of Jesus, the last will be first, and the first will last. Think nothing of your place in society, of office or of power, unless you are thinking of how to use those things for the benefit of others.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time