We are faced with a sobering question in today’s Gospel (Luke 13.22-30), as we here a man asking Jesus, “Will only a few be saved?” And maybe he is asking because he is wondering of his own salvation. Maybe, at one point or another, we have asked of ourselves the same question, “Will I be saved? Will I go to heaven?” Jesus responds with an equally sobering response; “Many will try to enter [through the narrow door] and will not be able?” What does this mean for us? If our God is a God of love would he not want all of us to be with him. The answer is “YES, ABSOLUTELY!” And yet his response for some, as he says, will be, “I do not know where you come from.” I think the reality of this is that many have presumed that they are saved by baptism or take comfort in the presumption that the vast majority of people will go to heaven and so they try to be good and end up in that crowd. Yet scripture states it very clearly, and differently than this. And so what are we to do?
One thing this scripture places on my heart is the call to urgency, to act now! We are encouraged and challenged by Jesus’ words; “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many… will try to enter and will not be able.”
As I was reflecting on this Gospel for today, I couldn’t help but think of the Olympics, which are just wrapping up today after a couple of weeks of events. I have been really captivated by many of the athletes as I watch them and hear their stories. These athletes, I imagine many of them, have been in intense training for years to prove that they can make it and stand among the top in the world. I also imagine for most, if not all, this requires intense discipline, a strict diet, grueling commitment, and pushing through the pain; they have to eat and sleep with their goal in mind, to push to limit and be the best. How will they know that they are the best, that they are able to make it? By giving it everything that they have.
Also, behind every great athlete is a coach, someone who knows how to guide them down the one right path and who has usually gone there before them. They push you to accomplish great and difficult things, sometimes things you never thought you could do. And so, likewise, we are not alone as we have the example of our great teacher, Jesus. He leads the way for us by taking up his cross. He is the narrow gate, and so it is only by following him and comforming to him that we are able to enter.
It seems to me then that this is our answer, we must be spiritual athletes; striving to enter through the narrow gate. This is our spiritual training program, if our goal is heaven. There are many paths that lead away from this narrow door, but only one that leads to it; the path of Jesus. There will only be victory for those who are willing to push on.
It is not an easy thing. As we hear in the letter to the Hebrews (12.5-7,11-13), “Endure trials for the sake of discipline.” You must be willing to walk the path of love in all that you do every day and you must take up your cross and be willing to endure the trials of resisting temptation. Ultimately you must be willing to surrender to the grace of God and then allow that grace to invade every aspect of your life so that grace flows through you and into the wider world.
So today I encourage you to take consolation that you have a loving coach, a loving teacher, who is willing to show you the way if you are but willing to commit and push on! There is no better day than today. There is no better moment than now!