"Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, 'Lord, will only a few people be saved?' He answered them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, "Lord, open the door for us." He will say to you in reply, "I do not know where you are from." And you will say, "We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets." Then he will say to you, "I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!"'
"And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
Only Jesus saves us. Only Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God, bent down to look upon our nothingness. Because he was moved by our plight he was born of a virgin, thus becoming God made man for us. What does he mean when speaks of those who will not be strong enough to enter through the narrow passage? Well, given the context (i.e., what he goes on to say after making this statement), it seems that nobody is strong enough to kick in the door to the Father's house once it has been locked! The point here is the urgency of the Kingdom. Jesus is autobaselia, the Kingdom in person. This is what he means at the beginning of His ministry when He says, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."
These words bring to my mind Hebrews 3:15, which echoes Psalm 95: 8 (the Psalm I know by heart because I begin each day by reciting it because it is the Invitatory for Morning Prayer)- "Oh, that today you would hear his voice: 'Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.'" Paradoxically, those who will not prove strong enough are those who persist in believing that they can and must save themselves, those who still think that their far from perfect observance of the Law, of the rules, is sufficient to attain salvation.
I was very struck the other day reading Stuart Reid's article about Mel Gibson. In his piece, Mel Gibson may be an alcoholic, a sedevacantist and an anti-Semite – but he has my sympathy Hollywood has turned against him: he has been dropped from the cast of Hangover 2, which appreared on the website of the U.K.'s Catholic Herald, Reid gets it quite right:
"But not even Google can tell us exactly what Mel’s religious position is. His friend the Jesuit scholar William Fulco says that Mel denies neither the Pope nor Vatican II. Mel Gibson is obviously a religious nut, however, and there must have been times when, as a loyal son, he embraced his father’s sedevacantism. It is possible that he remains a sede. But so far as I know he has never questioned, far less rejected, any part of Catholic teaching. That’s more than can be said for a lot of Catholics, including priests and bishops. Surveys show that most Catholics in the comfortable West do not accept the Church’s teaching on (for example) birth control. They don’t just ignore it – the way we all ignore moral teaching from time to time – they believe the Church is in error. So it could be that some of those accusing Gibson of sedecavantism may themselves be heretics, or at the very least recalcitrant dissidents. I am not defending sedevacantism – on the contrary – but I am suggesting that sedes are sometimes more faithful to Church teaching than respectable Catholics in the suburbs."Reid's point here is simple and demonstrative of the point I am trying to make, namely that it is one thing to find something difficult, maybe even impossible, to live, to adhere to. In such instances we have recourse to God's mercy given us in Christ Jesus, a grace we can most directly access in and through the sacraments. But, it is a wholly different thing to deny the truth outright, which is not to say we can't ask the most searching and necessary of human questions- Why? Asking Why? is not only permitted, but required.
To say the Church is in error when it pertains to fundamental matters and to declare yourself arbiter of the truth is of a wholly different order! The Church is now and has always been merciful, if not downright indulgent, of my weakness, my inability, even my refusal to live the truth. As I see my own plight, which I live everyday, woe to me if I deny the truth because I find it difficult to live! For then I have surely hardened my heart, heard Jesus, ate and drank with Him, but refused to both believe Him and believe in Him.
So, the question for all us today is, Are we strong enough to acknowledge our need, not just a need that we have, like for food and water, but the need that is at the core of our very contingent and human being, which is manifested by the desire that burns in us all? Did you just hear Jesus teaching in your streets, or did you hear His voice and have your hard heart softened, or, untrustingly, did you continue to refuse to abandon yourself to Him, even after eating and drinking Him?
Jesu Confido Tibi