Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Squeeze Through the Narrow Gate

By Colleen O’Sullivan
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.”  (Luke 13:22-24)

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.  May your body and blood be my food and drink.  May your passion and death be my strength and life.  Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.  May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.  Let me not run from the love which you offer, But hold me safe from the forces of evil.  On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.  Keep calling to me until that day comes, when, with your saints, I may praise you forever.  Amen.
(Contemporary paraphrase of Anima Christi by David L. Fleming, SJ, from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits)

If I had had a chance to meet Jesus in person, I don’t think I would have asked him the question that is posed in today’s Gospel reading.  Asking if only a few people will be saved just seems too theoretical.  I think I would have been more like the rich young ruler in Luke 18, who asks Jesus what else he needs to do to inherit eternal life.  Because when you get right down to it, no matter how many people are involved in the answer, what we really want to know is where we stand and what we need to do to be with Jesus forever.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about who will be sitting at the table in the Kingdom of God.  He says it will be his true friends, the people he knows, the people who know him.  We can learn about Jesus through the Scriptures, but it’s through our prayer lives that we come to be close friends with him.  In our prayer lives, we try to keep our focus on who Jesus is and what he’s done for all of us.  We try to live the way he lived and died – for others.

And that’s a lot harder than it sounds.  We human beings tend to be somewhat self-centered and our focus sometimes slips from Jesus to ourselves.  Or we find that when we look at Jesus long enough and hard enough, we come face to face with aspects of ourselves we’d rather not see.  If we gaze at Jesus on the Cross, eventually we think about the sins we’ve committed for which he died.  If we allow ourselves to experience the compassion and forgiveness Jesus offers, eventually we have to wonder how well we extend that to others.  Are we like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, forgiving and embracing with open arms those who’ve wronged us?  Are we like Jesus in reaching out to the lepers of our day?  Would we, like Pope Francis, lovingly put our arms around a painfully disfigured person?

I can see why Jesus talks about a narrow gate.  To love him more than we love ourselves and to follow in his footsteps, extending mercy and forgiveness to others, means shedding a great deal of self-absorption in order to squeeze through.

Spend a few minutes with Jesus today, praying either the contemporary paraphrase of the Anima Christi prayer above or use the words of the traditional version.  

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