A Tight Squeeze

In today’s gospel someone asks Jesus the question that we have all wondered about: "Will few, or many, be saved?" Jesus doesn’t answer directly. He says: "Try to squeeze through a narrow door." He doesn’t say how many will make it, but he says clearly that some will not. In the first reading from Isaiah, God makes it clear that he wants everyone to be saved, but he will not force salvation on anyone. If some people fail to make it through the door, it is their choice, not God’s. Jesus says that on the day of reckoning there are going to be some surprises. People we never expected to meet in heaven will be there. Some who thought they had reserved seats are going to be turned away at the gate. Some who expected luxury boxes are in for a shock. They tell the story of a rich woman who was used to every luxury and to respect. She died and was admitted to heaven and was greeted by an angel who showed her around. They passed many impressively beautiful mansions; each time she thought the next one was hers. But they kept going, into a rundown neighborhood, and finally came to a hut. "This is yours," the angel said. "Oh," she said, "I can’t live in that!" The angel replied, "I’m sorry we couldn’t do better for you, but this is all we could put together with the materials you sent up." Jesus warns his questioner, a member of the chosen people, that there are no guarantees. The same goes for us Christians who "ate and drank in his company and taught in his streets." We have to earn salvation, and sometimes it’s going to be a struggle. In today’s second reading, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that God, like a loving parent, disciplines those he loves. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus is called a bridegroom, and discipleship is like a marriage. You know that you have to work at a marriage to keep it going. Stop working at it, get complacent, settle for routine, and it can run down. Don’t get the wrong idea. Jesus is not saying these things in order to scare us and make us get in line. He’s just reminding us that the love of God and neighbor is a serious business. It includes a lot more than just keeping rules and staying out of trouble. He’s being honest with us, telling us that following him is not always going to be a bed roses ... that sometimes it’s going to cost ... that we shouldn’t be surprised when we are called upon to suffer. It’s a narrow door, and sometimes it’s a tight squeeze. But he is with us, always by our side, assuring us of his grace when we need it. We can always count on him. He just doesn’t want to be taken for granted. James DiGiacomo, S.J.
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