How Much Is Enough?
“Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” (Luke 13:24)
Luke makes no effort to soften these Words of Jesus. Matthew’s version of the narrow gate (Mt 7:13) is no different. They are not meant to provide comfort, but to light a Fire. Other translations of Luke say ‘Make every effort’ or ‘Strive’ to enter. In each case, the root meaning evokes struggle –a struggle in which many will not succeed.
What Jesus says, and who Jesus is, is one and the same. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He said what he lived. If I am to be obedient to what he Says, then my life must be congruent with his Life. And if this is the standard, against which I will fail or succeed, then what cause do I have to Hope? Do I have even kindle for Fire?
The things I Profess with all my heart are the very things which expose the gap between ‘what I say’ and ‘who I am’. It is the gap in my Integrity -where what I Profess is not fully integrated into what I Do. This gap is the portrait of my Weakness, my Self-Delusion, my Unwillingness to Die, my Hidden Distrust of God’s Love. It is a reflection of my compromised commitment to the Narrow Way.
‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door…’ these Words of Jesus are exhorting me to narrow my gap, for, ‘to live a holy life is to be holy just as he is holy.’ (1Jn 3:7). But will my ‘best’ be good enough? If I, in this life, will never live up to what I Profess -to be a faithful follower of Christ- then, what cause do I have to Hope? Do I have even kindle for Fire?
I have a vivid memory four decades old. Shame has not allowed it to fade. I just gave my life to Christ and had a brand new Cross hanging from my neck. I stopped by a friend, with whom I had done drugs in the past, to witness to him. I began that night telling him about my new life in Jesus and I left that night stoned.
This memory, though shameful, is a sure cause to Hope. I was unfaithful but Jesus remained faithful. I abandoned him, but he did not abandon me. As I was struggling in my failure, he was rejoicing in my return.
‘…many will try to enter and will not succeed.’ Yes, this is a hard Word. Yes, Jesus, the Inviolable Truth, defines what is acceptable to the Kingdom of God; and he is the Only Door; but… he is the Narrow Way which opens wide to the Prodigal’s Father -whose Mercy searches the horizon of sin for a Repentant Soul.
This event of trying to enter by the narrow door is not the moment at the end of my life when I am judged (then, it would be too late); it is every moment of my life since saying “yes” to Jesus’ invitation. It is the lifelong struggle of submitting to the Saving Hand of God. And from this perspective, not only will many not succeed, but all will fail! For, we all have fallen short in sin.
The Many, who will not succeed, are not those who fail, but those who quit; who leave the path; who say, “Yes Father, I will do your work” but then, go their own way. They are the ones who relinquish the Struggle, who resign themselves to the Lukewarm.
John’s perspective of ‘Jesus-The-Gate’ is from a different window than Matthew and Luke: Jesus says, ‘I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.’ (Jn 10:9). Jesus is still the Way and the Truth, but here, rather than focusing on Truth’s Judgment, John emphasizes Truth’s Salvation: If we, the Needy Sheep, walk in the Freedom of Truth we will surely find Life.
Truth; Judgment; Salvation; Repentance; Obedience and Mercy –These are the footstones of the Narrow Way to Life and many will not find their footprints upon them. This is the truth that brings God to tears. …But for the Grace of God. …But for the Grace of God.Jesus has brought me a long way since my shameful first attempt to evangelize. I have failed many more times at the Narrow Way. And each time my Good Shepherd rescues me -at the price of his Blood- always carrying me, held to his breast, back to the Fold. My struggle is as hard as it has ever been, but the gap between what I Profess and who I Am has narrowed –and this is great cause for Hope; kindling for his Fire.