“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Biblical scholars through the centuries have debated what this means, what this narrow gate is, was Jesus referring to a physical place in Israel, making a metaphor, and really how thin this gate is, like really how narrow is narrow.
How big is the gate? No idea. Don’t care! Because Jesus wasn’t concerned with dimensions. His point was to say “Wake up people!” Cut the fat! Salvation is for those who are spiritually lean, with their priorities set.
Jesus is telling us today, the way to the Kingdom of God, is through a narrow gate because aside from a deep love for God and others, there is nothing else that we can bring through that gate. Despite how much we try, there is no way for us to try to squeeze, wedge, push or pull the things of this world through that gate.
In this Gospel, and really, the gospels of the past three weeks, Jesus has been reminding us that wealth, power, pride, or even “keeping the peace” at all costs, are not the way to salvation. They are not the way of the Christian.
The way of the Christian, in a sense is narrow, it is a way that is guided by two things—love of God and love of neighbor! And yet in following that narrow way, the opportunity for an intensely broad path opens up.
Look at the lives of the saints. Men and women who entered through the narrow gate, following the narrow way of the Golden rule, who also lived incredibly diverse lives. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, doctors, teachers, carpenters, contractors, lawyers, leaders, lepers, healers, wounded witnesses, broken vessels, incomplete, imperfect sinners, and the list goes on!
And yet despite their deep diversity, they also all entered through the narrow gate bringing only with them love of God and love of neighbor.
And that is exactly what Jesus is reminding us of today. He is giving us a wake up call! This salvation thing takes work and effort! He is commanding us to cut the fat in our lives. To prioritize him. To prioritize love of God and of neighbor and to live our lives by those principles.
What a perfect Gospel! For our time. And more explicitly towards the end of summer, around this time as many prepare to go back to school. A time when our schedules and priorities are already making a natural shift. What a good time to take a look at our priorities!
He is inviting, really commanding us, to look at our lives and see if the way we are living, reflects who we are, Christians, the body of Christ. To ask, how is this or that showing love of God or love of neighbor? And if it is not, cut the fat, cut it out, let it go.
We can ask ourselves, How does/is…fill in the blank…reflect my love of God and neighbor?
We probably all know things that we can put in that blank…binge watching Netflix, buying this thing that I don’t really need, aimlessly spending time on my phone, complaining about and blaming others, gossiping. But there are others, taking care of my family, sacrificing for others, praying for strangers, forgiving my spouse, being honest when it is easier to say nothing, witnessing to your faith, feeding the hungry, engaging the annoying, reaching out to somebody we know is hurting even when we have no idea what to say or do, giving somebody the benefit of the doubt, seeking forgiveness, letting go of a grudge, inviting somebody to pray or to go to Mass. The list goes on.
Now Jesus is not being the fun police but what he is saying, in today’s Gospel is if what we are doing is not for love of God or love of neighbor. What is it worth, let it go, cut it out of our lives, and not only that, but that we will be more fulfilled and more fully who we are because of it!
And more fully able to help each other together, arrive and go through the narrow gate. For nobody is saved alone, only with the help of others and the power of Christ.
It is that same Christ who is sticking his foot in the door of our busy lives, reminding us, to make our relationship with him not simply a nagging obligation but a priority. So that who we are as the body of Christ, might actually line up with what we do—love God and love our neighbor.
If this becomes our priority, if we follow this narrow way, we will be able to say along with St. Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And if we can say this with true humility…then we too will pass through the narrow gate, following in the footsteps of a great band of men and women, the saints who went marching in, bring with us, the only thing they brought, love of God and love of neighbor!