Many who are first will be last, and the last shall be fist
Strive to enter by the narrow door
If you have ever queued up waiting to get through immigration at an American airport to gain entry to the United States, you have plenty of time to gaze at the faces and the demeanour of the various immigration officials. Inevitably some look friendlier and smile more than others and also seem faster to stamp the passports of the people ahead. You hope you get a nice official!
On one occasion I flew into New York at Newark airport. I was not in my clerics but the official asked me my profession. When I told him I was a priest, he asked me ‘have you heard of San Giovanni Rotondo?’ When I mentioned that I knew of it and had in fact been to the birthplace of Padre Pio he produced a prayer card of Padre Pio from his short pocket and promptly stamped my passport and green immigration card. Lucky for me I was awake! And Padre Pio had a chuckle!
The Gospel today is all about entry to heaven and who will get there and how many. One priest answered that question with the reply: ‘I’m into sales, not management!’
'Jesus here turns a hypothetical question about the number of those who will be saved into an existential one which turns the responsibility back on the hearer or reader to do what is necessary to be one of those who are saved' (Luke T. Johnson).
So the key question we have to ask ourselves is not so much: ‘will there many who are saved’ as to ‘will I be among those who are to be saved?’
All are invited. But people choose to be excluded by their actions in the here and now.
There is a story of a man going for a job interview, and when instructed to arrive in good time for his interview he arrived an hour early. There were 4 others ahead of him in the waiting room. The candidates for the job were told that there was a strict embargo on the questions so no candidate could leave through the door he went in. As each candidate left the waiting room, the ice broke and those left behind started chatting to each other about their background and their hopes. Finally only the man in question and one other were left and they had a very open conversation. Finally he was left to himself for awhile wondering what was going in the interview room.
When he was finally called he recognised the interview board – they were all the others in the waiting room! Of course while a sneaky procedure they got a clear picture of who they were dealing with. The story goes that he was offered the job on the spot!
The verdict will be no shock or surprise to us at our particular Judgment.
What is required so that we will get through this final test?
– Our particular judgment IS EVERY DAY as we determine our eternal fate NOW AND EVERY DAY, by
· our prayer or lack of it,
· by our keeping God’s commandments or our failure to keep them,
· our living charitably and generously of our time and resources to those in need
· our seeking God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession or our failure to
· our witness as a Catholic or our failure to witness by word and example
· fidelity to our spouse and family or not
· honesty or not
· our purity or impurity,
· our sobriety or our drunkenness,
· our resistance to the promptings of conscience or following a clearly informed conscience faithful to the Church’s teaching on faith and morality,
· Our following of the Golden Rule, to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves
- our fidelity to the duties according to our state in life
Life and entry to eternal life therefore is not so much a race but a marathon – this requires a different mentality – of perseverance -of wanting to complete a marathon or a half-marathon. Unlike other sports, runners pride themselves in completion rather than their placing.
Strive to enter by the arrow door –the Greek word for 'strive' is ‘agonizesthi’ – from which we get the words ‘agony’ and ‘zest’ –therefore it is by suffering and perseverance that we enter the way that leads to the eternal life of heaven awaiting us.
See you there, please God!