October 31, 2018 – Way, Truth, Life, and a Narrow Gate

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I apologize for the length of this post but I know at at least those of us who are retired have time for considering these passages from Sacred Scripture.

Current Events – Pakistan

The article Father Linsky mentioned makes me think about the cultural differences between much of the Middle East and the Christian ideal, the first driven by fear of a distant and demanding god and the other, ideally, driven by the love demonstrated by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who gave his Only Son for us. It is a huge difference. We may have to wait to see the ideal.

The Narrow Gate and Jesus

The “gate” metaphor, in the Gospel reading of the day from St. Luke’s Gospel, shows up in three of the Gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John. Below are the three passages, in context, for meditation and consideration. May we all strive to continually increase our cooperation with God’s Love and Grace. There are some specifics in these passages about how to do that.

Matthew 7:1-29   “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?  4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?  5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.  7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  9 Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,  10 or a snake when he asks for a fish?  11 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  12 “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.  15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  16 By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  17 Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 So by their fruits you will know them.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’  24 “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”  28 When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,  29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Luke 13:22-30  He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,  24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

John 10:1-19  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.  11 I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,  15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”  19 Again there was a division among the Jews because of these words.

The 21st Century Church

We had some discussion about today’s Church, the Body of Christ, and why it does not draw in people as Jesus did when he walked the earth establishing the Church. We discussed the issue of political correctness and how that is an enemy of the truth, evidence of pressure to conform to society rather than work to transform society. St. Paul addressed the issue in his Letter to the Romans: Romans 12:2  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.  

Seems like the “but” is bigger than the “do not.” Here is the whole passage in context, more material for consideration and meditation.

Romans 12:1-21   I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  2 Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.  3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.  4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,  5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.  6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;  7 if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching;  8 if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  9 Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;  10 love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  11 Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  12 Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  13 Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  14 Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  16 Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.  18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  19 Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20 Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

“Narrow” in Five Paragraphs of the Catechism

Paragraph 853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the “discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted.”348 Only by taking the “way of penance and renewal,” the “narrow way of the cross,” can the People of God extend Christ’s reign.349 For “just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men.”350

Paragraph 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”616

Paragraph 1344 Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus “until he comes,” the pilgrim People of God advances, “following the narrow way of the cross,”168 toward the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom.

Paragraph 1889 Without the help of grace, men would not know how “to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse.”13 This is the path of charity, that is, of the love of God and of neighbor. Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”14

Paragraph 2656 One enters into prayer as one enters into liturgy: by the narrow gate of faith. Through the signs of his presence, it is the Face of the Lord that we seek and desire; it is his Word that we want to hear and keep.

And a Final Encouraging Word from Jesus

Matthew 11:27-30 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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