A quick show of hands: How many of you have flown recently? Okay, how many of you have used the lavatory in the airplane recently? Talk about narrow doors. If Webster was confined to pictures to define something, the restroom doors in an airplane would be the pic they’d use for narrow doors. They are accessible, but they take a bit of patience to negotiate, especially if you are carrying something. I mean, how do parents change baby diapers on airplanes in those rooms?
So, when that anonymous person in the crowd shouts out ‘the question’ that gets asked in every religious circle – “who gets in and who is shut out”, Jesus uses an image that his listeners, and to a lesser extent, you and I are familiar with. The narrow door.
Narrow doors! Some exegetes speak of a narrow gate in Jerusalem – one that was tall, thin, and accessible, but a fully loaded camel would not be able to negotiate its way through. It would have to be stripped of its possessions to enter. And now, we begin to have a hint at what Jesus is asking/inviting his disciples to know.
Contrary to a popular belief that it takes NOTHING MORE THAN LETTING JESUS LOVE YOU to get to heaven, Jesus invites any of us who would be his disciples to a deeper truth. “Many will strive to enter but will not be strong enough.” I don’t know about you, but that is one scary line coming from the lips of my savior. “Many will strive but not be strong enough.” YIKES!!! Your baptismal certificate will not get you in. Nor will your lifetime Life-TEEN membership card or your Sunday collection envelope. Only by striving and yearning and longing for the kingdom in very concrete and practical ways – will you enter the narrow gate.
So, what are the narrow gates YOU face?
- In academics, maybe it is the diligence you have to use for your studies – taking 3 hours when others are done in one.
- In the arena of service, perhaps the narrow gate is the opportunity you have tomorrow to help a student who is lost on campus, or is sitting alone in the Nosh on the first day of classes because people have already labeled them as ‘losers’. In fact, I am on a one priest campaign to eliminate the UMSL shuffle. (demonstrate walking straight ahead with eyes fixed firmly on the ground) How amazing it would be to go a whole year walking through the narrow gate of making EYE CONTACT and trying to bring a smile to the face of your fellow students…
- Maybe the narrow gate is figuring out as a freshmen how to use your new found freedom to navigate that balance between study and play and work and living a healthy, fully human life?
- In relationships, maybe the narrow gate is figuring out how to be true to the relationship that is exciting and new, but tempts you to say more with your body then your heart really wants to say or is able to say at the moment.
- Or, like the camel that needs to be unburdened from its load, perhaps the narrow gate is the unforgiveness you still harbor, or the wound you won’t let heal or the person you won’t let back into your life. And you’re gonna be stuck at that gate until you let it go.
- Perhaps the narrow gate is the choice you must make to set the alarm 15 minutes early because that’s the only time you’ll be alone enough to spend time in prayer… or leave the party 15 minutes earlier because you pray best at night and that is the only time you have to pray…
What are the narrow doors in your life that you have to navigate? The ones that you face – not anyone else?
The good news of today: The door is open. It is possible to get through. It can be walked. And Jesus is beckoning, is inviting us to enter. BUT, it is narrow. And you’ll have to strive with all you’ve got. Live this week, this semester, choosing only that which will allow you to pass through…