“TRY TO ENTER BY THE NARROW DOOR. MANY WILL TRY TO ENTER AND WILL NOT SUCCEED.”  Jesus brought hope in his preaching to a people whose experience of life in their times and circumstances had severely limited their expectations for the future. At the same time, he repeatedly made the point that the way to a full and happy life was a narrow and rough path. Today’s text tells of another image our Lord used to make a similar point: to enter the presence of God we have to be able to pass through a narrow door. We may even find that door locked to us so that our only hope of gaining entrance depends on our calling out to the Master of the house, arousing him to come and open to us. We cannot expect him to go to the trouble unless he recognizes in our call the voice of a well known friend. If not, the Lord adds, the Master, instead of welcoming, will turn us away saying: “I do not know where you come from. Away from me.”


Our Lord teaches two closely allied but distinct lessons in this brief excerpt from his response to the man who put the question: “Lord, will there be only a few saved?” The fact that he does not formulate his reply in the same terms that the questioner uses, is significant; it seems to me. He does not directly answer the question as it was asked. He does not say the saved are few or many. We are perhaps even inclined to be misled into concluding that those who attain to salvation are few in number since Jesus says many there are who attempt to enter into God’s presence who will not gain entrance. If we examine his words more carefully we note that the answer he gives evades the question asked for he wishes to teach an important lesson, not to gratify curiosity that is concerned with non-essential knowledge. The issue is analogous to the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those among our troops who fail to survive are many, numbered now in thousands; however, at the same time that does not mean only a few survive. The fact is that tens of thousands do return home safely after being exposed to serious danger. The point that Jesus makes is that we must avoid complacency. If we are to find entrance to the kingdom we must not expect simply to take little trouble, go along the garden path, following the crowd. We must work our way through the narrow defiles that our journey through life leads us into and that means persevering effort to follow our Lord’s example of selfless service and sacrifice.


The second point made here by our Lord is that we must so cultivate our character, so live that we become the kind of person that God, the Master of the house we hope to enter, recognize. Then when he hears us asking for admittance he will give welcome, acknowledging in our voice the presence of a familiar friend who is well known to him through association with his son. For the only way to make our self personally known to God is that we come to have a certain resemblance to his beloved Son.


Attaining to this likeness is the work of prayer, meditation, and the appropriate services shown by love of our fellow men and women. Prayer for the follower of Christ is not only seeking God’s favors, important as that is, but is above all an acknowledgement of his goodness, and the praise of his glory. The prayer book of the Jews that Jesus and Mary used along with all the saints of the Old Testament is named in Hebrew .*-*%; “praises”. The psalms include various petitions to be sure, however, the dominant attitude inculcated by the whole Psalter is summed up in this title, and is reinforced in the last three psalms especially, each beginning with the word %*&--% “Praise the Lord.” By emphasizing God’s goodness and the radiance of his beauty manifested in so many ways, the sound of our voice takes on fresh tones that resemble those used by Jesus in his prayerful exchanges with the Father. Then we can trust that the Father will recognize us when we knock at the narrow door that opens into the palatial residence of the Father of lights. &               

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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