Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2016
There is a new, state-of-the-art, extremely hi-tech “doorbell” on the market. I’ve seen it advertised on television. Even before a visitor touches the button, the homeowner is alerted that someone is trying to gain access, and not by the traditional “ding dong.” An “app” on the resident’s cell phone engages, warning that someone is at the door, and actually streaming a video of the visitor. From wherever they might be in the world, the homeowner can then take the initiative and literally greet the guest…or scare off an intruder. Clearly, there is an element of convenience to this system, but, it is primarily a home security device. If the video shows a suspicious-looking stranger, the property owner, without personal risk, can tell them (in whatever way they might choose) YOU ARE NOT COMING IN!
Obviously, this hi-tech security system was not available in Jesus’s time, but there was a method to deter intruders. City walls with low, narrow gates made access by invading armies more difficult, leaving intruders vulnerable to defensive attacks by the residents as they tried to gain access. Even doors to homes were so low that the taller the person, the further they would have to bend down in order to enter. People with bad knees found coming and going a little painful. Home invaders were more easily driven off. In other words, “narrow doors” were the means of deterring unwelcome and unwanted guests.
And so, when we use our creative, religious imagination to explore today’s Gospel, it is helpful to see Jesus sitting next to a city gate or outside the door to a friend’s home. Someone asks: Lord, will only a few people be saved?
Searching for a way to answer that would give those eager to hear His response hope, without encouraging bad behavior, Jesus looks around and points to some very familiar things. See this door? Look how low it is. Try your best to keep your knees in good shape and your back strong…and then you won’t have any trouble getting in. Look over there at the gate to your city. What happens when a hostile band of men come riding in, carrying weapons? STRIVE…TRY YOUR BEST…to approach the Gates of Heaven in peace. Lay down all baggage and weapons you might be carrying around with you… so that you move easily through the narrow gate.
STRIVE…TRY YOUR BEST to look like you belong…and you shouldn’t have trouble getting in.
In his reflection on this Gospel passage, Pope Francis reminds us that: In our day, we pass in front of so many doors that invite us to come in, promising a happiness which, later, we realize lasts only an instant. Then there are those doors that we easily pass through, only to slam shut behind us, trapping us in dark rooms filled with things such as anger, revenge, prejudice, greed, and addiction. It seems like there is no escape. But there is.
Pope Francis tells us that: (Jesus) is the door. He is the entrance to salvation. He leads us to the Father, and the door that is Jesus never closes.
If someone were to ask the Holy Father: Pope Francis, will only a few people be saved? I imagine that he would search for a way to answer that would give hope to those eager to hear the response…without encouraging bad behavior. And that is what he does by pointing to Jesus…the back door to those dark rooms we find ourselves imprisoned in…The Way to the gate to the Eternal City…and The Door that never closes!
In the coming week, be especially aware of all of those doors that seem so inviting…the doors which swing open so easily, and then slam shut and lock. Know that each time you turn away and continue to follow the path of the Gospel, you strengthen your knees and your back and you heal those things that might impede entry to the place where all good people long to be. And take hope in the knowledge that God is fully aware of your arrival…long before you ring the bell…and eager to greet you with the words…Welcome Home! Come right in!