The Door To The Kingdom, 21ST AUGUST 2016
In today’s Gospel Luke tells us about the door policy of the kingdom of God and how there is no such thing as automatic membership. Whiles Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, someone asks him about the number of those who will be saved. Rather than to speculate about the arithmetic of salvation, Jesus gives a practical advice about the present time: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” The door is not so wide that anyone can casually saunter through at any time; the door is narrow and the individuals must strive now to enter it. Nor will the door remain open indefinitely. When locking-up time comes and the master of the house has secured the door, those who missed their opportunity will not be admitted. The narrow door has now become the locked door. The image changes from tight space to time up. Those who wait until the door is shut try knocking, but the house holder regards them as strangers. The late comers try to remind the house holder of common ties: they ate and drank with him, they listened to him teaching in their streets. But the Lord is not too impressed with superficial acquaintance: people who eat and drink in the same restaurants and bars, read the same papers, watch the same programmes, don’t necessary share the same commitments. Camp followers are not disciples.
The pain of being excluded from the kingdom is worsened when the late comers see the kind of people who have been allowed in as members. There is not even the dubious consolation of knowing that at least so-and so is also on the wrong side of the door. Members come from all over – “from east and west, from north and south” – and take their place at the feast in the kingdom of God. The prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading is seen to be fulfilled as people “from all the nations” enjoy the favour of the Lord. All sort. The door policy of the kingdom keeps surprising people: there is no sure way of knowing who is in and who is out. In the kingdom of God there is no telling who is coming to dinner!
There are three things that will surprise us when we get to heaven. We will be surprised at some of the people we see there. We will be surprised at some of the people who won’t be there. And, lastly, we’ll be amazed to find ourselves there! “Some who are despised now will be greatly honoured then; and some who are greatly honoured now will be despised then.” He is a God of infinite love, but he is also a God of infinite justice.
The teaching of Jesus is clearly opposed to the kind of national or religious elitism that presume it has an assured policy in God’s kingdom. As one who is treated as an outsider by his own people, Jesus has a natural allegiance to those who don’t belong to the right crowd. Good roots are not enough; having the right address is not enough; having an impressive pedigree that goes back to Abraham is not enough. Borrowed fidelity does not impress Jesus. There is no substitute for a person’s own decision for the kingdom of God.
Jesus describes the condition for entering the kingdom when he says: “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and keep it,” (Matt. 8:21) Fellowship in the kingdom is open to all peoples who hear the word of God and keep it. The door policy is determined by fidelity to the word of God.
BY: FR. RAPHAEL HESSAH
The Door To The Kingdom