Gather all the nations

August 21, 2022

“Make straight paths for your feet,” we hear in Hebrews (12:13). In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24). We are told, in other words, to keep to the straight and narrow. Later on his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus will compare entering God’s kingdom to a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Sounds as though the answer to the question at the opening of today’s Gospel, “Will only a few people be saved?” (Luke 13:23) is an emphatic “Yes!” But wait. Jesus goes on to say that people are coming from every direction on the compass and they will all make it into the kingdom of God. This echoes God’s words in Isaiah, “I come to gather nations of every language” (66:18). Isaiah’s words are radical to his Jewish audience. They were the Chosen People, after all, the ones on that straight and narrow path. Now they’re told they must yield to Gentiles from these far-off places spread over Africa, Asia, and Europe. For those who thought they had the inside track to salvation, it would be sobering to hear Jesus say that “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30).It is revealing that the same Jesus who warned us about the narrow gate opened his arms wide on the cross to redeem the world. It is the wideness of God’s mercy, not our ability to stick to the straight and narrow, that determines whether we end up reclining at table in God’s kingdom. By all means, we should strive to be a disciple, to aim for that narrow gate. We are called to focus our attention, our discipleship, on what is truly important, discarding whatever distracts us from that focus, that prevents us from concentrating on striving toward the kingdom. But we must always recognize that we are not the ones in charge. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)

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