‘Many will try to enter and will not succeed’
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
In this reading Jesus makes clear that simply to have heard and known about him is not enough to save us – it is our response to his call that matters. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
22 Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, 24 ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
25 ‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” 26 Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” 27 but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
28 ‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. 29 And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
30 ‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’
Other readings: Isaiah 66:18-21 Psalm 116 (117) Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13
This gospel reading combines two themes: the difficulty of entering the kingdom of God, and the arrival of people from every corner of the earth. Will it be easy to enter the kingdom? No! Can we determine beforehand who will enter the kingdom? No!
The gospel begins with a tricky theological question posed to Jesus. Will there be only a few saved? Jesus does not give a direct answer. It is not for us to know such things. It is for each one to strive for the kingdom, realising that there is nothing of greater importance.
Jesus then speaks of the danger of presuming to be saved. Those who do so may find themselves barred from the kingdom. There is a clear implication here that simply to have heard and known about Jesus is not enough. The patriarchs and prophets of God’s faithful people will be admitted, together with all those people from north, south, east and west who have responded to the call of God. The call does not guarantee salvation. Whether we are Jew or Gentile, it is our response that matters.
Do I presume that the way to the kingdom of God will be easy?
Do I have fixed ideas about who will enter the kingdom of God?
Let us pray for those who have lost all desire to find God in their lives.
Let us pray for a deeper sense of belonging to the Church throughout the world.