In this reading for the weekend of the 20th/21st August, Jesus suggests that every individual must strive for the kingdom, realising that there is nothing of greater importance. 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.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy