Twenty-First Sunday of the Year
Jesus continues his teaching mission on the journey up to Jerusalem. Rather than giving a direct answer to the question asked on the way: “Will there be only a few saved?” Jesus tells a parable about doors. Opening and closing doors is often a theme of Jesus’ parables. For example, in a recent Sunday gospel, we had the man who wouldn’t open the door to a friend’s knocking until his persistence won the day. On the other hand, two weeks ago, we had the servant on the qui vive to be ready to open up at the first sign of his master’s return. Readiness is all.
In order to go through a very narrow door one has to have clear vision and focus. Jesus tells them to “try your best” – a rather weak translation of the word that is actually there, agonizesthe, which means to struggle intensely – it is the word used of Jesus in the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. In the ancient world it was a word used of athletes getting ready for a contest and implied all the hardship which they (or their trainers) put them through to make themselves fit for action.
The door to the kingdom may be narrow, but it is clear from the passage that God can drag many through it, as “people from east and west, north and south will come and take their places at the feast in the kingdom.” This “Gathering” is emphasised also in the first reading and the psalm. The ones who should find their way in, “who had eaten and drunk with him,” refer to the leaders of the people who had entertained him; people like Simon the Pharisee whom we encountered in a recent Sunday gospel. He wasn’t receptive to the message of Jesus, unlike the sinful woman who had gate-crashed the party. She is a clear example of the last phrase of the gospel: “The last shall be first…”
The picture shows the door of St. Dominic’s house in Fanjeaux where he spent some years preparing for his mission, a mission that would help many through the narrow door of faith.