Today’s Gospel is a patchwork quilt of images: who will be saved, the narrow door, closed door, the master of the house refusing entry, the kingdom of God, being outside the kingdom, weeping and grinding of teeth, people coming from East and West, being first, being last. Perhaps this passage doesn’t fit in with our concept of a God who loves unconditionally. The temptation may be to file this gospel passage under ‘Remind me later’ or we may want to press the delete button! We may also try to unravel only one image and focus on that. How can we bring these images, these ‘patches’ together to create a beautiful work of art and then wrap this ‘quilt’ around us so that once more we experience the reassuring warmth of God’s eternal and unconditional love.
Perhaps the thread that joins the patches together is our gift of freedom. Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell. Heaven and hell are not geographic places. They are states of consciousness and they are right now. We choose right now if we want to live in a living relationship with God and our neighbour or we choose to live a life of excluding others, protecting our own individual identities and possessions no matter what it takes to do so, choosing separation from the source of all life, love and joy. We are choosing our destiny right now. Do we want to live in constant opposition to others and life itself? Or do we want to live in love and communion?
When we choose love and life we choose to walk through ‘the narrow door’. Jesus’ listeners would have known he was referring to the ‘Eye of the Needle Gate’ in Jerusalem. The gate was so small that a man would have had to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. Jesus is inviting us to let go of any baggage that prevents us from moving forward. However frightening that might feel, we need always remember that everything that matters, from all the experiences and encounters in our lives, has been internalised and is always part of us. It will continue to enrich us. When we realise this, we will find a new freedom in letting go of all that does not matter; we will be saved right now (‘saved’ is from the Greek meaning true wellness, complete wholeness); we will experience God within us right now.
Adapted from various sources: Donal Neary, Margaret Silf, R.Rohr