Aug. 25, 2019
Will only a few be saved? A number of years ago, a Christian group in Alabama presented a news release which attempted to answer this question. The headline read: “Forty-six percent of the people in Alabama are going to Hell.” Do you think that’s a reasonable number? I don’t. But what is even more doubtful is the method that this group used to calculate the forty-six percent. They began with the total population of Alabama and then subtracted those people who were registered in Christian churches that demanded an acceptance of Jesus as our personal savior. They believed that only by doing that could you escape hellfire.
The biggest flaw, however, in this group’s mathematics, was their willingness to use what we do, our actions, as the basis of salvation. Eternal life is God’s free gift to us. It is not based on our works or accomplishments, but only on God’s mercy and love. The summation of all that we do—our prayers, coming to church, our service, our generosity—is not what gets us into heaven. It is only when we trust in God’s mercy and accept God’s love that we know we are saved.
This is why Jesus says in today’s gospel that we should enter through the narrow gate. What does it mean to enter through the narrow gate? It means that we live our lives knowing and claiming God’s sovereignty over us and embracing every moment as an opportunity to accept God’s love. Heaven is not about us. It is about God’s decision to save us. It is when we accept that reality that we are on the road to glory.
So today is the day we should enter through the narrow gate. Today we should accept the power of God’s love which surrounds us. If you are fortunate to be in a strong marriage, have healthy children, live comfortably, you can of course say, “I worked hard for this. I’ve made good decisions. I’m a responsible person.”
But we enter through the narrow gate when we say, “All that I have comes from God’s hands. God is the one who has given me my life, my abilities, my relationships. God is the one who has guided me in my wise decisions.” So although I have done my best, it is God who is to be praised. If your life is in disarray, if your relationships are broken, if your health deteriorating, if you’re coping with depression or addiction, of course you could say, “I should have made better decisions. I could have seen this coming.” But you enter through the narrow gate when you say, “Despite my faults and sins, I believe that God still loves me. This gives me the power and hope to move ahead knowing that God will not abandon me.” Those who enter through the narrow gate understand that God is in charge. Those who enter through the narrow gate realize that for all they have done or failed to do, it is God’s action that is definitive. And God chooses to save us. What we need to do is to accept that salvation with humility and trust.
So today let us enter through the narrow gate. Because the day will come when the door is locked and we will hear others outside knocking to get in. But there will be no need for us to be afraid, because we will already be inside.