Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching the people. He was on his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try very hard to enter through the narrow door. I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to. The owner of the house will get up and close the door. Then you will stand outside knocking and begging. You will say, “Sir, open the door for us.” ‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you. And I don’t know where you come from.” ‘Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you. You taught in our streets.” ‘But he will reply, “I don’t know you. And I don’t know where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil!” ‘You will weep and grind your teeth together when you see those who are in God’s kingdom. You will see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets there. But you yourselves will be thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south. They will take their places at the feast in God’s kingdom. Then the last will be first. And the first will be last.’
“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching the people. He was on his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’“ (cf. verse 22-23a)
Today we are still dealing with a very interesting gospel. If we take seriously the word of God that we hear every Sunday, we have a kind of safeguard to guide us in our daily lives. That is how important the Gospels are.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, on the way to death and resurrection. In doing so, he goes from town to town and from village to village, teaching, because he wants to bring the message of salvation to all people. In this situation, someone approaches him and asks, "Lord, are there few people who are saved?" This is indeed a burning question for all those who follow him on his journey. In Jesus' day, there were two conflicting views on this subject: The Pharisees taught that all Israel had a share in the world to come. Others believed that only a few would share in it. Many would be lost. We can therefore understand the urgency of the man's question: "Are there few who will be saved?".
The questioner addresses Jesus as Kyrios, the divine Lord, and at the same time attributes to him, with this title, the authority to give an appropriate answer to this question of salvation and the end of time.
“He said to them, ‘Try very hard to enter through the narrow door. I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to. The owner of the house will get up and close the door. Then you will stand outside knocking and begging. You will say, “Sir, open the door for us.” ‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you. And I don’t know where you come from.”” (cf. verse 23b-25)
But Jesus does not give a direct answer, he uses this question to talk about what to do. He does not decide whether many or few will be saved, because the questioner is probably only looking for assurance for himself in the numbers, according to the motto: If all are saved anyway, then I too will go to heaven. This thought is still found today in some questions and statements on the theme: if everyone goes to heaven, I don't have to do anything for it, because I will be there too. And if there are only a few, why should I make any effort, because I certainly won't get in either. But these calculations do not motivate us, they rather prevent us from doing the only necessary thing that Jesus talks about: the conversion of people and their decision for God. That is why Jesus does not give a direct answer to this question, but calls for a decision for God's present offer. This is what is necessary.
In his response, Jesus compares final and eschatological salvation to a meal, and the door to that feast is narrow. The Greek then literally says: "Struggle to enter", and not just, as the unitary translation reads: "strive with all your might ... try to enter," So it literally says: "Struggle" - "agonizomai"( αγωνιζομαι) - from which is derived the word agony, agony. So it is a struggle to the death, a struggle for life. We really have to fight for this eternal life. This is what we read in Mt 11:12: "the violent take it [the kingdom of heaven]". Jesus then continues: "Many will seek to enter and will not be strong" (Greek text). (Greek text) That is, people are trying to enter, but perhaps in a convenient way, in their own way. They may be trying to get into the church, but they are not following any precept, according to the motto: each one becomes holy in his own way.
For Jesus, it is a question of making an extreme effort, of mobilising all our strength. We must do everything in our power so that God can give us this wonderful gift of eternal life. It is not a question of an excessive effort, of something too powerful that we could not accomplish, but we must do what is in our power. Jesus himself is fighting this battle for us on the Mount of Olives - it is a struggle to the death, a struggle for life. And the way of imitation is the way of salvation. It is clear here that it is not a matter of sitting back in this life, but of making a decision. That is why we are given the short time of our earthly life: to decide for Christ and accept salvation. The goal is to gain eternal life, that is, to have it offered to us by God. But how many people live casually, not caring about what is final and for which we are actually created? This is frightening, especially when it comes to Christians. But non-Christians also have a head and a reason to ask the question: What is the meaning of my life? What is there after death? Why do I exist? Is my existence pure chance? And in all of us there is the desire to live and not to die.
Figuratively speaking, we pass through the Mount of Olives and Golgotha to reach Jerusalem and the resurrection. It is the struggle for life. And Jesus makes it clear: the narrow gate is only open for a certain time; it has been open since the life and death of Jesus and will be closed again at his return. So the call does not tolerate any delay, it pushes for a decision, because nobody knows when the Lord will come to close the door.
Those who stand outside at the coming of the Lord may call him "Lord", Kyrios, but that is no longer of any use, for they have not taken advantage of the open door. They have not chosen Christ in their lives. But that's what I have to do, I can't remain neutral in front of Christ. I cannot say: I am not against Christ, but I am not for him either, I just live my life. "He who is not for me is against me. (Mt 12:30 and Lk 11:23). It is to him that each one must decide, as old Simeon said. The only "now" is then, so to speak, definitively over. When this time of salvation, from the first to the second coming of Jesus, is over, there will be nothing left but the judgment. He who has not accepted the offer of salvation will not be recognised by the master of the house. These are already difficult statements. But when you think of the way in which heaven deals with people - for example in the revelations of Sister Faustyna, recognised by John Paul II, which are something so wonderful. This offer of Jesus' mercy for the greatest sinner; and in many other offers in which heaven breaks in at this time to shake us and make us aware of what it is all about - but man does not care. It is truly frightening to see how casually men treat their salvation, how indifferently and carelessly they stake their eternity.
“Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you. You taught in our streets.” ‘But he will reply, “I don’t know you. And I don’t know where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil!”” (cf. verse 26-27)
Those standing outside point out to Jesus: "We have lived with you. But they have not taken his word seriously and have not done God's will. Their attempt at justification should also make us think: We may have gone to the Eucharist and eaten and drunk with Jesus - in that spiritual sense. We may have attended Holy Mass on Sunday, but we were not at all on task, we did not establish a relationship with Jesus and above all we did not live accordingly. God's will was not done.
Neither belonging to his people Israel, nor belonging to the Church through baptism, nor belonging to the community of disciples is useful if Jesus' message is not put into practice, but only heard. Communion with Jesus, baptism or listening to his teaching do not save if they are not linked to obedience in action to the word of God and personal decision for Christ. That is why it is so important that we bring people to that real decision for Jesus, to that genuine conversion, in which they can say, "I am the Christ: Jesus, you are my life. I accept you as my Lord. I give you my life. This is quite decisive: obedience in action to his word and personal decision for Christ.
“‘You will weep and grind your teeth together when you see those who are in God’s kingdom. You will see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets there. But you yourselves will be thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south. They will take their places at the feast in God’s kingdom. Then the last will be first. And the first will be last.’“ (cf. verse 28-30)
In the last verses of today's Gospel, in the weeping and gnashing of teeth at the closed door, we hear the desperate pain of the outcasts. These outcasts discover with mortal terror that they have refused God's grace lightly. No one can blame God for this, for God has always offered it to everyone, without ceasing.
Even in our time, God never ceases to offer us his grace. How well known the successor of Peter, the Holy Father, is with his messages all over the world. Who does not know them? But how many do not listen to him? They do not care about his words, but immediately have something to criticise - even Catholics. And Jesus said clearly to the apostles and their successors: "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Lk 10:16).
How many will then have to say: Yes, we heard you, but we did not do what you said. But no one can make God responsible for the fact that even Gentiles from the north and south, from the east and west, enter the kingdom of God because they have sought and heard God. The novelty of Jesus' preaching is precisely that the decision about salvation and unhappiness at the end of my life is based on the putting into practice of his word: whether I simply listen to the word or whether I also put it into practice, precisely this obedience in deed and this decision for him.
The last verse should also challenge us: Some of the first will be the last and vice versa. But who are the first and the last? The first, who may have been baptised as children, the first called, who have heard about Christ since childhood, but who have not bothered about him at all, may be the last. And the last, who have barely heard of Jesus, perhaps towards the end of their lives, but who have then fully decided on him, will be the first in the kingdom of God. At this point, we must ask ourselves, we who may have been baptised and educated religiously as children, who have attended religious classes and learned all there is to know about God, including the source of salvation, the sacraments - have we cared about the Word of God and lived accordingly? Have we really decided for Christ and said, "My life belongs to you, Christ? If not, we may be the first on earth, called by God from the beginning, but we may be the last in the kingdom of God. And these last ones that Jesus is talking about, maybe all kinds of people, maybe even criminals, who were not educated religiously and did not know anything about Jesus, who maybe even lived criminally in the past - if they suddenly recognise Jesus, convert and live resolutely for him, then these last ones are suddenly the first.
What matters is the decision for Christ and the putting into practice of His word. Let us examine ourselves again and again. We notice here that these gospels touch our hearts. We cannot miss them. We cannot ignore them. We must grow with them. That is what we should all try to do, taking as many others with us as possible. ∎