To Pass the Narrow Gate

29 October 2008. Wednesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Eph 6, 1-9; Psalm 145; Luke 13, 22-33

The image of the narrow gate in the Gospel is a powerful image of decision-making. The image Jesus used refers to a real gate in His time. There was a ‘people-only’ gate in the walls of Jerusalem. It was just the size sufficient for a person to enter. And it was used by people who had no carry-on baggage. Many people come to Jerusalem. Many are pilgrims, traders and merchants. They bring with them an entourage with wares to sell. The affluent may bring with them camels and cattle and what not. They have to pass through one of the larger gates of the city. But there are those who had nothing much to carry. The easiest way to avoid a long queue was to pass through the ‘people-only’ gate.

Jesus used this gate as an image: “Enter through the narrow gate”. Those who passes through the narrow gate are those who enters the Kingdom of the God. And those who takes the wider gate are those who are led to perdition and death. We are constantly on a journey. Take a road, and it will soon divide into different paths. Every time we reach a fork or an intersection, we have to choose which leads to our destination. When we choose, we choose only one of the roads.

We cannot remain on the point of intersection forever. Some of us remain there. We think that we are free when we have several options. Simple: we feel free after an exam, and we have several vacation places to choose from. But freedom is the ability to choose what is good. Eventually we have to choose which among the many options is the best way to spend our vacation. To choose a specific vacation spot, among the options, is called, “specification”.

Similarly, a person who does not make a specific choice, does not use his freedom and therefore is “unfree”. These are people who float around. They do not know what they want in their life and they just go wherever the wind blows. They are the scatter-brains. They are unfree, because they are imprisoned by their fear. They are afraid that they might make the wrong choice. They are afraid that they may be ‘determined’ by another in a commitment and they cannot do what they want. We call these people, immature. All they need is to grow up.

But when we specify; we go through the narrow gate. We grow up by discernment and actually making a choice. When we choose one, among the many options, our roads become narrower. When we are younger, the choices for a specific kind of life is much, much wider. When we choose the course in college, we have narrowed down our options. When we choose a specific form of life like those who enter into marriage, their lives become narrower and narrower. They have to abandon their lifestyle when they were single and their lives are determined by specific people like their partners and their children. This is then the natural course. And thus, the use of this freedom is to ‘limit’ us. Even if the choice might not be the correct one, we have at least crossed out one option.

When we choose Christ in our lives, our life becomes narrower. It involves Christian values and lifestyles. We cannot just have “anything” we want, dictated by our feelings and passions. We cannot just do what we want. Often, choices are involved. The act of choosing God, is a specification. It is a willful decision to let go of our baggages and choose to enter only with our very lives. It is no wonder, when we talk about faith life when we pray or when we enter into a reflection of ourselves, we ask, “What is our deepest desire?” Our happiness depends on the choices that is akin to who we are. And when we choose, our identity acquires shape.

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