August 25, 2019
XXI Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today’s Gospel passage (Lk 13:22-30) begins with the mention of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem so that the reader is immediately clear about the horizon on which the passage fits. Moreover, the horizon is precisely the fulfillment of the salvific plan that Jesus will accomplish in the Holy City, dying on the cross for all.
That part of the journey, which begins with today’s passage, is characterized by an urgent invitation from Jesus so that all, bar none, welcome salvation, enter the Kingdom.
Within this context comes the question of today’s inquirer, who asks if they are few that will be saved (Lk 12:23).
He does not ask how many are they who will be saved or how is one to be saved. Instead, he asks if they are few. The question hints at the prevailing mentality, nourished by the rabbinical reflections of the time, that held precisely this conviction, that there would be few who will be saved.
First, because salvation was only for the chosen people, and, within the chosen people, it was only for those who were totally faithful to the Torah, in all its precepts, even the least. All the others, that is, most people remain outside.
Jesus, responding, uses an image that initially seems to confirm that mentality: to enter salvation, one must enter through a door that is narrow (Lk 13:24). So, thinking of a narrow door, it follows naturally to think that, through this door, just because it is narrow, few people enter.
In reality, it is not so, because the passage continues saying that through this narrow door many people enter: “They will come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south and will sit at the table in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29).
Alas, how can a narrow door let so many people enter? In that case, we ask ourselves, who are they that remain outside?
An answer can come from the verb that Jesus uses to invite people to enter: “strive” (Lk 13:24).
The verb could make one think of an effort of will so that only those who try hardest would enter the Kingdom. In Greek, instead, the verb is “agonízo”, which is the same term that the evangelist uses in the Gethsemane scene. There, Jesus endures without reservation His struggle in His obedience to His Father. He endures the struggle to the end so as not to succumb to the temptation to save only Himself but to give His Life for the salvation of all.
Then we could say that this is the tight spot through which it is necessary to pass, namely the death of Jesus. To enter Life, we must pass through this narrow passage, which is the Passion of Christ that asks us to recognize that from there comes salvation, and only from there.
However, this is possible for everyone, for whom, paradoxically, this narrow door becomes a wide door, the door of grace.
For some, however, the door is not just narrow but is even closed. Who are they?
They are the people who boast of being able to say: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our squares” (Lk 13:26). They are the ones who are sure of being able to enter there according to their works. They think they have a little advantage over others, those who feel sufficiently close.
If this false security prevents one from entering death with Christ, even the best and most meritorious works do nothing but close the door, rather than open it.
Not only! Jesus calls them “evildoers” (Lk 13:27), and the expression may seem unfair, excessive: what evil did these people do?
Here Jesus seems to say that whoever does not enter the new logic of the Gospel, remains outside. They cannot but become wicked, unfaithful to the true and unique Law that God has given, that of love. They remain prisoners of a wicked, evil law. A law that calculates and measures, that experiences salvation as a right, which rewards the good and punishes the bad.
These people, who seem to be close, are very far from God, from His way of thinking.
Thus, we see that a revolutionary change occurs: “some are the last who will be first, and some are first that will be last” (Lk 13:30). It’s a revolution that we will see several times in the Gospels of the coming Sundays, until the final revolution. Namely, when, having arrived in Jerusalem, it will happen that a just man dies for the unjust, that God gives His Life for man.