I cannot tell you how often over the years I’ve been approached as a priest, and now as a bishop, by people wanting to know “the right thing to do”. Deep down, people want to do good, and we want to support every such effort. However, I wonder how many times I’ve walked away from such discussions thinking (not necessarily judging): “They only want the minimal requirement.”
I believe Jesus addresses the issue of minimalism when it comes to our faith in this Sunday’s Gospel:
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” He even goes on to say to those who claim to have known him; to have ate and drank with him: I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers. (Luke 13:22-30)
Jesus is pretty clear that even though our salvation depends totally upon His grace and the mercy and love of God, we are still to “STRIVE” to enter the Kingdom. Striving by definition indicates effort. How often in His teaching does Jesus remind us that if we are to be His disciples, we must take up our cross and follow him?
Even the second reading this weekend from the Letter to the Hebrews gives a similar admonition: Endure your trials as “discipline”; …all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. (Hebrews 12: 7; 11)
We believe that all are called by God to enter into His Kingdom. We believe that only the Father draws us to the Son. We believe that the possibility of salvation is certainly extended to all, and it is totally dependent upon Jesus Christ. However, we have an active role to play in this effort to “STRIVE” for our salvation.
It is not up to us to judge others and their efforts. St. Paul tells us clearly in the letter to the Romans: We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak…Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.(Romans 15:1-2) Ours is a two-fold task: to love God and to serve our neighbor. In each of these efforts we cooperate with the grace of Christ, and continue to strive for the salvation that is achieved only “through the narrow gate”.
So, let us not seek to know (and do) the least, but stive in all things to grow in love.
Lord, may this Eucharist increase within us the healing power of your love. May it guide and direct our efforts to please you in all things. (Closing Prayer, 21St Sunday in Ordinary Time)