When I was a student at Sydney University, there was one question that I was regularly asked – are you saved? Sometimes it was in the form of the “if you died tonight, where would you end up – in heaven or hell?” Perhaps this was because as an Economics student I had more time to wander around campus and hang out at other Christian meetings, especially those of the Evangelical and Pentecostal students. There was also a time when if you asked a Catholic this same question of “are you saved” you could be assured of firstly puzzled looks, and then the reassurance of an answer along the lines of: “of course I am saved, I am a Catholic, aren’t I?” It is strange that whenever the question arises within a particular church group, you can be assured that the person providing an answer will at least be confident of the salvation of her group and her people.
But when a man in the crowd asks Jesus the question today of “will only a few be saved?” (Luke 13:22-30) the first thing that we must note is that Jesus does not give a straight answer. What he does tell us is that we must “strive to enter by the narrow gate.” Unless we are familiar with all the gospels, that saying of Jesus can leave none the wiser; but if we are familiar with the various “I am” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John, such as “I am the bread of life”, “I am the true vine”, “I am the Good Shepherd”, “I am the way, the truth and the life” we will recall that one of these sayings is “I am the gate.” So if Jesus tells us both to strive to enter by the narrow gate, and that he himself is that gate, then it becomes clearer what salvation means and how it is possible. The only way to enter into eternal life – the life of the age to come – is to become like Jesus. Or as St John of the Cross puts it, we need to have “an habitual desire to imitate Christ in all that we do by bringing our lives into conformity with his.” (The Ascent of Mt Carmel, Book I, chapter 13)
Sunday 21, Year C. Luke 13:22-30 (9’31”)