30 October, 2013. Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week

Rom 8:26ff. All things work together for the good of those whom God has called.

Lk 13:22ff. Enter by the narrow door. Who are the real insiders and outsiders.

First Reading: Romans 8:26-30

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

How narrow is that final door?

We might have two opposite feelings about today’s readings. On the one hand, the way of salvation does not seem too difficult if, as Paul says in Romans the Spirit helps us in our weakness and all things are working together for our good. But then in the gospel we get the opposite impression – that eternal life is so elusive that it almost seems foolish to try to obtain it. We are left to puzzle at the enigmatic one-liner, “Some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last.”

Luke suggests how to harmonize these sayings and apply them to ourselves. They are like proverbs which are meant to provoke our thinking rather than give precise answers. Like icebergs they may conceal more than they reveal. So we listen again to these mystifying words: Enter through the narrow door. (Many will try to enter and be unable.) Some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last. Is the Lord saying that within each of us there are hidden inspirations which have the power to save us? Right now we may overlook or even try to silence them. We crowd them out with activities and distractions, excuses and arguments. Perhaps, “the narrow door” leading to a new, transformed existence is some niggling idea: to forgive a person who has neglected or injured us, to help a neighbour or relative in their old age or sickness, to follow a call to dedicate time to religious or charitable service, perhaps to follow a vocation in the Church, to spend time each day in prayer and reflection. A small decision may turn my life around. What is now last in my scale of values can become first and my first concerns become last.

In this light we can re-read the words  in Romans, “the Spirit helps in our weakness.” For God has predestined us to share the image of his Son.

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