THE NARROW GATE
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He
answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I
tell you, will seek to enter but will not be able.”
(St. Luke 13.23-24)
So many of us look for some esoteric meaning
in the words of Christ, a meaning hidden beneath the surface, beyond
the obvious, and we pride ourselves that we are clever in having understood
it in light of some obscure aspect of history, archeology, or Semitic
culture. We delve into the construction of walls and buildings, look
to artifacts, cultic practices, and so forth. In other words, we look
everywhere to find the meaning of what Jesus says ... except
in what Jesus says.
In our obsession with the “hidden”, the “secret”, the “real” message
obscured by, and cleverly concealed within the words — we completely
overlook the obvious. It is too simple for us, too transparent for our
“sophisticated” minds — we are far more clever than these simple Jews
from some obscure province of Rome.
At Mass today, many of us will be guided through the intricacies of
the construction of the walls surrounding the Holy City of Jerusalem,
with a special emphasis on “the Narrow Gate” (kheta) and the
“Eye of the Needle”. The priest will presume that we cannot understand
the obvious apart from the obscure, and by focusing upon, by belaboring
the obscure, he will successfully elucidate the obvious.
After our architectural lesson, we will all warmly congratulate ourselves
on how clever and insightful we have subsequently become. Now we know
all about the Narrow gate: how wide it is, how encumbered camels cannot
pass through it, that it was a security measure, albeit primitive, to
prevent the mass influx of an enemy that may possibly lay siege to Jerusalem;
that it was so high and this long — oh, by the way, and in conclusion
... Jesus was using the Narrow Gate as an analogy that has something
to do with sin and salvation; however, by now I am unclear about the
point of the analogy ... “how many cubits high did you say it was
a cubit equals how many feet?”
At this point I must make a confession: I do not know how wide the gate
was. I do not even know how wide a camel is. What is more ... I have
no compelling reason to find out — and, I suspect, neither do you. But
I do know that both the Gate and the Camel are really beside the point
– and so do you. You know what Jesus is saying.
We know, but we wish to quibble. “Well, what if it was a Llama
instead of a Camel? And does the parable presume the camel's having
three days supply on it, or four, in order to prevent it's passing through
The point is that the parable is not about a camel .... or even about
a narrow gate!
It is about you!
It is about your soul making its way to Heaven. Of course Christ used
parables, but He also spoke in strikingly clear and unquestionable terms.
This is one.
Why should this be important to you?
Because He tells you that many will attempt to enter — but will
Why? They will be busy measuring the gates ... instead of endeavoring
to walk through them.
Boston Catholic Journal
PDF printable version