Grace to you!
Paying attention to Jesus’ conversations in the bible is revealing of many things. From his dialogues with the dominant religious groups of his time – the Pharisees and the Sadducees, to his conversations with the scribes, and those considered to be of bad public image like the tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus has a way of turning the table, from what is less important to the crucial.
You remember the woman at the well (John 4), how Jesus switched the discussion from thirst for physical water to providing water of life for the thirsty heart. His conversation with the rich aristocrat (Luke 18:18-30) was not different.
In response to the rich aristocrat’s flattery of Jesus when he called him, “good teacher,” and the aristocrat’s show of religious moral impeccability, Jesus switched to a more spiritual demand of complete renunciation and detachment. The aristocrat couldn’t meet Jesus’ standards; hence he walked away, facedown, disappointed. Renouncing his wealth wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
Again, in the gospel of Luke 13: 23-24, another uniqueness of Jesus’ conversation is found. This time it has to do with a question by a listener who asked, “Will only a few people be saved?” He answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
See in this conversation a switch from a mere question about others to a question about the inquirer. Often, we take the position which psychologists describe as projection, in referring to issues that seem to affect us the most. In part, because many of us would love to push the real issues that bug us outside, a kind of escapism, so we focus on the social rather than the introspective, the spiritual.
Consider what happens when we are worried or stressed. We like to eat a lot, drink too much, get feisty or do something that engages our sense of “activism” so we wouldn’t quiet down and confront our worst fears. It’s often scary to confront our worst fears. We need grace and strength to do so.
For Jesus, the question about a few, or many, to be saved must be translated to the question about me: “Am I to be saved.” Or rather, “Am I saved?” It shouldn’t be a fearful thought. Instead, it should be a question of joyful contemplation, realizing that “God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4). I am included in this “all,” and should gladly make a choice for it. After all is said and done, salvation is a personal choice, thanks to the grace of God.
Thus, the relevant question is first a personal one – how about me? What is my place in this plan for the reign of God’s Kingdom? What choices am I making to further this kingdom and how does this choice bring about the fulfillment of the mission of salvation?
These questions, and others like them, change the whole concern from being about them to being about me too. It equally makes what is scary for some people, actually most exciting to contemplate.
I pray that God will help us to look inwards and find our place in the Christ, the salvation and the Kingdom, for glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.