“Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it. But it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Today’s readings are part of a long series of the teaching of Jesus beginning in Chapter 5 with the Beatitudes and continuing through to the end of Chapter 7. It is generally agreed that this may be a collection of sayings of Jesus which were originally spoken at different times and places, but which Matthew has collected into one long sermon. As such, some of the teachings seem a bit disjointed and with little connection to each other. So, in today’s readings, we have three different sayings: the first about not giving dogs what is holy, the second about treating others as you would like them to treat you, and the third about entering by the narrow gate.
One may conjecture that when Jesus originally spoke these teachings, he expounded on them much more than what we have in the gospel. One would dearly love to know more about all three. However, the gospels are all we have, so we have to be content with them. The last saying about the narrow gate fits in well with the various predictions of the passion and the hardships of following Jesus that we find in the other parts of the gospel. Both Matthew and Mark present a very realistic Jesus, a Jesus who often speaks the truth somewhat harshly when necessary. Here Jesus does not mince his words: “Enter by the narrow gate…it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
In other words, the way of Jesus is not an easy way. It is not the way of the crowd. It is not the path of least resistance. It is not the way that gains accolades and popularity among your peers, and riches and security. It is a difficult way, a way strewn with obstacles, a way of unpopularity and difficulty, a way which will cause you suffering.
This gives us a test: if our lives are all smooth and easy and we seem to be succeeding at everything and our friends and contemporaries acclaim us, it is worth asking the question: am I on the right road? Is it really Jesus I am following? Or rather, is it my own will and desires, the route of ease and comfort, and popularity? These are difficult questions but ones we need to ask.