Father Mark’s Pastoral Direction

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

‘Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head though the door- way.’ (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

In the opening chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is having a bit of bother with doors. She finds herself in a hall in which the doors are all locked. When she finds a key, it doesn’t fit the locks. When she manages to find a door to match the key, she herself won’t fit through; the doorway is too narrow. How frustrating!

The parable in today’s Gospel also features a narrow door and a locked door, as well as an unsympathetic doorkeeper – it’s almost as if the master wants to keep everyone out! People knock on the door and expect to be admitted, but it’s not that simple. The master turns them away, claiming not to know them, despite protestations that they are acquainted.

Jesus is trying to teach his followers about discipleship. What does he mean when he says we must ‘enter by the narrow door’? Is it almost impossible to enter the kingdom of God? One thing is sure: a passing acquaintance with Jesus will not be enough. The plea of ‘We once ate and drank in your company’ is feeble. It is not enough to know Jesus only on the surface – to attend Mass every Sunday or to turn to him only when we are in need. To really know Jesus, one must walk the narrow path of the Gospel.

‘Strive to enter by the narrow door.’ Jesus himself is on his journey to Jerusalem; pur-
poseful and determined. His true followers will also be purposeful and determined. That is true of any journey, career, or relationship if there is to be growth or progress. What it is like for us when we fail to do this? What is it like for us when the effort is there?

The question put to Jesus is one that many still ask: ‘Will many be saved?’ In his answer, Jesus is not concerned about numbers but warns his listeners about complacency. Just as his listeners could not regard the mere fact of being Jews as sufficient for salvation, neither can we regard being Christians as enough. Salvation will come from our acceptance of Jesus. For any relationship to be alive – either with God or with another human person – the real question is: ‘Is my heart in this relationship?’ What does our experience tell us of this?

Father Mark