What is the narrow gate? Well, to understand it, we have to know a little bit about ancient cities.
Ancient cities didn’t have a state or federal government to protect them, so they had to have their own protection. That meant you had to have a very high wall around the city. That then meant that you had to have gates at specific locations so that people could go and out safely. Those gates were the weak spots in the city’s protection, so that’s where the invading armies would put their attention. At other locations, soldiers could stand on top of the wall and throw stones and fire arrows at you. The gates were made for entering, so you’d put your attention there.
So the people in the cities understood this too, and over time better and more protective gates were made. One type of gate would fit only one person. It would have a one-person-wide, open-top corridor leading up to it, a corridor that changed direction a few times. The purpose was to make a long guided channel for only one person to enter at a time. That of course makes it tough to storm a gate with your army. Then, on top of that, there could be platforms above and along the corridors, or at ground level, where soldiers would stand there with stones or weapons to launch at invaders in the corridor. And if that weren’t enough, there were usually a few small towers at the gates that supported soldiers to launch their weapons too. So think about it – if one soldier falls dead in the corridor, it makes it really hard for the ones behind him to make it through. The narrow gate was a great idea and the best defense for a city in those days.
So, you might wonder, why would armies try to enter through the narrow gate? It sounds crazy. Well, the reason is simple. They wanted to get into that city more than anything else. They had a desire in their heart. They had a fire in their heart that was bigger than all the fearsome obstacles of the narrow gate.
Every week down here in Ecuador, I prepare a reflection to share on the weekends at the celebrations of the Word that we have in some of the villages. You know when I begin to work on my reflection? Right away. Monday morning. That means all week I am reflecting back on the Gospel, letting the inspiration simmer, returning to it with new ideas, cutting something out, letting it unfold. It’s a lot of work. Then, in the meantime, I have jobs to do from my boss Fr Martin. There are people who want my time and attention and don’t really care about any reflection or inspiration. I have friends to spend time with and forget about any reflections you might share in a liturgy. And there are others who would be glad if I just gave up on it all. There’s the tempting distraction of emails and internet time. And there’s the frustrations of life that put your inspirations on the backburner. So the schedule fills up and the time wants to run by. But I keep going, and then, usually about Friday or sometimes Saturday, the inspiration comes together, and I jump with joy, “I got it!” Then, begins the work of translating it into Spanish, hoping that I’ll have the words I need. Then there’s the drive to the village, where I’m really nervous, worrying about how I’ll say what I’m going to say, whether the words will come out and make sense, and will the people hear what I want to say.
But then, in the celebration, it all comes out. It’s then I have peace.
So, here’s the question: why do it? Why go down to Ecuador of all places, leave so much, job and family and friends, come to a foreign culture and language, a poor people and society without the perks of quality of life in the US? Why put in all this work and face all these obstacles and struggles, for no pay, to reach these people and give this little reflection several times every weekend? It sounds crazy. Well, I’ll tell you, the reason is simple. See, I want to do this more than anything else. See God has lit a fire in my heart, to be with the people here, to bring God’s Word to the people here. It’s bigger than all the obstacles of the narrow gate.
The problem with the many people in the Gospel today that Jesus talks about, the ones who don’t enter the narrow gate, is that they never let God light the fire in their heart.
Let God light a fire in your heart.
Then, you’ll have what it takes to get you through obstacles of life.
And the narrow gate.
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” (Lk 13:24)
(image from http://sallygraves.wordpress.com)