During my primary school days, the end of the promotion term is normally filled with so much excitement as well great disappointment, immense joy as well as uncontrollable sorrow; this is because some will be promoted while others will be asked to repeat (that means some will PASS and others will FAIL). In fact there used to be a song that precedes the plenary assembly where the results are called which was simply a reminder to all that at the end of the day some people will be going home happy and smiling while others will be going home sad and crying!
Reflecting on the readings today I tend to see some connections between my primary school back in the day and the Kingdom of God; the elements of which run through the three readings of this Sunday. From the first reading (66:18-21) we are told among other things that God is coming to gather all nations and tongues. This tells us about the universality of God’s call to His Kingdom in the sense that it is a facility that is open to all people irrespective of their tongues and languages just like my primary school was an educational facility that was open to every child. However in the verse that followed the one above we are told that among all the people called there will be survivors who will get a divine mandate of declaring the glory of God among nations (66:19). The mention of survivors is an indication that there will be trials, tests and if you like examinations which will bring about success for some and failure for others. Declaring the glory of God among nations is all about doing the will of God and infecting others to do so (Matt 5:9b).
In the second reading, (Heb. 23:5-7. 11-13) we discover the nature of the trial, test or examination above. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews admonished us not to regard lightly the discipline of the Lord or lose courage when we are punished by the Lord because he does so out of love (see Prov.3:12). Discipline and punishment from God are always positive and rewarding. Life is not a bed of roses; even roses have thorns surrounding them. Sometimes we need to go through the wilderness before we get into the Promised Land. The people of Israel had their desert discipline for forty years (Joshua 5:6).Sometimes those things we say: “I reject!” Or “God forbid!” to, may be what God has as tokens of love for us and which in the long run will lead us to where He had planned for us. Have you reasoned that our redemption was not an easy riddance; our Lord Jesus Christ had to come in flesh, suffer and die for our liberation and salvation.
In the gospel reading we have the results of the examination and the truths about the results are very bitter: “only a few will be saved (survive)” and “the first shall be last and the last first”. These statements are indeed very unsettling. If we have to make an apt application to ourselves here and now it means that not all of us here and now will qualify to enter into the kingdom of God; in fact only a few will be saved! In every war there are casualties as well as survivors. Hence the question that follows for each and every one of us is: “Will I be among the few that would be saved?”
If we look at the gospel periscope very well we discover that the discussion began with the question of someone whose name was not given and who asked: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” From the question we see a presumption that was prevalent among the Jews then that biological ancestry with Abraham will serve to gain salvation for them when the Messiah comes. However some commentators still argue that the unnamed person could have been a Pharisee because they also think that salvation will be exclusive to them who are more attuned to religious observances.
From the answer given by our Lord Jesus Christ we discover that biological descent or geographical contiguity with Abraham has nothing to do with our salvation. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (4:16) agrees to this by telling us that we are Abraham’s children by faith.
Our Lord went further to paint the picture clearer by saying that some will use familiarity as an argument to gain entrance: “we ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our street” (Luke 13:26). The ponderable route is to enter by the narrow door. The narrow door is the door of spiritual discipline and most people who will seek to enter cannot… Why? Because they would not have the convenience of dropping the loads they are carrying. Little wonder why our Lord Jesus Christ said that it will be easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man (that is someone who is overburdened with material concerns) to enter into the Kingdom of God.(Mark 10:25).
As we go through the days of this week we should be asking ourselves this most important personal question “shall I be one of those that will be saved?” God is not interested in the quantity of those saved but on the quality of the souls saved. Imagine approaching the only gas station in your area with an empty tank only to be told that: “we are closed for the day!” If you are still alive then you have the opportunity to enter by the narrow gate before the door is finally shut. The day to start preparing for this entrance is today.
Have a Kingdom-Conscious and blessed week ahead!