BY: Fr. Arthur Ntembula


(Isaiah 66:18-21, Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13, Luke 13:22-30)

Isaiah is prophesying to the exile survivors who feel depressed at the sight of the ruined Jerusalem. There is no temple for them to worship their God in. They have no king either. They are a disoriented nation. Will God give them back what they have lost? Their present situation means that they have to start afresh. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises them glory. He tells them that He will gather all peoples from all the tribes of Israel. They shall be restored. When they see his glory, they will proclaim it to other nations. They will give testimony of what God will do in their life. Through their offerings, Israelites will express their gratitude to the Lord. Now they must pledge adherence to the law and faithfulness to the covenant. During our moments of loss, we are like the ‘scattered’ Israel. We feel disoriented, and on the verge of giving up. God, through his prophet, says “you too shall see your glory.” We should, therefore, believe that our God will keep his promise.

In the gospel, Jesus talks about the narrow gate. Everybody will have to struggle through it to get into the Kingdom of God. Will we also become sharers in eternal glory? Israel cannot enjoy restoration unless she prepares herself for it. Similarly, we need to prepare ourselves for the narrow gate. We need to make ourselves smaller than the narrow gate, or we will be too big for it. We can make ourselves small by submitting to God as opposed to being self-inflated and self-conceited, without any regard for God in our lives. The narrow gate is not for the proud and for those that reward themselves for the work God accomplishes in their life. The narrow gate is for those who recognise the immensity of God in their life through submission to his authority. It is for those who regard themselves small so that the only thing that others see in them is the face of God. Israel is a chosen nation; now she is on her way to restoration. However, Israel has to step back and allow God to lead the way. Israel should submit to God’s guidance or her restoration will not mean anything. Israel cannot see the glory that awaits her unless she glorifies God through a life of obedience and trust. This “Israel” is you and I.

Struggling through the narrow gate can be a dramatic situation. As we live our lives here on earth, we gather around ourselves a lot of baggage. Most of it is a baggage of sin. It keeps accumulating until we become too big to pass through the narrow gate. The time is now for us to start shedding it off. This entails a continuous renewal of our Christian life. Israelites had to start renewing their life as a people for them to enjoy the promised glory. In our case, renewal consists in leaving the bad luggage behind so that we do not deprive ourselves of the new Jerusalem, eternity. The second reading puts this differently; it exhorts us to “strengthen our weak knees and make straight the paths for our feet.” It is talking about a renewed life in Christ. The “weak knees” and the “crooked ways” signify a person whose spiritual life is failing due to a lack of focus on God. Strengthening the knees and straightening the crooked paths means that we set ourselves on the path that leads to spiritual healing. If we remain heavy because of pride and the bad luggage that we carry, then the narrow gate will be too small for us. And if we do not make ourselves small enough to enter heaven, then we will remain out in eternal fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Fr. Arthur Ntembula

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