Many years ago, when I was a uni student in Sydney, I wanted to head back home to Bega for a family function. These was the days before the Internet (remember those?) so I bought the bus ticket from a travel agent and duly headed into the Coach Terminal at Central Station to catch the designated bus. I arrived nice and early at the terminal, and was a little surprised that there were no other passengers waiting around. I waited for the scheduled departure time, checking my ticket and the clock tower to make sure that my watch wasn’t playing up.
And so I waited. And waited. When more than thirty minutes after the scheduled departure time had passed and realised there was a number for the coach company on the ticket, so I gave them a call. Apologetically, they informed me that they had that week changed their departure schedule, and the travel agent had put the old time on the ticket. The bus I was supposed to catch had left an hour before and no other buses were running that day; so I had no other choice but to go back to my Sydney home and try again the next day. (My dear mother did write to the company and get a refund and a travel voucher, so all was not lost!)
So, do you have a ticket to heaven? Is it valid? Or has the salvation bus already left?
Have you ever had the experience of meeting evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who have asked you the question, “if you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” There only seems to be one question that they ask. So, if you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven? What about your brother/sister/ mother/father/ son/daughter/ grandchild/neighbour/ friend/colleague?
In the gospel today, Jesus is asked the question, ‘will there only be a few saved?’ Although this is a question we rarely think about, it is one that many people, from the Rabbis in the days of Jesus right through the centuries have often pondered and attempted to answer. In the Gospel, Jesus doesn’t answer, but tells us to ‘strive to enter by the narrow gate.’ So what exactly is going on?
So how many will be saved? Do we think that Origin of Alexandria (3rd century) was correct when he surmised that in the end, because of the love and mercy of the Lord, the goodness of creation and that we have all been created in the image and likeness of God – that all would end up being saved? Or do we more tend to think that St Augustine of Hippo was right, who wrote in the fourth century that most of humanity were going to be damned and only a very few would be saved?
When Jesus tells us to enter by the narrow gate – what makes the gate narrow, and who or what is the gate? Does the Gospel Acclamation today help us? – when we are reminded of one of the seven declarations of Jesus in John’s gospel, usually called the “I am” statements – “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” But then what do we make of this final vision of the book of Isaiah with all the nations who do not know the Lord finally coming to see the glory of God; or the second reading (Hebrews 12) about the Lord correcting and training his children.
[8’51”] Sunday 21 C