Monday, 22 August 2016

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

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

Try your best to enter by the narrow door ...

Once again we find ourselves standing before a door.

There are all sorts of doors in Sacred Scripture – wooden, bronze, gold-covered – even doors made of precious stones. There are locked doors, open doors; doors torn from their hinges, doors newly built; doors broken and restored. Doors to keep out the bad and doors to lock them up. Doors which imprison the good and doors which protect them.

The first mention of a door is in Genesis 4:7: God is speaking to Cain who is angry because God accepted his brother Abel’s offering but rejected his own. God warns Cain: not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master? That sounds like a door you don’t want to open.

Can you guess who made the first door? It was Noah. God ordered him: ...put the door of the ark high up in the side... (Gn 6:16) and then God himself closed it. That door saved the ark from the elements and, symbolically, from the evil which would soon be destroyed outside the ark.

Already we notice just from these two examples that the primary purpose of a door is to divide, and usually, to divide what is seen as good from what is considered bad.

Observe how Lot (Gn 19:6) pleaded at the door with the men who wanted to have carnal relations with his guests. They would not listen to him and attacked. His guests opened the door and pulled him to safety inside and then: they struck the men who were at the door of the house with blindness, from youngest to oldest, and they never found the doorway (Gn 19:11).

In Egypt where the Hebrews were slaves God once again made the door of each house the demarcation point between good and evil. He commanded the Hebrews to kill the Passover Lamb and then (12:7): Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten; and then (Ex 12:23): when Yahweh goes through Egypt to strike it, and sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, he will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to enter your homes and strike.

In the desert God placed another door in the midst of his chosen people; it was the door of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron often went to this door to speak with the Lord. It was a door they could not enter without the Lord’s permission and only with the greatest of reverence (Num 20:6): Leaving the assembly, Moses and Aaron went to the door of the Tent of Meeting. They threw themselves face downward on the ground, and the glory of Yahweh appeared to them.

The doors (gates) of the city of Jerusalem had immense symbolic significance in the holy Scriptures from the time Nehemiah rebuilt the walls and set the doors in place to the time Jesus passed through them riding on a donkey. As the years went by these gates became more and more deeply associated with the day to day practice of the faith of God’s people.

One clear and rather poetically beautiful example of this is seen in Nehemiah 13:19 where the Law of God falls on the dwelling of the People: So just before the Sabbath as the shadows were falling on the gates of Jerusalem, I gave orders for the doors to be shut, and said, 'Do not open them again until the Sabbath is over'. I stationed a few of my servants at the gates to see that no load was brought in on the Sabbath day.

By now you will be beginning to appreciate that doors in the scriptures are very significant things in all sorts of ways. There is the door (Mt 6:6) we must shut on the noisy world when we go in to our private room to pray to our Father; the door to God’s generosity (Mt 7:7) which God promises will be opened if we knock in prayer; the door of the wedding hall (Mt 25:11) which the five tardy bridesmaids found closed; the bolted door (Lk 11:7) which can be opened only with hope-filled persistence; and the narrow door to the Kingdom by which many will try to enter but will not succeed.

Finally we consider two more doors.

The first one is the door to heaven, a door which will not surrender to false claims of familiarity with the Lord. The Lord opens this door only to those who belong to him. I do not know where you come from, he will say, to those whose discipleship was a pretence. And many will be turned away in anguish, with weeping and grinding of teeth, as they witness others taking their places in the feast of the kingdom of God.

The second door brings this entire reflection home to the present moment; to each one of us in a profoundly personal way. It is the door to my and to your heart. Of this door Jesus says (Rv 3:20): Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.

Not only do we knock on the door of heaven – heaven knocks on the door of our hearts.

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