My dear friends in Christ,
The context of the 1st Reading is that the people of Israel have now returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. However, what they returned to wasn’t a Jerusalem of their hopes and expectations; Jerusalem in its glory days. The city was rundown and half derelict, a mere shadow of its former days. “What have we come back to?” must have been on the people’s minds. Their new situation gave way to great uncertainty about the future; what was to become of the city and its people? Would it ever return to the good old days?
The prophet injects a bit of ‘positive faith thinking’ into the situation and assures the people that God would never have brought them so far only to abandon them. He envisages a new future where God’s plan is fully revealed and all people will live in the blessedness of a new covenant.
The blessedness of the new covenant is described as “the feast in the kingdom of God” in the gospel. Both terms speak of our ultimate destiny which is union with God. The gospel warns us however that we must not take this promise as given. Jesus underlines the need for personal effort and commitment. The expression, “try your best” (from “Try your best to enter by the narrow door”) is a translation of the Greek word agonizomai, which speaks of struggle and exertion. This expression, coupled with “the narrow door” image, suggests that the pathway to a life of blessedness is no ‘walk in the park’. However, Jesus develops this further, and the narrow door becomes the closed door! All of a sudden the issue becomes one of a limited opportunity; we must cease the moment in our strivings to follow and imitate Christ. Just in case we think we can ‘fudge’ it, even having the right ‘connections’ is no substitute for personal commitment and conviction.
In the final analysis, the gospel warns us of the dangers of procrastination and presumption, and urges us to respond, without delay, to the call of Jesus in giving our lives to the service of his kingdom.
God Bless and have a good week,