MANY WILL ATTEMPT TO ENTER BUT WILL NOT HAVE THE STRENGTH.These words of Jesus are spoken in reply to the man who asked "will only a few be saved?" Surely his comment speaks to each of us here and invites us to consider the state of our soul. Who is the person having even the slightest concept of the nature of God who has the confidence to say, even in the heart, "I am one of those strong enough to enter into the presence of the all-holy God?" It is important to note that in fact Jesus does not answer this question directly; rather he parries it in his reply. We might infer from his words that they are few who are able to be saved, but he does not affirm that. What he does say is that many are not capable of finding the door open when they seek entrance to the masterís home. They will not be allowed to take a seat at the banquet at which other people, coming from all corners of the world, have a place.
In this way, then, our Lord gives an indirect reply: many will enter the banquet hall, but many others will not because they do not have the right dispositions. The lesson here is that we must work to prepare our inner self by strenuous efforts if we would be admitted into the select company of those accepted by God for his table. "Try to come in through the narrow door", our Lord warns his hearers; do not presume on Godís mercy but strive to be worthy and capable of receiving it.
In the first reading St. Paul gives a very specific remedy for the lack of strength needed to enter the heavenly banquet hall. "The Spirit too helps us in our weakness." He "makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be expressed in speech." The point that Paul makes here is that we do not stand on our own before God as if he is a distant, objective judge of our worthiness; rather, He is for us and desires to receive us into his intimate circle. Accordingly he has sent the Spirit of his Son to accompany us. As Paul puts it, "the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God himself wills." This need we have for the grace of the Spirit brings us to the central mystery of our human condition. The center of our being as persons is our free choice, our liberum arbitrium, as St. Bernard designates it. This power to choose not only what we think and do but, at least implicitly, what we become, is the image of God within us. It is the faculty whose use allows us to participate with Godís creative will. We are destined to collaborate in the work of creation and this includes more particularly, the new creation effected in Christ Jesus. Discovering that in spite of our best intentions and efforts we lack the strength needed to meet the requirements of such a demanding, elevated destiny is a critical stage in every oneís life. It is resolved by a free choice to open our self in trusting faith to the Spirit of God, or to turn away in despair and renouncing the hope of eternal life.
This fundamental choice itself can be made only by the grace of the Spirit and so as he considers this feature of the human situation, Paul speaks of the mystery of Predestination.
We know that God makes all thigs work together for the good of those who have been called according to his decree. Those whom he foreknew he predestined to share the image of his Son ... Those he predestined he likewise called; those he called he also justified; and those he justified he in turn glorified.
Jesus concludes his comments with a statement that seems intended to lead us to this mystery of Godís plan which surpasses human expectation for it is governed by a higher reason than the wisdom of this world allows for. "Some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last." Ultimately, our Lord suggests, only the wisdom that is from above can understand Godís ways and cooperate with his plan. That wisdom is a gift of the Spirit given us in Christ Jesus. It is more than an interior light: it is a power. "Christ is the power of God and his wisdom." As we offer this Eucharist may we open our heart to the Lord Jesus that in him, and by his Spirit, we might obtain that wisdom and strength needed to enter the door that opens to the eternal banquet with all the saints, in the presence of the Lord of glory.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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