Recognizing the Narrow Way

4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 2: 14a; 36-41; 1 Pet 2: 20b-25; Jn 10: 1-10

Deacon Larry Brockman

The Gospel says: “When they heard this they were cut to the heart!”  And it is well that they should have been so affected, because Peter is talking to the same people who were standing in the Portico shouting “Crucify Him” on Good Friday.   

So, the focus this week has shifted from the body of believers, to the great sea of other people who were just part of the crowd.  But now it is more than 50 days after the Crucifixion, and they had seen what had happened to the Apostles.  Here were all eleven of them, fearless, joyful, and proclaiming the name of Jesus.  Some 500 of the believers had seen the Risen Jesus, whom this crowd in front of Peter had wanted crucified.  The crowd was there because they had heard all about it from these witnesses.  

And so now, they were “cut to the heart”.  They had made a mistake- what a terrible mistake, too.  “Woe unto Me”, they were thinking.  “Surely Jesus will seek revenge on those of us who persecuted and mocked him”, they thought.  Hence, they said “what are we to do?”   

But instead of condemning them, Peter is giving them “good news”.  Because he is telling them that Jesus suffered to save them as well.  All they have to do is believe now, even now, after all that they said and did against Jesus.  All they had to do now was believe in him and repent; and they, too, would be saved.  We hear that some 3000 of them accepted that invitation; they didn’t say how many didn’t accept it.   

Well, how does all that this apply to us?  A couple of ways, I believe.   

First, we are constantly faced with our own failings after we make a sincere effort to repent.  We are like a member of the crowd who says “Woe is me, I have done wrong even after I pledged I would repent.”  But the message is that Jesus is always there for us no matter how many times we fail.  As the letter of Peter makes clear, we are all called to be patient and to suffer for doing good. 

This just doesn’t happen once, but it happens over and over again for most of us.  What is important is that each time we fall, we recognize that God is relentless, and still wants us.  And so, we respond to him with a humble and contrite heart each time and are forgiven.    And the second thing that comes to mind is that we, just like the eleven standing on the steps of the temple in 0 AD, we are the witnesses who are called to go out into the community and tell the truth about Christianity.   

We are to help the general public understand that they are like sheep, wandering aimlessly throughout this world, looking for the real shepherd amongst a sea of thieves and charlatans, all of whom are pushing what the world has to offer.  Indeed, many of our contemporaries don’t know where they are going and live life day by day.     

The Gospel says the Pharisees didn’t understand the parable.  They thought they had the answer and were leading the people.  They had studied the scriptures and dedicated their lives to living the Mosaic law.  But something was missing- the real objective of living life.  It wasn’t all about just living the law; it was about loving God and neighbor, a message Jesus preached for three years.  Jesus implied that this emphasis trumped the law- that compliance to the law was not as important as living a life founded in love.   

So, Jesus told them explicitly what the parable meant.  He told them those who were “not entering through the narrow gate” which Jesus himself controlled, were thieves and robbers- stealing the sheep from the right and fruitful way.  Indeed, these Pharisees were trying to lead the people, but they didn’t understand God’s “narrow way”.  They jumped the fence and were leading the people in other ways.   

But the real shepherd, Jesus, has a familiar voice,  A voice that welcomes, soothes, reassures and always leads them into safety.  It’s that voice inside of us that God uses to prompt us all the time; any other voice of authority will distract us, and even rob us of our intended destiny.   

We are modern day witnesses to Christ like the 500 in the early Church.  By our love and example, we can lead others to God.  We are called to help others recognize the narrow gate and respond to the Good Shepherd’s voice. 


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