What is the narrow gate leading into the Kingdom of God? According to Jesus, "many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough" Lk 13:24. Evidently, it is not enough
to know Jesus, to eat and drink in his company or to listen to his teachings (in other words, being devout churchgoers does not make us disciples). Today's Gospel warns that many who pay "lip service" to Christ will find the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven locked against them. The challenge is for each of us to examine how fully we live the Gospel message: are we religious conformists who merely keep the fasts and the holy days, or are we followers of Jesus committed to building a just society?
No amount of piety will open the gate for us; Jesus himself is the narrow gate and those to whom he opens
live by his values, his compassion, his mercy....
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last."
All the migrant peoples coming from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, are seeking the Kingdom of God -- though they may not know it. All the stateless and homeless, the refugees and asylum seekers are seeking the Kingdom of God. All those who cross oceans in rickety boats, who wade across treacherous rivers, or who cross inhospitable deserts are seeking the Kingdom of God. They may
that they are heading for safety and security, in search of a better life for themselves and their children, but the reality is that "God's Kingdom" is the only "place" of peace, harmony, goodwill, safety and fullness of life.
Sadly, this elusive Kingdom, while it can be attained as a state of mind, has yet to come as a geographical location. It is certainly not to be found in societies racked with violence, crime, racism, sexism and classism; nor is it to be found in countries which promote war, destroy the environment and fail to provide for the basic needs of their citizens-- food, shelter, quality education, job opportunities, affordable medical care....
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers leave behind their loved ones, their homes, their countries, their way of life, journeying by hazardous ways to reach "the Promised Land," wherever they imagine it to be. Some die along the way; others become the victims of human traffickers; still others are robbed, beaten, tortured and imprisoned -- all for the sake of the "roads paved with gold" which they believe await them. After all their suffering, they are turned back at border crossings or else imprisoned in detention centers or refugee camps. Their misery, far from being over, intensifies. And if they happen to be "the lucky ones" who eventually cross over into a new land, there they are likely to encounter prejudice, racism, poverty and exploitation.
In an ideal world, the Kingdom of God would be a place of welcome for all peoples.
The Book of Revelation
describes the New Jerusalem as a city of unsurpassed beauty and brilliance: "
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, with each gate consisting of a single pearl. The main street of the city was pure gold, as pure as transparent glass"
Rev 21:21. The "gold" is God's dwelling among the people:
"God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away"
Our world has become increasingly hostile to the displaced people who flee from their homelands. In years to come, the number of refugees and migrants is going to increase dramatically. Warfare, famine, the loss of coast lands and arable land, water scarcity -- all these factors are going to make many densely populated areas uninhabitable. Then there will be a mass exodus of desperate human beings, all converging on wealthier nations. We have a choice:" to wait indefinitely for a "new heaven and a new earth," or to build the Kingdom of God in our midst -- a Kingdom of peace, justice and compassion where strangers will find welcome and where there will be the resources to help them flourish.