Dear Father Angelo,
I am writing to ask you for an explanation of a passage of the Gospel that disquiets me a little. I am talking about the Gospel according to Luke, 13: 23–30. Why does Jesus chase away those who claim they have preached in His name? What does it mean to enter through the narrow gate?
Thank you for the service you provide.
I bless you.
1. to the benefit of our visitors, I will quote the passage you are asking two questions about:
Someone asked him, «Lord, will only a few people be saved?» He answered them,
«Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, “Lord, open the door for us”. He will say to you in reply, “I do not know where you are from”.
And you will say, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets”.
Then he will say to you, “I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!”
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». [Lk 13: 23–30]
2. The narrow gate is what John the Baptist talks about when he says: «Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance» [Lk 3:8].
It is also what Our Lord speaks about in the beginning of His preaching: «Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand» [Mt 4:17].
Jesus insists on this when he talks about the Jews that Pilate had ordered to slaughter and about the people who had died under the tower of SIloam: «if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!» [Lk 13:3.5].
In brief: the narrow gate is repentance.
3. To understand the importance of repentance it is useful to remember that the Greek for it is metànoia (Greek is the language the Gospel was written in). The Latin for it (that is to say, the word used in the Volgata) is paenitentia.
The Italian translation always uses conversione [Translator’s note: the New American Bible uses repentance]
4. The Jerusalem Bible says that «metanoia, etymologically a change in feelings, means a rejection of sin, a “repentance”. This grieving that is directed towards the past, is usually accompanied by a “conversion” (Greek epistrefein) through which man turns towards God and starts a new life. These two faces of the same movement of the soul are not always distinguished in vocabulary (see. Acts 2:38; 3:19)».
Repentance and conversion are the necessary conditions to receive the salvation brought by the Kingdom of God.
The call to repentance issued by John the Baptist is resumed by Jesus (Mt 4:17), by His disciples (Mk.6:12; Lk 24:47) and by Paul (Acts 20:21; 26:20)» (note to Mt 3:2). [Translator’s note: I was unable to consult the English version of the Jerusalem Bible, therefore this quotation is just my translation from the Italian. I apologize with the readers]
5. Therefore, here is what it means to enter through the narrow gate: repentance and conversion.
Without repentance there is no remission of sins.
Without repentance there is no conversion.
6. Nowadays, maybe sometimes we forget that, if someone is in an irregular situation (such as the divorced and remarried) the first condition to take the Sacraments is repentance and everything that follows so that this reality does not end up amounting to nothing. This is what St. Peter says on Pentecost day: «Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away» [Acts 3:19].
7. As for the second question: why will Jesus reply that He does not know them to some of those who have eaten and drunk with Him and have heard His word in the streets.
Firstly, these words refer to the Jews who will not have converted.
As a matter of fact, according to their Law, the Jews used to eat and be merry when they offered victims to God. Besides, in the synagogues they used to listen to the books of Moses.
But these words are addressed to Christians too; as a matter of fact, we eat the body of Christ when we join the Eucharistic banquet. Jesus also teaches in the streets of our souls.
Listening to the teaching of the Lord is not enough.
What matters most is to put it into practice.
Approaching the banquet of the Lord without repentance and conversion is of no use for salvation.
Similarly, listening to the teachings of the Lord and being deprived of charity is of no use for salvation, as declared by the Holy Spirit through St. Paul:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing [1Cor 13:1–3].
8. To be precise, we do not read in the Gospel that someone will say to Him: «we have preached in Your name».
The Gospel according to Luke, as we have seen, says: «We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets».
The Gospel according to Matthew uses these words: «Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?” » [Mt 7:22]
Prophecy and miracle working are graces gratis datae or charismas that God may grant even to someone who is not in grace.
On the contrary, only those who have charity have grace as well, the wedding garment that allows whoever wears it to enter eternal life.
Thank you for your question, because, as you can see, it touches upon very important topics, tightly bound to our eternal salvation.
I wish you to be able to enter through the narrow gate and to be always adorned with charity. I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by Alessandra N
Verified by Michele B