Our Sacred Stories ~ Will Only a Few be Saved: Who’s in and Who’s out?
World Cup Soccer, Major League Baseball or NHL Hockey – It all engage us in competition whether player or fan. It seems we are competitive by nature, by our very humanity. Life sometimes seems all about winning or losing, who’s in and who’s out. Occasionally, in the games of younger players, children, there are coaches who encourage playing for fun. They espouse the recognition that “it is a game and so have fun.”.
Frequently this competitiveness shows up in our faith and relationship with God, both personally and as church. our attitudes and practices sometimes appear marked by a sense of who is “in” and who is “out”. In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 13:22-30) some of Jesus’ followers revealed this sense in the question they posed to their master: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” His response was much broader than they or we are sometimes willing to accept.
At the time of Jesus there was a belief among some Jews that in the age to come all the people of Israel, just because they belonged to Israel, would be seated at God’s table in heaven. Prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah were not quite so sure. Jesus comes from this prophetic tradition. He sees salvation as open to all peoples. There is no limit, no territorial or cultural boundary to God’s saving love. There is no “in” group and there is no “out” group. What is asked of us all, all humanity is that we respond to a loving gift, entering the relationship that is freely offered as an invitation by God.
Put in the context of our own age what this means is that we are not saved by being Christian or Catholic. Nor is anyone damned by not being Christian or Catholic. Salvation means much more than simply being part of the “in” group. It is, as the prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed and as the Incarnation revealed a process of accepting/acknowledging the gift of God’s love for all.
Jesus expresses this process with the words “Strive to enter by the narrow door.” Merely being from an “in” group, a Christian, a Catholic, a member of Israel, does not bring salvation. The whole mission and message of Jesus helps us to see what it is that brings salvation. Will there be many or will there be few saved is not the point. What is important is the process of transformation that brings about a change of heart for us. That change of heart is our response to God’s loving invitation.
Salvation, is not about who we know. It is about who we are. For Christians there needs to be a spiritual link between Jesus and ourselves and a transformation into the person that is in the image of Jesus. But not everyone is a follower of Jesus.
God’s love is broad and all encompassing and there are many routes to such a transformation. Each route is the experience of a love relationship, a bonding. It involves a gradual turning of our heart toward God. But it involves more. Such a transformation means a cooperation with the divine Spirit leading us to love all peoples, for God’s love is for all humanity, not a few. It is God, who in love breathed life into all creation. That breath of the Spirit comes to all.
Humanity’s response to God love is a transformation that takes us through the “narrow door” of centering our heart on the love of God and neighbour. This conversion is a life-long process of striving to love and it touches all aspects of our lives and experience. Salvation ultimately will come with the surrender of our very selves to live as we have discovered in Jesus – fully centered on love of God and all that God has created.