Father Mark, Reflections

The Narrow Gate

I occasionally hear the members of our community in periods of frustration saying something like, “No matter where you turn this COVID virus restricts me.” I have felt this “bind” before as we all have. Some days it seems that we’re able to negotiate our day better than others.

When I hear these complaints I recall Charlton Heston’s visitation by God in The Ten Commandments (Exodus 3): I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings. Sometimes it helps me to recall someone who has had a worse situation than me to learn from so that I can apply their learnings to my life. What first comes to mind is that God has heard. Secondly, God is going to act. If the Exodus doesn’t teach me anything else it’s that God will deliver us through any hell that we may be experience whether large or small, it doesn’t matter.

But the deliverance isn’t like the Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy to click the heels of her Ruby Slippers together three times, and voila!, you’re home free. That’s fairy tale land. This is life. And life is a day to day journey. So things are a little more complicated. But not to despair.

Jesus comes along and tells his disciples and the crowd, (Matt. 7): Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Enter by the narrow gate….think this gate is easy?

Jesus himself is the narrow gate. The reason his path is narrow is because everything I am carrying with me won’t fit in his world he wants to share with me. I have to let what doesn’t fit go. Ironically, once through the gate, the Life he offers is beyond wide and spacious, which happens to be the Old Testament experience of the word, “salvation:” to be delivered into a wide and open space.

Narrowing or being “narrowed” is a tedious process. It involves listening, discovering, hitting obstructions and letting go of things. So when we hit wall after wall with the COVID restrictions that get in our way, what do we do? Usually we get frustrated. Instead and first of all, link up to God asking for grace to release the frustration. God is our greatest need of all. We just tend to forget this and the link when things are going well. Re-linking to God, I liken to a coach who visits with me when I say, “what do I do now? ” Then the coach waits for me to listen to what he has to say.

Let me first say, being with Christ is enough, period. Even if we can’t find an answer to our question. We won’t know this until we experience him in this way. However, we are often given direction if we are able to hear it. We know what we can’t do. What can we do? If we focus on the can’t, we won’t. But if we allow the Spirit to lead us into a more narrow direction, saying, “what is it that I can do or that you wnat me to do, all of us sudden the narrow gate will look wider. Not because the gate has changed but because our vision has.

I try to narrow down to find a more micro vision of something I can do that wasn’t on my original agenda. Sometimes I have to let go of my original agenda else I will have the agenda but will remain stuck. Just being able to find one small item on which to focus and do can transport me into a more sound state of mind because I am creating what I am able to in the present situation which often turns out better than what I had previously planned. God can be found within the minutia of life. Sometimes more so. Children do this all the time.

So when you find yourself in a corner with no seemingly way out as all doors seem to be closed, look for a small crack to wiggle through, remembering to listen for God first because the Spirit will show you the way. I am only telling you what I have learned for myself. Victor Frankl learned this in in Auschwitz under much worse conditions than I could ever begin to imagine.

The narrow gate leads to life. Even if we don’t like it sometimes.

I am often surprised how the Spirit will find a way to squeeze us through the narrowest of places.

Discover the breath of God leading you one breath at a time.

Fr. Mark