A hard road that leads to a narrow gate – Tuesday, 12th week in ordinary time – Matthew 7:6,12-14
Today’s Gospel has three teachings woven together. The Sermon on the Mount comprises of several teachings of Jesus meant for his disciples. The Gospel writer Matthew, weaves these teachings to form a tapestry of faithful discipleship and yet not all have the clarity we would most certainly desire; verse six being a case in point.
The disciple is asked not to ‘give’ what is holy to dogs and not to ‘throw’ their pearls before swine. Clearly, while the disposition of the Christian must always be towards the good of others there are somethings that must not be given or cast away carelessly for the receiver is not ready for it especially if what is being offered is ‘holy’ or ‘precious.’
While one will never be clear in what sense this verse was meant to be understood, one can safely apply it to the faith. While the Gospel must be proclaimed, the Gospel must not be cheapened. All religious faiths profess holiness. The Christian faith is different from other faiths. Like it or not, if you are a Christian, then Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. There is salvation in no other name except the name of Jesus. While this may sound arrogant to the sensibilities of other religions it is core and central to the Christian faith. Perhaps not all are ready to receive our Lord as their only saviour. When he is worshipped as one among many or even ‘primacy over equals’ we end up diluting the faith and what is ‘holy’ is given to ‘dogs.’ (Read this in the context of the scripture text; other faiths are not being denigrated as dogs)
Understanding this text further; as much as we desire to give our children the best, we hold back for a reason or a time. An encyclopedia in the hand of toddler may be our desire to impart knowledge but to the child it is good only to be torn into shreds. The sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation are essential components of the ‘entrance sacraments’ into the Christian faith but they are differed to an age of reason. There is a reason why civil law sets age criteria for driving a motor vehicle or for getting married. A good thing given at the wrong time or in the wrong hands is disastrous for both the giver and receiver.
In today’s Gospel, Christ also gives the disciples two more teachings to be contemplated for themselves. The first of these is known across faiths as the ‘golden rule.’ Many have interpreted this teaching, “do to others as you would have them do to you,’ as the law of reciprocal love or ‘a you scratch my back and I will return the favour’. But that would be looking at the teaching of Christ very narrowly especially since this would never augur well in the larger context of Jesus’s teachings.
The Christian disciple is called to do good; this is the crux. Each one of us live to be loved, to be thought well off and to be cared for. Imagine a world where one would do all the above to every human being and while one would expect reciprocity, love itself is its reward. This teaching to do good to others does not limit love, it encourages it. It is not an attempt to set a minimum limit but an attempt to ensure that goodness is spread.
Finally, Jesus exhorts the disciple to enter through the narrow gate. He is asking the disciple to make the tough choices, the honest choices, the choices that take us to heaven. We live in a culture of bigger the better and more the merrier. Christ asks us to defy that culture by making choices that few would make. He clearly says that the road he asks us to take is ‘hard’ and the ‘gate’ is narrow; but it is this narrow gate and this hard road that leads to ‘life’ and few find it.
Making one’s way through a narrow passage demands concentration and perseverance. It means avoiding the distractions of broader and more attractive pathways. However, narrowing down the many distractions and temptations that we encounter throughout our lives leads us to the height and the breadth and the depth of God.
N.B – Your comments are encouraged. It is your little way of spreading the Gospel by sharing your thoughts