The Gospel for May 7th, 2017: “The Good Shepherd”
Reflection: Grace to Get through the Narrow Gate
Jesus, in drawing the analogy of Heaven as a sheepfold, said: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (9).
In considering this I cannot help but think about what narrow gate He is. Indeed, Jesus mentions the narrowness of the gate to Heaven in Matthew: “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (7:14).
So with the resonating deeply in my mind—my sinful mind—I prefer to consider the gospel in light of the second reading from Peter (1 Peter 2: 20B-25). He says to the Gentiles in Asia Minor, “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.” Notice how suffering for the “good” brings God’s grace. This is the opposite of how I have viewed grace because I am afraid to suffer. I pray often for God’s grace when trial comes. This has dominated my prayers recently. And yet, when real trials actually arrive, I find myself panicking and falling into old habits of escape and selfish reactions. And then I think, why didn’t God’s grace arrive to protect me?
The reading from Peter puts suffering before the arrival of grace. How else can we truly act with faith in the salvation plan if we are not willing to suffer as Jesus did? I have been viewing this all wrong. Instead of asking for preventive grace to avoid suffering and temptation, I think I need turn my prayers during good times toward helping others who are not suffering. And when my own trials arrive, then I should ask for God’s graceful intervention at the moment of my own suffering. Furthermore, that prayer should be that God’s will be done in that moment and not selfishly for relief of my personal pain. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is powerful reminder of how to respond to life’s trials. If they come from God, which all things do, we need to accept them and wait for His grace.
I am so often humbled at how weak I am in the face of life’s troubles. However, every new day brings a fresh chance to walk more closely with Jesus, to enter through the “narrow gate.” For this, may my morning prayer be filled with gratitude, not with petitions for safety motivated by fear. Sometimes it is so hard to trust in Jesus’ way. But I do believe He is the gate. And so I keep trying to let go of my fears and put my faith in Him. Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done.