Gospel and Homily Transcript
Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”
Are you on the road less traveled?
I’m sure most of us will remember these familiar words by Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Two paths; Jesus uses that image in today’s gospel from Matthew chapter 7 and he encourages us to take the pathway—the gateway—that is narrow and not the easier choice that is wide because in these familiar words from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that the pathway that is wide and many take is a pathway to destruction, but the pathway to life is this constricted pathway that few choose.
Just prior to this, Jesus uses this terribly brief summary of the entire Law and the prophets. We have lots of laws, lots of prophetic utterances, and Jesus says here’s the executive summary. Do to others what you would have them do to you. You got it? That’s it. That’s the Law. That’s the prophets. Do to others what you would have them do to you.
That is choosing this narrow pathway, that is going through the narrow gate, that is traveling on the road less traveled. It’s the road that leads to life.
Sometimes we think of the laws that have been handed down through these Scriptures from our Jewish ancestors—the laws that Jesus is given, the laws that are enacted by the church—are oppressing us. If there is any virtue in America that we hold up above all else it’s this virtue of freedom to be able to choose what I want to choose and nobody’s going to tell me what to do. I’m not going be bound by their laws. I got to be free. I got to make my own path. I gotta make my own destiny.
When Jesus says enter through the narrow gate, in a sense he’s giving us a law when he says, “This is the law: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” He’s giving us a law, but is not doing that to restrict our freedom he’s giving that as the pathway to freedom.
Bob Dylan sang long ago, “You gotta serve some body,” and if that self is the one that we’re serving then we’re going to be enslaved to our own egos. Or as Ignatius reminds us, if we’re seeking after power, privilege, fame, fortune, pleasure, we are going to be bound and in service to those. When Jesus calls us through this narrow gate, when he calls us through the path less traveled, he’s calling us to this abundance of life. Not to take away our freedom, but to give us our freedom.
The path of The Spiritual Exercises is one of freeing ourselves from inordinate attachments, many of which we are not even aware of. When we’re swimming downstream with the current, we may feel that I can turn around anytime I want, but it’s only when we turn around and we try and swim upstream that we realize how strong that current is that is pushing us downstream and it takes enormous effort even just to stay where we are because the force of that stream pulling us down is so strong.
In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius calls us to a deeper freedom by recognizing all the ways in which we are bound, all the ways in which we are beholden to other gods than the true God, the living God, the one God. This God who comes only to free us; comes that we might have this abundance of life. Would that more of us would choose that but we live in a culture that is increasingly secularized. We live in a culture that is increasingly anti-religious. We live in a culture that is increasingly anti-life, that enshrines the ego, that enshrines power and pleasure and privilege and youth and holds them up and says, ‘These are the things to be pursued.’
Is that not part of the pathway of the wide gate that many pass through in our time? Jesus warns us going through that gate will only destroy us. It will destroy us not because an angry God is shaking his finger and saying, ‘I told you not to do it and you did it, now go to hell.’ No it’s a God who says, ‘You get what you choose. There are consequences to our choices and if you choose these demigods then that’s what you have.’
It’s only when we choose the living God and stand against the forces of secularization that pull us to this culture of death—when we stand against those forces and we choose life—that we experience that life growing within us; that fountain of living water; that light that guides us in the midst of the darkness.
Two roads diverged in a wood…let’s pray that someday ages and ages hence, or at the end of this retreat, we may say I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference. Amen? Amen.