Today’s Gospel should alarm us, particularly if we ponder the idea that somehow God will not recognize us. How or why could God ever not recognize us? What would the circumstances be and more importantly how do we make sure that God does recognize us? Jesus is not clear in the Gospel in how we are to be recognized by God and allowed into the kingdom.
There are some clues, however. In order to be welcomed into the kingdom, based on Jesus’ parable, it has something to do with strength, taking an unpopular route and then don’t be late. In order to be recognized by God, we need to be strong, since Jesus mentions, “for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Strong how? What does it mean to be strong in being recognized by God? Strong in faith seems to be what Jesus’ is referring to. How do we measure the strength of our faith? What is the threshold for having enough strength of faith? Jesus seems to be purposefully vague in not giving any minimums. I think in order to be strong in faith, we continue to strive for strength of faith rather than reaching some limit of strength.
Also, in order to be recognized by God, we are to take the road less traveled, the narrow way, the unpopular way, the way that is more difficult. This metaphor is a little easier to grasp since moving, traveling and following are the actual defying qualities of being Jesus’ disciples. By following Jesus through on the narrow path we are recognized by God.
Finally in the parable, there seems to be the need to be on time or not be late in entering God’s kingdom. This is the most chilling thing of the Gospel for me. How is it that we can somehow arrive at the threshold of the kingdom only to find the door bolted shut and even worse, being unrecognizable by our creator? Thomas Merton speculated that God made us a certain way, in his likeness. As we live our life we can choose to remain as God made us, in his image or live in a way that is foreign to God, unGodlike. When we present ourselves before God, how recognizable will we be as a result of the way we have lived our life?
It is obvious that we have been given a wake up call of being deliberate and conscious of how we are living, the strength of our faith and our willingness to follow Jesus’ down the difficult path of discipleship in order that we are always recognized by God as his beloved.