My topic today is “the gospel path.” But first some background before we walk with Jesus on the gospel path.
Today’s first reading comes from the sixth century B.C. and the prophet Isaiah says that God has prepared a heavenly banquet and God has sent out invitations to His banquet. In fact, everyone has been invited to the banquet of heaven. Including the people of Tarshish, Put, Lud and Javan.
Tarshish was the Hebrew name for the country that we call Spain. Put was Libya in northern Africa. Lud was an area in southern Turkey. Javan was in Ionia which is modern day Greece. In other words, people from all directions have been invited to the heavenly banquet. God has invited everyone to be with Him in heaven. God wants everyone to go to heaven after they die. God does not want to punish us. God wants to welcome us into heaven.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says that some people punish themselves. Some people do not get into heaven because they refuse to go through the narrow gate. Jesus predicts a day in the future when He will be in Heaven participating in the Banquet which His Heavenly Father has prepared and some people will be outside the door.
Jesus predicts that they will ask Him “Why can’t we get into the banquet?” And He will say, “Because you did not respond to the invitation. It is not enough to receive the invitation. You must also respond. My Heavenly Father invited people from the east and the west and the north and the south. Everyone was invited. And in the fullness of time, I came along, and I invited people from the east and the west and the north and the south. Everyone was invited. You were supposed to go through the narrow gate and walk on the gospel path. But you made other choices and now you have to live with your choices.”
So now I ask, “What is the narrow gate and what is the gospel path?” The narrow gate is a person’s decision to live for God alone. It is the opposite of pride. It is the opposite of doing what I want to do and being what I want to be. The narrow gate is a decision. The narrow gate is your decision to do God’s will. It is your decision to say, “Thy will not mine be done.”
After you make that decision, you are free to follow the gospel path. Jesus defined the gospel path in His Sermon on the Mount. The gospel path is prayer, fasting and works of mercy. What He meant by prayer might seem obvious. But it might be more than you think. Prayer for Jesus meant reading the Bible and memorizing verses from the Bible. That is why He found it so easy to quote from the Bible during his sermons. Sometimes we forget that reading the Bible is a valid form of prayer. Reading the Bible gives us messages from God, and it is an excellent form of prayer.
Fasting means reducing our intake of food and drink. But that is only the beginning. We are also called to fast from gossip and name calling and trying to control others. We are called to fast from all those things that prevent us from having unconditional love for our neighbor.
Works of mercy means loving actions by which we help our neighbors with their most basic needs. Some obvious needs are food and shelter. But people also need a listening ear and compassion and friendship. They also need to hear that Jesus came into the world not to condemn us but to save us.
I will close with a short summary. Jesus says that everyone is invited to the heavenly banquet, but some do not get in the door. You have to go through the narrow gate and follow the gospel path. The narrow gate is your decision to turn your life over to doing God’s will.
The gospel path includes prayer, fasting and works of mercy.