At the beginning of the school year, we have to cope with lines. Well, we have to cope with lines almost everywhere we go: the DMV, the movie theater, the fast food store, etc. I remember some colossal lines when I first went to college, and when I went to graduate school at a large university, it was almost like Waiting for Godot. They’re part of life, but then again, you don’t appreciate them until you leave the country where lining up isn’t part of the culture.
When I was leaving Venice with a tour group, we had to get off a boat with our luggage while another boat was unloading at the same dock. We just had to grab a bag, any bag, and push out way forward, and leave it to later to sort out who had the right bag. A hot day in Galilee was the worst: we were trying to get ice cream (a vital necessity in a hot climate without A/C, in spite of the fact is was lousy ice cream) and were competing with a school trip, and the Israelis always send off duty soldiers with their kids. Pushing forward when some of the others were heavily armed wasn’t a peaceful experience.
Getting ahead is always seems to be important, and we all want to know someone who’s well connected. When Jesus disciples ask the question about how many can be saved, they’re thinking along the lines of politics and patronage. A prominent man could support so many people; knowing how many can count on support an important one. Setting the pecking order is important, knowing who will be on the inside, who will be on the outside. Everybody close to the King would get a share of the riches and power, and they need to know now what the number will be, so they can start working things out, set the pecking order. But Jesus blows this apart when he talks about who will be saved: he gives an image about a crowd trying to push through a narrow gate, which his listeners are hoping to avoid. knowing Him and being personally close to Him is no guarantee. Having Jesus live down the street or show up at the same dinner table isn’t a guarantee of preferential treatment: Jesus isn’t into networking. It isn’t about who you know in the Kingdom of God, but how you follow him.
Our readings talk about myriads of people coming to faith, so it’s tough to work this out, how many can be saved. Jesus really doesn’t put a limit on the number, set a goal to meet. It’s not just about being physically close to Jesus, being a right place on Sunday mornings. It’s about how we respond to Christ that makes the difference, and there’s no limit of how many can come forward.
Jesus opens the door for us in the Eucharist, he comes to us and enters our hearts, enters our minds. Eucharist opens door, but we have to walk through. It’s not enough just to get our tickets stamped, or our cards scanned. It’s not about jumping the line, getting first class service, or a special waver to take a short cut. It’s being affected by our experience with Christ here in our service, where we find God as we travel. Jesus looks for us to imitate Him and serve our dear neighbors as He would. The networking we’re called to be part of is the Body of Christ, which is here to transform the World.
We receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist; Jesus gives us Himself completely to start with, and He wants us to follow Him, do the right thing. We don’t earn it, don’t need a private entrance no one else knows about. We don’t earn it, either, but it’s not just about being nearby, how much we can be part of an inner circle. It’s not our elevated status that makes a difference, or what we can earn. It’s about how much we can imitate Him, whether we’re first or last, whether we have to push through a crowd or out compete others to get into Heaven. It’s about whether we can walk the narrow road, the road Jesus walks as He walks it. It’s not easy, but it’s the best way to get where we need to go.