“Lord, will only a few be saved?” The man asking Jesus this question obviously thought that heaven was a select club to which only members are admitted. He was a Jew and as such would have believed that only Jews would be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven. Gentiles had no hope of getting in, and sinners could definitely forget about be admitted.
By the time the man comprehended what Jesus was saying, he probably regretted asking the question in the first place. Jesus blew his assumptions to pieces. He turned everything upside down when he said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” It was a revolutionary statement that both shocked and outraged the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t stop there. He embraced sinners and outcasts, lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors, those on the margins of society who were deemed unacceptable. The Pharisees saw this as a betrayal of virtuous people like themselves. But Jesus made it clear that he came into the world to seek out such as these.
The world is filled with exclusive clubs, snobbery, privilege, preference, and so on. We would not expect Jesus to go along with this, nor did he. Jesus announced the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. To those Jews who thought they could enter the Kingdom as a matter of course he said: produce the fruits of repentance, otherwise your privileged position would benefit you nothing!
Jesus made it clear that conversion of heart and transformation of life were necessary dispositions for entry into the Kingdom of God. And Jesus was successful in bringing it about in the most unlikely of places. Many sinners heeded his call to conversion and found their way into the Kingdom. Whereas many religious people stubbornly resisted the call to conversion, and so excluded themselves from the Kingdom.
The bottom line being, it is not up to us to decide who gets into heaven. That is better left to the mercy of God. We need to allow God to be God. Salvation is not something we can earn. It is a gift from a loving and merciful God. If we accept the gift then we need to make a response, and our response is producing the fruits of the kingdom, namely goodness, right living and truth.
– Fr. Dennis, August 25, 2019