The problem sometimes in reading the gospels is their familiarity. We have heard them so often and they are so familiar that we stop digging in for the deep meaning and let them go with just a passing glance. Having spent the last little while with the Gospel of Matthew, I’m beginning to think that I ought to take it for at least a year of serious study. I wonder what I would glean from picking apart each line and even each word that sits waiting for new interpretation. I’m not considering rewriting the gospel, but what spin from my experiences might gift a little newness to the rich passages that are waiting before me? Take today’s reading from chapter 7 for instance.
“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you…”(Pretty simple to interpret, right?) But then: “Enter through the narrow gate for the gate is wide that leads to destruction. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.“
So I start thinking about roads that I have traveled that were narrow and/or difficult to navigate. The first one that comes to mind is the road that leads up the mountain Haleakala in Hawai’i. The goal is to see the sunrise at the top of that winding road that has to be traversed in the pre-dawn dark. If you have not had the experience, think of the most winding road you have ever traveled and then cast a shadow over it. You will get the challenge! So why attempt that narrow road that winds up and up…(at 3:30 AM!)? For the sun that comes slowly, and when it is fully over the top of the mountain, is all you can see without your sunglasses…so you quickly put them on and then you can hardly breathe at the sight.
You had thought all along that you were alone atop the mountain but as the sun washes over the peaks you see that you were in great company! There are small groups of people populating the peaks…sitting quietly or snapping photos as they wait with you for the glory of full sun. And then everyone turns this way and that to smile and offer a “Good morning!” across the peaks. The camaraderie is inexplicable; it cannot be described but only felt. It is a good feeling – a feeling of unity that can never be achieved on a wide road to anywhere. The effort of climbing to the top, the waiting in the cold morning, and the surprise of those who experience it with you remain.
So what is the take away from that experience? You would have to be there to know. But being there, you could never refuse a narrow road again—whether it be on a mission of mercy, a community ritual, a brief encounter on the street…Never again…
This may take longer than I thought…Are you game? Do you have people with whom to share? Give it a try. What have you to lose? Blessings on the journey!