Luke 13:22-30 - Addicted to Happiness
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from.' And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!' And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
This is one of these Gospel passages which - I am convinced - makes everyone pensive who takes the time to listen. Its final character is loaded with such severity and destiny. Jesus’ message of today is as serious as they come.
Our Lord describes the scene of the end of our time with words like door and house. He depicts our relationship with God as a dialogue between us and Him about whether we know each other. Rejection and departure and wailing are mentioned. If you consider all that, you cannot but wish to be among those people who make it through the gate. You hate the idea of being locked out from what, evidently, is the better option. You want to enter into God’s house.
Why? Because you have tasted true happiness and cannot get enough of it. Go through the inner collection of your happiest memories. Do you realize how much these experiences influence you? Happiness is like a drug that you try once and, henceforth, going back to the ecstasy it brought you becomes the ultimate objective in life. Looking through your memories, some happy experiences may actually have turned out to be as delusional as a drug. But I challenge you to keep looking. There are plenty of true moments of happiness; the kind of happiness which is the exact opposite of a drug because it is real; true ecstasy of true life.
If you have identified experiences of true happiness in your life, the aforementioned objective to regain that ecstasy is nothing else but your desire to go to heaven; your strive to enter into God’s house at the end of your time. You want to go to heaven because you have tasted happiness. On your way there, you will get more tastes of the ultimate ecstasy. But the way is not the goal and, as long as you have not yet arrived, you will find yourself still distant from the gate, lacking the happiness you desire, striving and not yet thriving altogether. This tension between being happy, wanting to be more happy, and finding stretches of unhappiness on the way to the final gate of happiness: it fills our lives.
Jesus was himself on His way to Jerusalem when He taught this. He knew what the “narrow gate” meant for Him. He know how likely it is for our weak humanity to not be “strong enough.” If we have tasted God’s glory, that experience of happiness will keep us going. Jesus was full of that experience, and His strides towards Jerusalem were motivated by that glory and by His desire to see us happy. If your desire for happiness becomes so strong that, from time to time, it tips your inner scale towards melancholy about the fact that you are not yet that happy, fall in behind Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. Hold on to Him and keep moving out of love for God and the desire to see others happy. In His slipstream, your desire for happiness will merge with the wish to see others happy.