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April 1999

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

Those who listened to Jesus were familiar with the image of the gate, from the gate referred to in the dream of Jacob 'This is the gate of heaven' (Genesis 28:17) to the ancient gates of Jerusalem, referred to in Psalm 24:7, which God particularly loved. Jesus, however, made his own the words from Psalm 118:20, 'This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter through it' and gave them a new fullness of meaning. He is the gate of salvation that leads to pastures where divine goods are freely given. He is the only mediator, and through him men and women can reach the Father. 'He is the door to the Father,' says Ignatius of Antioch, 'through which have entered Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, the apostles and the Church.' 1

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Yes, the image of the gate must have had a great impact on the Jews. Whenever they passed through the gates of the Holy City and those of the Temple, they experienced a feeling of peace and unity. And the words of the prophets made the people dream of a new Jerusalem whose gates were open to all nations.

Jesus presents himself as the one who fulfils the divine promises and the expectations of a people whose history has been marked by its covenant, which was never cancelled, with its God.

The idea of the gate is well explained by another image used by Jesus: 'I am the way, no one comes to the Father except through me'.2 Therefore he is truly a way and an open gate that leads to the Father, to God Himself.

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

What does this Word of Life mean, practically speaking?

There are many things that can be understood from other passages of the Gospel that have similar meanings to these words from John. But from among these passages let's choose that of the 'narrow gate' which we must strive to go through so as to enter into life. 3

Why choose this one? Because it seems that this passage is perhaps the closest to the truth that Jesus speaks about himself; and it best sheds light on how to live this truth.

When is it that Jesus became the gate flung wide, completely open to the Trinity? It is in the very moment when the gate of Heaven seemed closed to him that he became the gate to heaven for us all. Jesus forsaken on the cross is the gate through which the exchange between God and humanity takes place: having made himself nothing, he united us children to our Father. He is that emptiness, the space in the gateway, through which humankind comes into contact with God.

Therefore, Jesus forsaken is both the narrow gate and the gate flung open; and we can experience this in our own lives.

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

In being forsaken on the cross, Jesus himself became our means of access to the Father.

His part has been done. But to benefit from such a grace, each one of us must do our own small part, which means to approach the gate and go through it.

How? When we are taken aback by disappointment or hurt by trauma, or by an unforeseen misfortune, or an absurd illness, we can always remember the suffering of Jesus, who took on himself all these trials, and a thousand others too.

Yes, he is there in anything that pains us. Every pain of ours is identified with him.

So let's try to recognise Jesus in all the distress and the tough situations of our life, in all darkness, in our personal misfortunes and those of others and in the sufferings of the world around us. They are him because he has made them his own. It would be enough to tell him, with faith, 'You Lord, are my only good' 4; it would be enough to do something practical to lessen 'his' suffering in the poor and the sorrowful, for us to go through the gate and find beyond it a joy never experienced before, a new fullness of life.

Chiara Lubich

References:

  1. Phila IX. 1
  2. Cf. John 14:6
  3. Cf. Matt 7:13.
  4. Cf. Psalm 15 (16):2

 

 
 

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