How many will be saved?

This coming weekend celebrates the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time during Lectionary Cycle C. In yesterday’s post we looked at the idea of being saved and striving. But the question of “how many” still lingers. How many will be saved? Jesus does not answer directly, but urges his questioner and others (“Strive” is plural) to make sure that they are in the number, however large or small it proves to be (v.24).

The word “strive” is derived from a technical term for competing in the ancient Olympiad pointing to a full-hearted effort. This word is in the present and contrasts those who “will attempt to enter” but when the door of opportunity is finally shut it will be too late (v.25). People must strive to enter now. There is inevitably a time-limit on the offer of salvation. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door – The gospel text continues to indicate that the time is short, the kingdom is arriving even now, and thus it is important that a decision be made. Jesus’ parable of the narrow and soon shut door makes it clear that making a decision, and the right one, is crucial.

How many will be saved? The question was relevant in Jesus’ time when there was a growing divergence of religious views. There is evidence that it was widely discussed (e.g. 4 Ezra 7:55ff.), and that the rabbis held widely differing views (e.g. Sanhedrin 97b). But it seems to have been firmly held that all Israel would be saved, except for a few blatant sinners who excluded themselves (Sanhedrin 10:1). In our day, this same question speaks not only to the individual decision, but also to the proclamation of the community.  Here at the beginning of the third millennium, especially in the West, many people believe that there are many ways to God – perhaps.

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