The story is told of Jack Kerouac who set out “On the Road” expecting to reach a moment of vision. But later on he wrote he had missed something. “I’d thought when I got to the top, and everybody leaves . . . , I will come face to face with God or Buddha and find out once and for all what is the meaning of all this existence and suffering . . . . but instead I’d come face to face with myself, no liquor, no drugs, no chance of faking it, face to face with ole Hateful Me.”
He was at the narrow door, self-recognition without faking it. It’s the essential struggle we all face, to be honest with ourselves as we look toward God in hope. What’s left now is to say Yes to our essential poverty, giving up the escapes, and trusting that the banquet beyond is truly meant for us, without earning it.
The question from the sidelines about who’s going to be saved is an effort to sidestep the narrow door. “Hey look, I’ve belonged to a fairly decent culture, a churchgoing family, a good parish. I’ve had the best education, and I know all about you, Lord Jesus: you remember, you taught in my school? I’ve eaten and drunk at your table!” What could be missing? Here, at the door of life? ME, I could be missing. Our actual self, our burden and our gift.
Such a learning for the disciple I wish it were easier. But no, the fakery is over. Our heart softens. We come to know the Lord now, encouraging us, heart aching for us. We begin again, as if for the first time.
So what about me—today, August 25, 2013?
—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati. He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.