“The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19).
Having eaten of the forbidden fruit— the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil —our initial tendency is, indeed, to love darkeness rather than light (i.e. to grasp after our good which we conceive of as separate and distinct from the good of others). But sooner or later, by the grace of God our dark passions will be exposed. For the objects of such “love” together with the “selves” that pursue them are counterfeit. According to the metaphor that follows, they are thieves in shepherds’ clothing. In contrast to the false self-image and the counterfeit goods which have seduced us stands Jesus—the “I Am” presence within each one of us. Indeed, His living presence rings true— through and through —and must sooner or later be recognized as the singular gate though which authentic, abundant life is to be realized:
“Very truly, I tell you, I Am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I Am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. . . . My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” (John 10:7-10; 27-28).
By the grace of God, then— when all other avenues are exhausted —we, like the prodigal son, wake up and in that moment of clarity hear his voice speaking to us in the stillness of Divine presence. At that moment— by grace, through faith —we are ready, willing, and able to step through the narrow gate that leads to life:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
This is the gate which has been there all along, but which for any number of reasons has been neglected or rejected:
“This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:20-24; cf. John 14:6-7).
Just like the stone that builder rejects, the “I Am” presence within us is pushed to one side as we pursue our prodigal escapades with an entourage of thieves and bandits—willing, as we are, to exchange our birthright for a mess of pottage. The good news, however, is that the kingdom of heaven is always at hand (is within us and among us) and that whosoever will may come (cf. Matthew 3:2; Luke 17:20-21; Revelation 22:17). Now is the accepted time… Now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2).