21st Sunday Ordinary Time – “the gates of Hell/Hades shall not prevail…”
“The gates of hell??” Didn’t know they were that war-like. Not even the gates of Mordor came out to battle. Hmmm.
There are a couple keys in this passage that help us a bit, I believe – púle and hades. Matthew establishes a network between this passage and the following one. Which gate?
Matthew 7:13f “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.
So, let’s assume that the gate that leads to destruction is the gate to Hades, the abode of the dead. Inasmuch as that works, then note these connections. The first instance follows immediately on the Sh’ma, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” “Gates” here seem to refer to the gates of consciousness.
Deuteronomy 6:7–9 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
To my mind, the following passages that deal with “Hades” sum up fundamental aspects of the “gates to destruction.”
Lack of Faith: Matthew 11:23f And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Idolatry: Deuteronomy 32:21f They made me jealous with what is no god, provoked me with their idols. So I will make them jealous with what is no people, provoke them with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled by my anger, and burns to the depths of Sheol; it devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
Lack of Faith: Psalm 139:7–10 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Idolatry of Wealth / Filling the Inner Emptiness that goes on forever: Habakkuk 2:5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough.
Idolatry of Wealth / Construct one’s Security through money: Baruch 3:18f those who schemed to get silver, and were anxious, but there is no trace of their works? They have vanished and gone down to Hades, and others have arisen in their place.
Thus, the gates of Hell – the essential emptiness that fuels idolatry, self-centered greed, and terror-driven need for security – shall not prevail over the ekklesia, the group called forth from idolatry to follow Christ. Yikes!