In the Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, he talks about enduring our trials as a discipline. He says that discipline seems “not a cause for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” In other words, we are told always to take up our cross and follow Him; to grow strong by what we must endure. “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet…” As professed Christians, the ways we must act and the choices we must make are not easy! That is why in the Gospel today Jesus tells us that to enter heaven we must enter through the “narrow gate.” Although all are welcome to choose this way, not all will be able to enter.
So what does He mean by “the narrow gate?” Jerusalem was a walled city; and there was a famous gate—a very narrow one, a short one—the camels could not enter there. Even the people entering the city had to go down on their knees to enter in. He says “many will try to enter but will not be strong enough.” The people listening understood the reference to the narrow gate—the difficulty to enter the city that way was a part of common knowledge. (If you couldn’t enter that way, you would have to walk the long way around to the typical gate…)
The narrow gate is the way we must go to enter heaven. I always laugh when I hear “St. Peter at the gate” jokes. You know them, they are all about the difficulty of getting in to heaven and usually involve a series of questions. Today we hear some serious questions from Jesus about entering heaven. We know that the work for salvation is not easy, (that is the point about the narrow gate) and it is no joke. This life we have is not a rehearsal for the real work we must do now; it is the now. In every moment of our life we are given the grace and the opportunity to let the Spirit work within us and to choose for the Kingdom. Every moment counts… Will Jesus know you when you knock on heaven’s narrow gate?
In every moment of life we are to choose for the Kingdom. Will you be strong enough to choose? And will Jesus know you by where you are from? Are you “from” a place of faith? Are you from a place that is loving? Are you “from” sites where the poor are helped, the lonely are welcomed, the sick are solaced? Are your faith and your faith-acts strong enough for you to enter through the narrow gate?
The Kingdom is all about our choices for love and service. Just a note: The summer season is winding down, and there are many ministries available to you in service of your Community. I suspect that the complacent and self-satisfied, the apathetic and the lazy may trouble squeezing through the gate…
Just a Note: A song about what we must do in order to enter heaven through the narrow gate…