What does it mean when Jesus says to strive to enter through the narrow gate. This image, in a sense, is too good. We can easily imagine many people trying to enter through the gate at the same time with only a few being successful. But, does Christ want us to focus on the gate? Or is there something deeper here…? What if Jesus had said to us, “strive for the olympics! Many will try, but few will obtain An Olympic Gold medal!” We would immediately understand the type of training that Jesus is demanding of us. We would know that we would have to work out regularly, manage our weight and spend hours honing and perfecting our skills. It is this type of urgency towards a goal, this type of commitment to a way of life that Jesus is teaching us today.
Jesus says to us today, Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. Is Jesus saying that only a few will be saved? Maybe… But it seems to me that the focus of Jesus’ statement is not on the act of passing through the gate. Rather, the focus is on the journey towards the gate. Jesus is encouraging us to take the call of the Christian life seriously. He wants us to respond generously to his love and grace in our lives. This means that we take seriously the call to conversion and to turn away from sin. It also means that we take seriously the call to serve the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And finally, it means to take seriously the call to develop a personal and intimate relationship with Christ. The gate represents heaven, and Jesus wants us to accept his grace and to respond by doing everything we can to join him in heaven. The Olympic athlete that strives for the Gold medal is not a failure because he only made the olympics – He made it to the olympics!
One way that we take seriously Jesus’ call to strive for the narrow gate is to listen to God in our hearts. In our second reading, we learn that God corrects those who are his son’s and daughters. An important aspect of the Christian life is listening to the corrections of the Holy Spirit. There are times that we falter on the journey and need the Holy Spirit to correct us and bring us back on the path towards the gate; to the path that brings us to heaven. Consider Simone Biles, the female who has won the most medals in an olympics, who has just won Gold and gives her coach a big hug. We would be naive to think that there was never a challenging moment before she won Gold. Her Coach would have had to nitpick, had to call out mistakes, and had to correct Simone to make her better. All for the good of the athlete. Just so is the discipline of the Lord: As we hear today: for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. How beautiful it is to know that whenever we receive the Lord’s discipline it is because of his great love for us.
Here is the great irony; our catholic faith loves paradox. The Gospel tells us how challenging it is to obtain salvation. The first reading speaks to us about God’s desire for all of us to be in heaven. The prophet, speaking for God says, I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. Here is the beautiful truth: Christ wants everyone to be in heaven. The Gospel teaches us that heaven is something we must strive for not expect as an automatic gift. The Gospel is Jesus admonishing us, or, correcting us. All of us must realize that our salvation can be lost. But! If we respond to the corrections that Jesus offers us through the Holy Spirit, and strive for the narrow gate; we will find ourselves with Christ in heaven. We will come into the heavenly embrace of Our Father.
Today as we receive the holy Eucharist may we receive the strength to change our lives in the ways that God is calling us to so that we can strive to live with God for all eternity in heaven.