Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the Narrow Way

Last Sunday, we honored the mystery of the Assumption of our Lady. We saw how at the end of her mortal life, she entered heaven. Today, our Lord admonishes us to imitate our Lady: “Try to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” To enter through the narrow gate of heaven ought to be our life’s project, our main concern for nothing is as important as the salvation of our soul. The Code of Canon Law has for its final Canon: “The salvation of souls…in the Church must always be the supreme law.”

When we honor our Lady’s Assumption, many have the impression that the Blessed Virgin sang and danced her way to heaven. After all, being conceived without sin, how could entering heaven be any harder for her? However, we fail to understand that the gates of heaven were narrow for her as they are narrow for us. In other words, she who was spared of sin was not spared of the struggle that is demanded of any one who wishes to enter heaven.

The gates of heaven are narrow as opposed to the wide road that leads to perdition. This means that the salvation of our souls demands difficult conditions for us. We, Christians on earth, belong to that province of God’s Kingdom known as the Church Militant. Militancy, which characterizes our lives on earth, consists of both vigilance and struggle. “Happy will that servant be whom the Master finds vigilant at his return,” the Lord told us two Sundays ago. St. Paul tells us to “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We must not give in to spiritual sloth by being too comfortable with the things of this world. Rather, we should strive to work for treasures in heaven.

The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard as 2nd reading, reminds us of the necessity of putting up this struggle for the narrow gates of heaven: “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves he disciplines, he scourges every son he acknowledges. Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” In fact even Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, “learned obedience by the suffering he endured.” He himself acknowledged that “it is necessary for the Son of man to suffer in the hands of evil men in order to enter into his glory.” The same is true for our Lady. Yes, she may have been exempted from sin but she was not spared of the sorrows of this valley of tears. Nothing could compare to her sorrow as she stood beneath the Cross of her dying Son. Indeed, what Simeon prophesied to her was fulfilled: “A sword shall pierce your heart.” If Christ endured his Cross and Our Lady her sorrow, why shouldn’t we have a share in the crosses and the sorrows of this life? We cannot enter heaven only on the grounds that we ate and drank with the Lord: “And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, you evil doers.’” As Thomas a Kempis said, “Many are the Lord’s friends at his table but very few of his Cross.” It is not enough to keep him company at his table for one is not the Lord’s friend unless he accompanies him to the Cross. “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not of joy but for pain, yet later it brings the fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

There is now an advertisement of Manny Pacquiao who is shown all bruised and wounded. But on his limbs and his waist hung the 7 championship belts that he had. There was a caption that said, “Aray ko. Galing ko.” This is the point of what our Lord said: “Enter through the narrow gates.” No pain, no gain. No guts, no glory. No Cross, no Resurrection.

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