Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
We have always known the Lord Jesus as someone who is welcoming – someone whose heart is always willing to accommodate everybody…one who keeps telling people: “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” This is why we would wonder why he would say: “Strive to enter the narrow gate.” Is it not true that if the Lord wanted to bring all men to salvation, then he should make heaven’s gate wide and open? Then why is he saying that heaven’s gate is a narrow one?
The Lord tells us that heaven is for the strong: “Many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” However, strength here is not gained by simply eating and drinking in the company of the Lord. Nor is it gained by simply listening to the Lord as he preached in our streets. For “not everyone who calls out ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter into the kingdom of God!” The strength to enter through the narrow gate is gained by what the second reading calls “Discipline”: “Endure your trials as ‘discipline.’”
|Try to enter the Narrow Gate|
We enter heaven by following the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us into the verdant pastures and restful waters of heaven. He goes before us and we follow him. However, he goes before us along the way of the Cross. The way of discipleship is that of self denial and of carrying our crosses in imitation of him who suffered and died for us. The way of discipleship is the way of discipline. Contrary to what the world teaches us, our trials, our crosses actually make us strong and fit for the narrow gate of heaven. That is why we should never disdain our trials. We should not disdain the cross for such is the mark of the love of the Father for us: “My son, 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…God treats you as sons. For what son is there whom the father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
Thomas a Kempis wrote: “JESUS has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them for a while, they fall either into complaints or into deep dejection. Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if He should never give them consolation, yet they would continue to praise Him and wish always to give Him thanks. What power there is in pure love for Jesus -- love that is flee from all self-interest and self-love!