The Narrow Gate

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Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
•Is 66:18-21
•Ps 117:1, 2
•Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
•Lk 13:22-30


In the end, how many people will be saved? In the Gospel reading this Sunday, someone asks Jesus a question like this.

Jesus answers, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough" (Lk 13:24).

Our salvation begins with God's grace. The Lord, after all, made the first move. He came down from Heaven to lead us to salvation. Respecting our dignity, however, He left us with a choice: to cooperate with His grace or not. Cooperating with His grace means making a daily effort to walk in the light of Christ - to strive to enter through the narrow gate.

During Jesus' lifetime, the Jews struggled to accept the notion that salvation depended on anything but heritage. They liked believing that their salvation came from something intrinsically good inside themselves, outside their control. In this way, they didn't have to worry so much about the consequences of their actions.

Some of us today have adopted a similar mentality. Some believe that as long as we call ourselves Christians, as long as we go to Church, as long as we're nice to others, then there's not much we need to do to work out our salvation. We hear people say things like, "Well, I'm a good person." Like the ancient Jews, some of us presume our salvation.

But throughout the Gospels, Jesus warned against this mentality. He insisted that we have an integral part to play in our own salvation.

In her Diary, St. Faustina records Jesus saying:

When I entered the chapel, I received an inner understanding of the great reward that God is preparing for us, not only for our good deeds, but also for our sincere desire to perform them. What a great grace of God this is!(450)

Even if we are Catholics who come from a long line of Catholics, we can't rely on the piety of our parents or our grandparents to attain our salvation. We have to work patiently with the Lord in order to receive our reward.

On the other hand, we need to avoid the opposite mistake - believing that we are responsible for earning our salvation. Our salvation is a gift from God. However, just like any gift someone gives us, we have to receive it and put the gift to use.

God makes this gift of salvation available to anyone willing to receive it, and only He can tell who receives this gift well and puts it to use the best. Sometimes, those who seem like "good people" to us aren't being as good stewards of their salvation as we are. And sometimes, those whom we consider less worthy than us to receive salvation actually merit it more.

This is why Jesus says in this Gospel, "For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (Lk 13:30). Not having the capacity to judge the efforts of others, we need to focus on our own efforts, turning back to the Lord whenever we fall. Even then, we are poor judges of ourselves, too. All we can really do is give ourselves entirely over to the mercy of God in everything we do and trust that He will one day greet us after we pass through the narrow gate.

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