By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 3, 2022
Imagine you’re knocking on a door, but there’s no answer, so you knock more enthusiastically, and then you hear a voice: “I do not know where you are from!”
This could be devastating, especially if you consider the person inside your friend.
But what if the door is actually the gate of heaven, and the person speaking is God? This is a horrifying thought, and many don’t want to face it.
But then comes the recent Gospel reading at Mass (Lk 13:22-30), which always makes me squirm. Someone asks Jesus whether only a few people will be saved, and he replies: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
He then says that only a few people will find the narrow road that leads to life. This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus, when he says pointblank that many of us are headed in the wrong direction.
When I hear this Gospel, I like to assure myself I’m on the narrow road, but this kind of self-assurance could mean I’m on the wrong road! After all, didn’t the Pharisees praise themselves as being in God’s favor?
The early Christians were called followers of the Way, based on Jesus’ statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The “way” Jesus mentions is the narrow road he journeyed upon during his time on earth. We can walk on this same path by a complete transformation of our hearts—dying to ourselves and living for Christ.
Dying to ourselves means letting go of things that weigh us down, which include goals the secular world applauds—being rich, being famous, being admired, being powerful. Think of movie stars, billionaires, computer giants, the rich and the powerful, who have become the heroes of our society.
These people take first place in our world, receiving accolades and admiration, but Jesus turned everything upside down, when he said, “Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Author Francis Carvajal writes, “To live for oneself is to court disaster. This lifestyle impels us toward the wide gate, no matter what the cost. All the obstacles to spiritual progress may be traced to…an inordinate love for self.”
St. John the Baptist, who was Jesus’ cousin, was definitely walking on the narrow road. He was an eccentric fellow, who lived in the desert, wore animal skins, and ate locusts and honey. He wasn’t striving for accolades and admiration! In fact, his words about Jesus reflect the humble attitude of travelers on the narrow way: “He must increase, I must decrease.”
Remember that Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” The narrow road is steeped in truth and light, but many people shrink from hearing the truth and run from the light. This is why those who courageously defend Catholic teachings on marriage and life are often canceled.
John dared to speak the truth to King Herod by saying his marriage wasn’t lawful. As a result, Herod’s wife, Herodias, hated John and wanted to kill him. Herod considered John a holy man, but soon caved into his wife’s violent desires and had John beheaded.
Speaking the truth in Jesus’ day was a recipe for disaster that led to John’s gruesome death and later to Jesus’ crucifixion—and the truth is still dangerous today.
Let’s pray Jesus will give us the grace to find the narrow road. Let’s pray we will have the courage of John, who walked in the light and testified to the truth. Let us live so that when we knock on heaven’s door, God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”