Christ the King Catholic Church
“Strive to enter by the narrow gate.”
Our lives are filled with opportunities. From this whole array of opportunities, we must choose the ones we will pursue and then strive to achieve them. Most opportunities don’t just fall into our laps. We have to pursue them. Life teaches us that if we go after opportunities only half-heartedly, chances are we will miss those opportunities.
We could say that the gate we have to go through to attain life’s greatest opportunities is a narrow gate. There are wider and easier gates that we could just stumble through without even trying. The fact that there are so many large and easy gates to go through can sometimes distract us from the narrower gates of life.
Let’s think of some of the choices in life where this could apply. Let’s think of some examples of passing through the narrow gate.
In high school and college, students have to decide what vocation or career they will pursue after graduation. To prepare, students must strive to get good grades. That would be the narrow gate. The wider, easier gate, which many students choose, would be to party and just ‘get by’ in school. The narrow gate requires more than a half-hearted effort.
When we find a job, we have to strive to do it well so as to keep that job. To do it half-heartedly would risk any opportunity for a promotion and might even risk the job.
A young man meets a young woman. She has high standards and he strives to be the best that he can be so that one day she will accept his proposal. He could propose to other women, women who might be less demanding and expect very little of him, but he strives for the affection of that one special woman.
We are all inspired by the stories of Olympic athletes. The medal winners had a goal early in life and they went through the narrow gate in pursuing that goal. They spent years training, years sacrificing other things in order to have that medal placed around the neck. Half-hearted effort has never landed anyone on the Olympic dais.
In all of these examples there are different possibilities, different gates to go through. Some people look at the possibilities and choose the narrow gate and they reap wonderful rewards. Others settle for much less, choosing the wider gates that are all around us, and reap lesser rewards.
Examples of striving to go through the narrow gate abound in our lives.
In the Gospel today Jesus brings all this to bear on our spiritual lives. Jesus is asked if many people will be saved. And, as was often his custom, he doesn’t answer the question that was asked of him – at least not directly. He uses the question to tell us what we really need to know. If we want heaven, we must strive for it. The very same principle that applies in our secular lives, applies to our spiritual lives. Often times we forget this.
Jesus is the hand of God that has been stretched out to all of us in an act of friendship and love. Jesus came into the world to reveal the love that God has for us and to offer us a truly priceless gift – the gift of salvation. But like every gift, the gift has to be accepted. The Father’s love for us and his desire for us to be safe and happy with him is a wonderful gift – but it is a gift that can be accepted or refused.
The gift of salvation that God offers us in Jesus begins with God’s initiative. There is nothing we can do to earn this gift or merit this gift. God takes the initiative and, in Jesus, extends his hand in friendship to each of us. How we respond to that initiative is up to each of us. We can ignore the hand, we can be aware of the hand and be flattered by it but not take hold of it or we can grasp the hand and hold on to it for dear life. By telling us that we must strive to enter through the narrow gate, Jesus is telling us that discipleship requires more than a half-hearted effort. Those who ‘dabble’ in discipleship are among those in Jesus’ parable that the master of the house does not recognize.
This offer of friendship that God makes to each of us is not just one of many opportunities that we are afforded in life – it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Accepting the offer of friendship and cultivating that friendship in our lives is an opportunity for which it worth striving.
What will we do with this opportunity? This is the challenge that Jesus places before us in today’s Gospel. Will we choose and strive for this opportunity with the same and even greater zeal and tenacity with which we strive after other opportunities in our lives? Will we strive to enter through the narrow gate or will we slide through one of the many larger gates in life that is much easier and perhaps, in the short run, much more enjoyable?
In these times we might be tempted to look for a church tailored to our own likes and dislikes, rather than to God’s likes and dislikes. It would certainly make life much easier, at least in the short run. We might be tempted to look for a church that is more about us here and now, rather than about God and the hereafter.
Our culture today invites us to look for wide and easy gates. Our culture today tells us that we are fine just the way we are and that we will all one day just slip into heaven – almost by accident.
But this is not what Jesus tells us. He tells us to strive to enter through the narrow gate. There are easier and wider gates all around us. Jesus tells us to take stock of the possibilities that are ours as human beings. He invites us to choose which ones we will pursue wisely. We do it all the time in things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter. Jesus invites us to choose the narrow gate in the one thing that ultimately does matter.
The hand has been extended. What we do with it is up to us.