I had an excellent monk as a professor in seminary named Fr. Guy Mansini, OSB. The man is brilliant. I remember mostly his side comments. He said once, “Never trust anyone in matters of faith who has never, at least at some point in his life, feared he might go to hell.” It is sheer genius. Because I think there are a lot of people who think that everybody automatically goes to heaven, no matter what. That is a misunderstanding of God’s mercy. God is merciful because he allows us the opportunity of salvation, and because he helps us along the way, but Jesus today tells us it still takes some effort, some strength on our part to get there. “For many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough,” says the Lord.
Jesus today tells us again that the gate to paradise is narrow and that it takes some striving on our part to get to and through it. The image of the narrow gate does not mean, as the early church gnostics thought, that only certain people are eligible for heaven. No: the whole world is invited, all nations, all languages as our first readings says, and from the north and south and east and west as our gospel says. But the narrow gate does mean that only certain people care enough to make the effort to get there and get through it.
Here’s the thing: Jesus is the gate, he is “the way” as our alleluia verse reminds us. Jesus, when he came to earth, did not say that he had come to give us the directions to the Promised Land. He did not say that he came to show us the way, to give us a map. No. He told us, I AM THE WAY. God invites us today to live deeply immersed in the Lord and his body the church. We have an opportunity this weekend to immerse ourselves more in the Good Lord and next week, too, with the ministry fair.
May God bless us and give us each day a stronger thirst for the Lord and his kingdom–here and in in heaven.