(Luke 13:22-30) When I was a teenager, I had a very ambivalent attitude towards God. Although I definitely wanted to spend eternity in heaven, I didn’t want anyone – not even God – telling me how I should live my life here on earth. I saw faith in God as a set of rules and regulations, none of which appealed to me. My idea of getting into heaven – should I be faced with an untimely end – was to whisper a quick, “Sorry, God!” just before I drew my last breath, confident that that’s all it would take. After all, I reasoned, how could a God who truly loves me turn down such a heartfelt, last minute plea for mercy?
Apart from the fact that I understood little about the meaning of love or true repentance at that time, my attitude is not as uncommon as you might think. People may take months and months to prepare for an upcoming ‘vacation of a lifetime’ but be very complacent when it comes to preparing for life in eternity. Some develop an idea of what they think a ‘good life’ should look like, usually based on comfort and their own preferences. They may even judge themselves and their chances of getting into heaven without any reference to Jesus, the One who will be our last Judge, regardless of how we might view our own actions.1
But Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel that not everyone who would like to get into heaven is going to make it. Wanting to get there is not enough; we have to do something in order to be ready. And that preparation must happen now – today – while we are still living our lives here on earth. Because once we die, it will be too late.
No one will know whether they got into heaven until it happens – until the moment that they stand before God on the Day of Judgement. But in the meantime, there is a lot that we can do. Our whole journey of life is a journey of preparation for heaven, a time that involves expanding our eyes, minds, and hearts. Pope Francis said, “Our eyes, the eyes of our soul … have to be prepared to contemplate the beautiful face of Jesus. Our hearing must be prepared in order to hear the beautiful things, the beautiful words. Above all our hearts must be prepared: prepared for love, to love more.”2 As we strive to enter by the narrow door, we must set aside our own ideas of sanctity and look to Christ as the model of our lives. We must get to know God, to understand His great love for us, to see ourselves as He sees us, and to return His love with joyful gratitude. If we open our hearts and minds to Him, He will transform our lives and reveal the way of true happiness for each one of us.
The way of Christ is not a set of rules and regulations; it is an invitation that we extend to Him to accompany us each day so that He can enlighten us, guide and strengthen us, comfort and console us. If we choose the narrow way, we will not be disappointed, for His way is easy, His burden is light, and His reward is out of this world.3
– Sharon van der Sloot
“If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who shall enter in by the narrow gate.” St. Augustine
1 Cf. Matthew 25:31-46.
2 Pope Francis, “Prepare Your Hearts for the Heavenly Homeland.” Homily given on April 26, 2013 at Domus Sanctae Marthae, Rome. Accessed at http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-prepare-your-hearts-for-the-heavenly-homeland; Internet; 19 August 2013.
3 Cf. Matthew 11:30.