STRUGGLE FOR SALVATION. Jesus went through towns and villages teaching, while making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13:22–24). The man who made this question to Jesus might have been convinced that Jews were destined to be saved and pagans condemned. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer, he was left considerably surprised. Jesus is the only competent one to give a true answer on the question of salvation. Only he knows who is truly sorry for one’s sins in his heart and who is not. If God wishes through a particular miracle to glorify a certain person on earth, the Church can beatify and canonize that same person. Yet if someone were to be eternally lost, not even the Church could proclaim that. This would be known only to God.
Jesus divinely advised us that many shall seek to enter through the narrow gate, but will not enter. He warns the curious enquirer: You, man, struggle for your salvation! All of you who are listening to these words, strive towards your own salvation. Struggle to enter through the narrow gate. Jesus presumes in us and seeks a heroic struggle and grappling on our part, a zealous aspiration towards our own salvation.
What kind of a struggle are we talking about? It is something similar to the national soccer game held the other day. At some point all the players are before the opponents’ goal and all want to score. They toil, yet no goals are scored on either side. This is a struggle, sweaty and at times bloody, which is done according to the rules. We saw that some players were even sent off the field, but the result never changed. It remained 0:0. Yet this was only a physical struggle.
On other occasion, while comparing the narrow and the wide gate, Jesus made it clearer to all: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13–14). Jesus is speaking here of the moral and spiritual struggle with regard to eternal salvation.
What's the difference between the broad and the constricted road, between the wide and the narrow gate?
THE DIFFICULT AND EASY WAYS. No person has ever achieved a great goal without great effort and sweat. According to God's will, sweating is a part of human labour. By the sweat of your face you shall earn your bread. Is this sentence not found amongst the first pages of the Bible? No human work of any value exists that is not at the same time a result of serious fatigue, daily and nightly study, and constant revision behind it. We often say: no pain no gain.
It took the evangelists years to write the Gospel of Jesus Christ since they held their own accounts and those of others so inadequate, because the Lord Jesus always deserves all that is better, more profound and uplifting.
Not a few famous writers, dissatisfied with their work, desired to destroy all the fruits of their intellect at the end of their lives. This shows that even when a man stakes all his vital forces into his work he feels a kind of discontent, no matter what others say about it. He especially does not know how God will judge him, for only God has all the authentic details, first hand, on every single one of us, regarding our sins and our contrition.
Who then, enters through the narrow and who through the wide gate?
On one occasion an elderly person approached me and asked for a brief conversation. His first sentence was eschatological: “You will not be saved!”
- “What do you know about anyone’s eternal salvation?” I replied. “A true Catholic would never and under no circumstances dare to in this fashion, let alone to prophesy it to somebody”.
“You do not acknowledge the apparitions here in Medjugorje ”, he said.
- “The apparitions in Medjugorje are neither a condition nor criterion for eternal salvation according to Revelation and the Magisterium of the Church. The Church clearly distinguishes public revelation from a private revelations. The public biblical revelation is embraced by the Catholic faith and it obliges faithful in their conscience, while private revelations can be accepted or refused by human faith and do not oblige anyone. Private revelations are not obligatory even when they are approved and they especially do not oblige when the apparitions are unrecognized”, I responded.
“But just in my house alone, fifty pilgrims from abroad are staying overnight”, he added.
- “Well, you ought to distinguish the ‘economy of salvation’ from your own ‘home economy’” I replied. Let us ask ourselves now, on the basis of Biblical words, which path do we want to follow in our lives: the narrow and the steep one or the broad and wide one?
CATALOGUE OF EVILS. St. Paul mentions some serious evils which do not lead man to the Kingdom of God through the narrow gate: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Here he enumerates eleven mortal sins – from injustice to drunkenness all the way to banditry – that lead man to the broad road and the wide gate, hindering him from salvation and from God.
The first sin is idolatry – against God's first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me! We read in the Old Testament the notorious example of the Israelites who were impatiently waiting for Moses to come down from mount Horeb. Having seen that Moses was not coming down according to the plan, the people asked his brother Aaron to fabricate a golden calf for them, similar to the calf that pagan Egyptians worshiped as their divinity. Aaron did as they had asked and placed the golden calf before them. Then they cried out: “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4). So they replaced the living God who freed them from the land of slavery, with the golden calf that was made of their earrings and bracelets. When God creates man in his own image and after his own likeness then man bears a resemblance to God in mind and in his free will, up until the moment that same man becomes inhuman through his own choice. And, when man creates a god in his own image and after his own likeness then this god bears no resemblance to a human being to say nothing of God. Idolatry! An ideal is turned into an idol, into a calf. No matter how golden and shiny it is, it always remains - a calf!
Dear candidates and young adults! May the most holy God and his most holy will be always in the first place in your lives. Do not let yourselves be enslaved by the material things of this world, neither silver nor gold, neither food nor clothes, and may you never have greedy eyes for riches making you blind towards God's first commandment. This truly entails choosing the constricted road and the narrow gate, but it also means inheriting Heaven. May nothing prevent you from struggling soundly for your eternal salvation. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, says the same Apostle (Phil 2:12).
The second sin listed is blasphemy. It is against God's second commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain! If God does not take first place in your mind and heart, then you will easily find yourself insulting his name with blasphemous words. Two so-called Catholics are sitting in front of a house conversing peacefully. They are not upset or angry, nor drunk, but every second or third word that comes out of their mouths is a curse against God, against Jesus, Our Lady, the Church, etc. Their excuse is that they are not aware of what they are saying. They say these things unthinkingly. Swearing has become an everyday part of speech for them that they simply cannot stop this habit of cursing. It would be unusual not to curse for them. Not only have they have been tainted by this bad habit, but they have also contaminated their children and everybody else in their surroundings with it. Cursing is not only ungodliness and a lack of culture, but it is also a corruption of others. And yet how large are the paths and wide the gates that have opened up towards this shameful human disgrace!
O dear candidates! Do you ever swear? Do you allow others to curse in your presence? Do you agree with those that swear? Do you laugh with them? It is one thing when somebody calls you names and you pocket an insult silently. This could be regarded as a sign of patience and virtue. But it is a totally different thing when somebody curses God in your presence and you do not react to it. This means that you adhere to it too. Do you see how necessary it is to struggle in order to undertake the narrow path of self-control including controlling your tongue.
Three further sins - greediness, robbery, banditry - the Apostle lists as evils that make it impossible to inherit the Kingdom of God. These three sins are against the seventh and the tenth commandment: You shall not steal and You shall not covet your neighbour's possessions. At the outset, there is a coveting appetite for your neighbours’ possessions, which then gradually turns into stealing or a secret dispossession of other persons’ goods that in the end turns into a violent theft or robbery. Not infrequently this includes murdering a person that stands in the way. Very often we watch this on televised news or read about it in the newspapers. This is truly a broad road and wide gate! The state and its institutions have tried to put a stop to all kinds of criminal abuses, yet to no avail, despite all the various state laws, the invitations and threats from the European 'promised land'.
Candidates, fathers, sponsors, and all you faithful! Beware of this broad road in your life. As a believer in God, you must not cultivate a limitless desire for abundance in material things, especially in order to exceed your neighbour. This means not giving way to the imprudent pursuit of competing to see who can earn more money, build more apartments or motels, host more people from abroad, even quit school and give up university studies in order to earn easy money. How can you never fear that in your covetousness you might one day wind up ruined and a wreck, and not enter through the narrow gate? For in the Kingdom of God it is not the one that says Lord, Lord, who will enter, but the one that does the will of the heavenly Father, as Jesus teaches us.
The Apostle Paul states four great evils in relation to the sixth and the ninth commandments: You shall not commit adultery! This means that as a single person do not misuse your sexual and corporal instincts, your carnal inclinations, for your own selfish pleasure: neither in relation to yourself nor in relation to other persons of the same or the opposite sex. And as a married person, do not commit adultery. In other words be faithful to your spouse. Do not separate nor get divorced, and do not re-marry again in an adulterous union.
Just as promiscuity was considered normal in the times of the Apostles in the greco–roman world, even today human sinful will has remained unchanged. Christianity with its chastity stands as an antidote to that sin. We teach and express respect for one’s own body as well as the body of another person, and not the exploitation of either. The Church promotes the dignity of human nature against the changing opinions “which undervalue the human body or idolize it” (Gaudium et spes 41). The road is broad and the gate wide that do not lead to heaven.
Dear candidates, the person that knows how to control himself, his eyes and his heart, against the challenges of immodest programs and films, against indecent web pages, and against scandalous articles and photos, only such a person follows the evangelical path through the narrow gate and responsibly strives towards his salvation.
Against all these previously mentioned sins, including those not listed here, no-one can help you like the Holy Spirit can, in giving you seven of his gifts:
the gift of wisdom which helps you to be aware of the necessary struggle in observing the Ten Commandments. Without these there can be no eternal salvation;
the gift of understanding which enables you to discern between the constricted road that leads through the narrow gate to Life and the broad path that leads through the wide gate to Death - and there are many that follow this way, says the omniscient Lord;
the gift of knowledge with which you yearn to comprehend that the human person, as a spiritual being, is meant to grow and not to decline, is meant to be saved and not ruined. This gift of knowledge tells you that your sexuality is a very delicate matter and that it entails respect and purity and should not be undermined through mockery, dirty jokes, insolence or evil practices;
the gift of counsel which enables you to receive and to give counsel and which warns you against the broad roads and the wide gates that do not lead to heaven;
the gift of fortitude which gives you the strength to resist the seductiveness that diverts you away from God and helps you climb the steep and the narrow way that leads to eternal life, to God ;
the gift of piety which enables you to be and to act according to God's will and direction, according to the merciful, just and holy Lord;
the gift of fear of God which enables you to avoid every sin out of reverence to the Holy Spirit, to the Son of God and to the heavenly Father.
May the Holy Spirit give you today, dear candidates, in this holy sacrament, the strength for the struggle that awaits you and may he lead you along the constricted way and through the narrow gate to eternal life. Amen.