The Narrow Gate

sheep narrow road 2I think we can all agree that today’s world is filled with a multitude of enticing distractions where everything is available to us in the form of megamalls, megaplexes, massive sports venues, super centers and endless cable TV channels that can easily occupy every moment of the day. The world is only as far away as our fingertips via the internet and social media has brought us to another level of communication that can occupy unhealthy amounts of our time. Materialism, secularism, humanism and relativism are ever present and vying for our attention and hopeful submission. The world offers a wide path for us filled with endless entertainment venues, indulgences of every kind, and abundant frivolity while ignoring God’s laws in favor of its own.

However, as Catholics, we are called by Christ to traverse a different route, joining him instead on the road less traveled. Jesus clearly stated this when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus was and is fully aware that the narrow gate and rocky road of which he speaks is by no means an easy one – but it is the sure and steady path which leads to his kingdom. It is often a fraught with suffering, thorns and thickets. It is a road upon which we may stumble and fall from time to time or perhaps even stray from, only to find that the path the world has laid out for us has led to a dead end cul-de-sac which ultimately fails to satisfy.

Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), a Polish nun who received divine revelations from Our Lord Jesus Christ recorded a vision she had regarding two roads she saw before her in her diary known as Divine Mercy in My Soul. She writes: “I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.” (Diary 153)

It is important to note that Saint Faustina saw in her vision those who fell down “but stood up immediately and went on.” To me this might be interpreted as those who take part in the sacrament of confession and then, persisting along the narrow path, resolve with the help of God’s grace, to go forward and sin no more. Staying on the narrow and rocky road is a choice we make every day. It requires prayer, faith, grace, focus and tenacity to “keep the faith and finish the race” (2 Timothy 4:7-8), all the while keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. There is no greater example than Christ himself as he walked bloodied, bruised and whipped along the Via Dolorosa on the way to his crucifixion. Christ has provided us with the ultimate example of entering through the narrow gate and embarking on the narrow road while embracing his cross with love. By his example, we too are called to follow him in lovingly carrying crosses that are uniquely our own.

From the saints we learn the importance of staying the course. Saint Clare of Assisi once said, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.” St. Teresa of Avila also spoke of the link between following Christ and suffering saying, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”

We embark on the road knowing it is not going to be easy and that from time to time it will involve suffering – but it is the sure path for believers in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sure it’s bumpy, rough, and full of blind spots. However, if the believer is ever vigilant in looking out for pitfalls and snares, they will arrive at the end of their travels victorious. There may be road blocks to be dealt with, but at the end of the road the final destination of heaven awaits.

Particularly during these times we must pay attention to where we are going. Which road are you on? It is often during times of trial, when the rubber meets the road that we might be tempted to veer off and go our own way. Therefore, with all of today’s distractions, distortions and difficulties, let’s pray for Our Lord’s help in remaining on the narrow thoroughfare of this life so that we may be with him in the life to come.

Judy Keane

By

Judy Keane is a Catholic writer and a communications/marketing executive who resides in Phoenix, Arizona. She holds an MBA in International Business and is currently working on her first book.

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  • Ayad

    May God bless you and be with you always.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1051430677 Suzanne Graf Slupesky

    THank you!

  • Lee

    Wonderful teachers to follow. Thank you.

  • Marite

    I understand what you are saying, but is there another path less rocky and not necessary to carry a cross to have eternal life?

  • RamanieW

    A great article. Thank you and God bless you.

  • Carmen

    The Holy Spirit spoke to me, through your article, in a gentle, motherly tone. Thank you!

  • Steve

    Marite, I am simply a layman, nobody special, but I think I can safely
    give you a quick answer. Jesus said that if we wish to follow Him, we
    must deny ourselves and take up our cross (and following Him is the
    narrow path to eternal life). Everyone’s cross will be different, but it inevitably involves varying degrees of uncomfortable self-denial. I find these verses intimidating, but we
    are faced with some options: The first option, the one we must choose if
    we desire eternal life, is to realize the task is beyond our strength
    and therefore go to the Lord and ask Him daily for the grace to to persevere
    and follow Him. I believe going to Confession regularly and finding a
    good priest to be your confessor/spiritual director is essential in this
    task. St. Faustina certainly believed a good spiritual director is
    necessary to the Christian life. The graces and guidance received in this sacrament are absolutely amazing, even if we don’t always perceive their value. The other option is that we can see
    the enormity of the task and cower, and either abandon the faith
    altogether, or delude ourselves into following one of the many modern
    feel-good forms of Christianity; this second option may be very popular
    and comfortable, and it is very seductive, but it is not the narrow path
    that leads to life.
    I don’t know where you are in your life, but if you’re just getting started (or simply contemplating beginning the Christian life), it will seem very difficult and intimidating at first. Remember that we take these things in baby steps, one day at a time, and perfection isn’t a prerequisite to follow the Lord. God loves us, and even likes us personally, and wants us to follow Him on His terms, and He never gives us a task unless He also gives us His grace to do it. I don’t know if your question was merely hypothetical, or if you’re wanting to follow Christ but are unsure about your ability to do so. Either way, take courage, make use of the sacraments every week, and take the Christian life one day at a time, one step at a time. Hope this helps.

  • Matt

    Judy: Your retelling of St. Faustina’s vision shook my faith. My initial reaction to this was to ask how a loving God could allow so many of his children to blindly follow this wide path, seemingly blissfully unaware of their impending destruction. Or why that same loving God would make his faithful follow what seems like some macabre obstacle course of suffering to find salvation. I can only guess that a lot of the detail and nuance about real life was left out of this vision to make a point (one that I apparently missed). The vision leaves out that on the wide path there are many pitfalls and dangers (other than the big one at the end) of which the travelers are blissfully unaware until they hit them and hopefully turn to God in response. It also leaves out that while the other path is narrow and rocky that, like many hiking trails, there is great beauty all along the way even though the trail requires great effort to walk. Is it supposed to make us feel good to see all those people going off to destruction? For me, it assuredly does not! Now God has prompted me to ask him what I should do to win back a few of those souls, and I’m awaiting his answer. But I would be careful about presenting this vision without more explanation because it might just make people want to run away from God even more.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    I am struck by something in your post – ‘how could a loving God allow…?’ Ironically, this is the question we normally hear from people after some tragedy befalls others – and that is what usually shakes people’s faith. We rarely change unless pain or discomfort force us to.

    True story (she was a guest on EWTN’s Life on the Rock show) – there was a young woman who was a rising executive and had it all – and so had no need for God, and though raised in the faith, she just sort of pushed Him to the side & forgot about Him. It was not until she was in a car accident and ended up legally blind that she began to finally see! She saw her need for God & the direction she was heading.

    So many of us flee from suffering & in the process flee from God. I have talked to many young people whose attitude is “I want to have fun now; I’ll worry about that stuff later”. God IS telling everyone & will continue to tell everyone, but too many have their fingers stuffed in their ears because they ‘want to have fun now and worry about that stuff later’.

    Conversely, we look at some people whose lives are marked with suffering from beginning to end and there are many now who say it would be better if that person had never lived, as well as how can a loving God allow such suffering?

    Many souls are perishing in the flames of hell because too many Christians of today are wimps (myself included). If you read Church history, and the lives & writings of the saints, it is clear that souls are saved thru prayer & intense sacrifice (look at St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul – and St. Therese’s Diary of a Soul & how she saved the soul of a murderer about to be executed). We need to offer penance and reparation for the many, many sins of our day to save those souls who ‘want to have fun now’. That IS the rocky path, is it not?

  • Matt

    Thank you for your response.

  • Sam

    I thank you for posting this article because some people were saying that the catholic church is the wide gate.

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