Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk 13:22-30
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
We can infer a few things about salvation from these words of Jesus about the gate to salvation.
Firstly, it is a great grace to find this gate, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:14). There is no other gate. Despite the difficulty in traveling through this narrow gate and hard way, we should be forever grateful to God for revealing this narrow gate to us. A heart truly grateful for this privilege will go a long way in strengthening us for this difficult journey.
Secondly, this is a time for grace for us all now because the narrow gate is also open now. In Jesus Christ, this narrow gate is open to us so we do not lack for His saving grace. Because this gate is open to us now and we have access to these graces, there is always hope for any one of us no matter what the past has been. Our advancement and completion of this journey of salvation is always a possibility, “Some who are last will be first.” We must beg God insistently and confidently for all the graces that we need and place all our trust in this grace to save us.
Thirdly, this is a time for us to make consistent and relevant efforts for our salvation. The narrow gate also demands constant effort on our part if we are going to pass through it and enjoy the fullness of life with God. This is not a time to ignore our own responsibility to cooperate with the grace of God. Because this consistent effort can be lacking sometimes, “some who are first will be last.”
Someone who seemed to think of salvation as something automatic i.e., something achieved by God without any responsibility on our part, had asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus replied by stressing the indispensable need for responsible effort on our part, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
Though we cannot save ourselves by our efforts but by the grace and mercy of God, we must show our good will by making relevant efforts prompted and sustained by the grace of God. While trusting in the grace of God alone, we make consistent effort according to the dictum of St. Augustine, “God who created you without you, will not save you without you.”
But how can we make relevant efforts for our salvation while trusting in the grace of God if we are not disciplined? The undisciplined soul will either trust in its own effort and ignore the primacy and necessity of grace, or it will endlessly seek the help of grace without making any effort. It takes a truly disciplined soul to appreciate the gift and power of God’s grace and the necessity of making relevant efforts for salvation.
Jesus speaks of many examples of undisciplined souls who do not make relevant efforts in response to God’s graces. Their prayers are late and useless because they are not backed by any serious effort on their part, “Lord, open the door for us.” They neither responded to Jesus’ presence with them nor to His saving words, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” They did not show any sign of good will and thus earned the regretful rebuke, “I do not know where you are from.”
The letter to the Hebrews tells us that God uses the trials and hardships of life to discipline the souls of His loved ones, “For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He scourges every son he acknowledges…Endure your trials as discipline; God treats you as sons.” We are always God’s adopted children in Christ, even as we face sufferings and trials because we habitually possess sanctifying grace.
Moreover, He never ceases to give us actual graces in times of need out of His love for us. These actual graces move and sustain us in making relevant choices for our salvation. Thus, through those trials, the grace of God is training us for a disciplined spiritual life, a life that eventually “brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it” (Cf. Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, without being disciplined by the grace of God in and through the trials of our lives, we cannot cooperate with the grace of God by making relevant efforts all the days of our lives. Lacking this necessary spiritual discipline, we will lose hope because of the lack of visible results from our many efforts. We will be slow and reluctant in responding to the prompting of grace. We will excuse ourselves from making efforts. We will beg God to save us from our sins without making any effort to avoid occasions of sin. We will easily throw in the towel because of the challenges in the spiritual life. We will blame God and others for our struggles in life and become despondent. We will make efforts only based on our feelings and even public opinion.
We must allow the grace of God to discipline us so that we can consistently make the efforts necessary for our salvation. As disciplined souls, we will make constant efforts in repenting of our sins and in growing in holiness. We will not give in to that false humility that abandons striving for spiritual excellence because of our past failures. We will make effort to seek and fulfill the will of God in our lives all the time lest we earn His regretful rebuke on Judgement day, “Depart from me, all you evildoers.” We will make effort to love and serve God and others all the time. We will strive to keep the faith while enduring the trials and hardships of life because we know that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2Cor 4:17).
My dear brothers and sisters, in our Eucharistic Lord, the one and only gate to salvation, the narrow gate, is open for us now. God will never withhold any grace that we need for our salvation. Let us beg Him for great graces with confidence and boldness because we are always His beloved children.
But we must also remember that this grace is also meant to discipline us in our trials so that we make consistent efforts that effectively orient us towards our salvation. It is only by the grace of God and our continuous effort prompted and sustained by this grace that we can enter into the fullness of salvation merited and offered to us by Jesus Christ.
Glory to Jesus! Honor for Mary!