I 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.