Why the Gate Is Narrow

As He makes His way to Jerusalem, Jesus is asked, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Jesus' reply is startling. He says that although many will attempt to enter (heaven) through the narrow gate, they will not be strong enough. He goes on to explain that many people will claim to be friends of God and will want to enter heavenly glory when they die but will be denied. This exclusion will cause much anguish in those who claim to have been close to God but will be found unworthy to enter heaven.

Why does Jesus give the impression that the attainment of heavenly glory is difficult? After all, doesn't God desire all men to be saved? While we believe that God desires all men to be saved, we often forget that salvation is realized according to God's terms and not merely what we interpret God's terms to be on our own. In other words, just because you may claim to love God, that doesn't necessarily mean that you love Him as He desires or expects.

This Gospel passage reminds us not to presume that all who claim friendship with God are in fact His friends. Jesus tells us that some will say, "We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets," as if to assert that the mere claim of friendship with Jesus should be enough for one to be saved. Later, Jesus will remind us, "If you love me, keep my commandments." This means that part of being found worthy of heavenly glory, involves the actualization of our potential, given to us at baptism, to believe, trust and love God as He desires.

 At times, individuals will confidently assert that they believe that they will go to heaven because they are nice people, even if they may be living in mortal sin. In their own estimation, they are worthy of heaven, even if by God's standards they are far from the kingdom. Jesus reminds us that such people will be quite surprised when they are left out of heavenly glory. To the surprise of these same people, there may be some who may enter into heavenly glory — the unassuming person, the unworldly individual, or those who were considered outcasts and unimportant in this life. Such people may have a better chance of realizing salvation than those who presume upon a favorable judgment from God at death.

This, at last, is why the gate is narrow. Believing in God, trusting Him and loving Him as He deserves and expects is the project of a lifetime. Stripping away our preconceived notions about what it means to love God and submitting our intellect and will to the mind of the Church, the bride of Christ, requires humility. It is the humble soul that never presumes that one can claim heaven on one's own terms. Rather, it is the humble spirit who is totally dependent on the gatekeeper and the gate, who is Christ Himself, who will enter the kingdom of heaven. The humble spirit is disposed to obeying God in all things, loving Him on His terms.

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  • Guest

    God loves you .

    For some part, I also realize that God’s narrow gate and His seemingly obscure pilgrim’s path has a singularity for each of us – for me. It is among His more important gifts to help me to find my way in His Way – uniquely mine, by His purposes for me, and His plan and will.

    We are of the communion of saints, and of His Mystical Body, to be sure. We are often in pilgrimage toward Home together.

    But, I will in humble and obedient love reach Him and His kingdom as He helps lead me, this one beloved child of His, on this my way and through this my gate.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    If my will is His, then He is my God, else leave me alone.


    Too many marriages are seen as a willful mommy or daddy, instead of willful Christ. Seen from a child point of view.  

  • Guest

    "While we believe that God desires all men to be saved, we often forget that salvation is realized according to God's terms and not merely what we interpret God's terms to be on our own."

    This sentence jumped out at me in Fr. Magat's article. The interpretation then of God's terms must be made by me as an individual but in conjunction and in communion with others. Otherwise it would leave me praying the "My Father" instead of the "Our Father". This is a major challenge for members of our society where "I did it my way" is not just a song, it's an admirable philosophy. Being humble and subservient members of a body that is for the greater good of all of us and not for my personal glory is not attractive to the human spirit at all. "Let your will and not mine be done". Incredible that He had that struggle too.

  • Guest

    I wonder what the person asking the question meant by "saved". Saved from what? Did saved mean the same to him as in does to us in 2007?  The article assumes it does, and it may well, but I am not so sure.  After all, the very Apostles did not understand the mission of Jesus Christ even after the crucifixion, and I don't think it is unreasonale to assume that the Apostles themselves would not have had a common underatanding of the work "saved". That undersatnding came later.  The understanding of the mission of the Messiah by the Jews (I think we can assume that the question was asked by a Jew) was anything but well-understood. The Suddaces and the Pharasies had very different understandings of what the Messiah came to do, and there would seem to have been other understandings amongst other Jewisih groups as well.  To assume that this particular Jew understood what Jesus said in the same sense as we would today, or to understand what  Jesus meant with His reply in the same sense of a twenty-first century Christian, is a long reach – we are all entitled to our own understanding, but that is highly improbable.

    I have also read discourses on the meaning of "narrow gate" that make more sense.  Those discourses, some by Catholic theologians, understand narrow gate to mean the realizaton of salvation by their own efforts, i.e., by the Tulmadic Law. Jesus' was speaking to a Jew about the difficulties that the Jews would have accecpting Him, and the change they would have to make in accepting Him to fulfill the law.

    Everything Jesus said was to Jews, was about the Jews, and is based on the Holy Spirit inspired Jewish understanding of their relationship to God and their worship of God.  Christ died on the cross as a practising Jew and will return to the Jews as a practising Jew.  It can be difficult and sometimes misleading to make what Jesus said conform to what we now conclude. 

  • Guest


    If I follow what you are saying, then Jesus was not saying anything to us? Then what are we to make of what the Church has to say about Jeus and His message? Is it an artificial construct devised by men after the fact?

    Maybe I am not following you.

  • Guest

    Valid point danny….. on one level. However, the fullfillement and understanding of Scripture is on several levels. There’s the historical, which you refer to, there’s the personal as it applies to me and my life and the spiritual, apocalyptic and end-time fulfillement. You can’t say that the Ancient and Timeless One had a mission for only Jews under Pilate’s rule and that particular understanding of the “narrow gate” is the preferred one.  St. Paul took that saving mission to the Gentiles and that’s where it blossomed. This is the understanding of Salvation that the Church teaches today. Also there are no references in the Bible that Jesus is coming back to the Jews, as a Jew. Certainly they are included and highlighted in His plan of salvation. Was not his rejection of the strict Talmudic interpretation the reason He himself was rejected?

  • Guest

    Goral:  The Bible says that Christ returns to the Mount of Olives, to Jerusalem in Israel, seat of the Jewish state, and governs Israel and the world from Israel.  "The Nations go up" to Jerusalem in Isreal to worship the King of Kings.  Christ died on the cross prior to the last cup having sat the Jewish Passover Seder (which He had begun the prior evening with the other practising Jews – the Apostles). Jesus never stopped being a Jew while still on the cross, His last words were from the Psalms, and there is no basis to believe that He will be anything else but a Jew when He returns. Even after Pentecost, the Apostles practised Judiasm at the Temple, and for many years after the destruction of the Temple they practised with non-believing Jews in various households.    

    Jesus Christ never rejected a single word of the Tulmad. How could Jesus Christ, The Word, rejuect the teaching of the Holy Spirit?  He rejected the legalistic, narrow, loveless interpretation of the Tulmad by the Pharasies. The Tulmad and the Torah were every bit as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the New Testament, and for the same exact reason.

    Christ was rejected by most of the Jews because they did not believe He was the Messiah, and that He came to oppose the Law (which He specifically said He came to fulfill) and not because He rejected any part of Torah (The Law), or Tulmad (the oral Law reduced to writing – same as what we Catholics call our Tradition). 

    I have to respond to your fourth sentence which starts – "You can't say that…….". 

    That is precisely what I am saying.  The Covenant (your word "mission") by Our Father with his chosen people (the Jews) was soley for them, unique to them, exclusive to them, and only for them, and Our Father went to painstaking efforts over the centuries to keep it that way. Believing gentiles were grafted to the Old Testament and brought forward into the New Testament with the believing Jews by the blood of Christ.  The Old Testament was never nullified, nor could it be because it is the eternal Word of God.  That Old Testament was only for the Jews.

    Rock: What I am struggling to say is that the sayings of Christ to his Jewish audience of the first century, were intended by Christ to be understood by those Jews within their then current culture and Holy Spirit inspired worship, and Holy Spirit inspired Jewish theology. How else could they understand it?  In which case those same words by Christ can, and normally would, be understood differently by twentieth century Christians with a different culture and and a theology that is now more developed by the Holy Spirit.  Which is not to mean that Christ has nothing to say to us, but instead that we better understand what Christ was saying to the Jews of that time when it is placed in their context – not ours.  It can change the meaning, and in the article by Father Magat I think it does.   

  • Guest

    Danny, I still say that you can’t say…… but now you forced me to go to verse and chapter. Romans 3:29-30 “ Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes of Gentiles also since God is one.”  The focus of the Gospels is on the final three days of His crucifixion and rising from the dead. Jesus, who is the WORD, without Him there’s no Scripture, came for the sole purpose to give His life for the world. Inclusive of but not exclusive to Israel. Jesus refers to Himself as Son of Man not son of Israel or David or Joseph. Why did He come to the Jews and focus most of His activity there? “It got focused on the Chosen People for the sake of the unchosen” (Mark Shea). God said to Abraham: “In you shall all the nations be blessed”. (Galatians 3:6-9) Then in (John 8:56-58) Jesus tells the Pharisees that “before Abraham was I AM”. So you can’t assign Him to one race of people. What is the commission of the Apostles: “Go into the entire world and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. This commission was new and foreign to the Jewish culture at the time. Finally “Thou art a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” not after the Levitical order of Aaron. Where there is a change of priesthood there’s also a change in the law. Paraphrased from Mark Shea’s book: Making Senses out of Scripture. I recommend this book for easy reading and an excellent explanation of the four senses of Scripture: Literal, Allegorical, Moral and Anagogical.

  • Guest

    I don't think Father is addressing the text when he interprets those who shall be last as those living in mortal sin who justify themselves wrongly, and those who shall be first as the unassuming people who fulfill the commandments and frequent the sacraments.

    What he says is correct in itself: mortal sin is bad; faithfully fulfilling the commandments and frequenting the sacraments is good. I think the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes is necessary to fulfill the commandments. There are some with imperfect understanding due to a lack of grace or their circumstance who may be living in what is objectively mortal sin, or may be members of even non-christian religions who will be given a very high place in heaven. It is disturbing to me to think that someone who fulfills the commandments and frequents the sacraments may not end up in heaven, but I'm not sure my being disturbed is a bad thing. Jesus seems to be trying to radicalize us the way St. Francis was radicalized in denuding himself of everything, but then again St. Paul tells us that just making ourselves poor ("handing our bodies over to be burned") may not be enough. Peace sometimes is an insufficient motivation for action. What do you think?


  • Guest

    I wonder if it would help to ask the question the other way around?  Or to look to the opposite.  What if the Jew asked, "Lord, will there be many unsaved?"  The man didn't ask if people would be screened according to their misunderstandings of salvation, he wanted to get an idea of how many would get the thumb up or down.


    In Christ,



  • Guest

    The Narrow Gate is the Cross.

    The method of entering:  Unconditional, Infinite love…no minimalism in Christ's message.

    The pharasees were looking for the Least they could do.  What is our strategy for attaining heaven?

    I think the scripture as a whole is clear.  Union with Christ is our purpose in life.

    I think the Song of Songs sumarizes the union to which we dare aspire.

    Christ, in His mercy told us the way:  The Narrow Gate of redemptive sacrifice.