Strait is the Gate, Jan Luyken (1649–1712), date unknown; published in the Bowyer Bible 1791–5

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 21 August 2022

Strive to enter by the narrow door.¹

A visiting lecturer to the seminary opened his first lecture by asking a question, “What is one of the fastest ways to heaven?” The seminarians were silent. He then told them the answer, “Become a priest.” The then asked a second question; “What then is one of the fastest ways to go to hell?” Again the seminarians were silent. So he told them the answer, “Become a priest.”

The disciples ask Christ a question about who will be saved. He doesn’t answer the question but instead addresses the people of Israel who were set apart as the children of God. That fact seemed to make them believe that they were secure in their relationship with God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were their ancestors to whom God first revealed himself and with whom he made his covenant. It was through Moses that the law of the Lord was received and given to the people of God. It was this inheritance that set them apart from the pagan gentiles, who were seen as second-class citizens.

Christ warned of this over self-confidence, and said those who thought themselves first might well end up last, and those deemed last will be first in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is being thrown open to all nations, languages and people as promised in Isaiah and being made a reality in Christ.

The means of entry is not to say, “‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.”² No the manner in which you may enter, Christ insists, is to “strive to enter by the narrow door.” That narrow door is Christ himself as he reveals elsewhere that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”³

The way isn’t easy, as to follow Christ into eternal life is to walk the way of the cross, to deny ourselves and follow him. In baptism we are given access to all the graces that heaven affords, so that we might be found in the heavenly embrace of the Father. Yet if we do not take up those graces and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to challenge and transform our lives we might find ourselves outside crying “Lord, open to us,” only to hear the response “I do not know where you have come from.”⁴

There will be little point claiming ‘But I am a catholic, a monk, nun, deacon, priest or bishop,’ if we reject God’s correction, wisdom and discipline for our own set of principles which sit more easily with our own lived-out morality. It is out of love and mercy that God provides the teaching of the Faith in the magisterium of the Church, because he longs to guide us into the narrow door which is the way of eternal life.

Which is the quickest way to heaven? And which is the quickest way to hell?

¹ Luke 13:24
² Matthew 3:9
³ John 14:6
⁴ Luke 13:25