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Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Lk. 13:22-30

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem where He was going to die for the salvation of the world. Someone asked Him, "Sir, will there be only a few saved?” Jesus did not answer his question directly but replied, “Try to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and not succeed.”

Jesus was saying that any worthwhile achievement in life involves self-discipline and hard work. Heaven is not just for the asking. Even knowing Jesus and rubbing shoulders with Him is not going to get us there. There are people who would say, 'But I did go to your Church - I was baptised, confirmed and married there' yet there was no personal contact or friendship. No wonder Jesus does not recognise them and will reply, “Away from Me all you wicked men!”

When Jesus referred to a narrow door what did He have in mind? Whenever He spoke of entering Heaven He used images of narrowness and smallness. Once before He had warned His audience that gaining access would be a difficult task, likening the entrance to the eye of a needle through which a camel might pass more easily than a rich man.

Squeezing through a narrow door is almost impossible for a person who is overweight or laden with baggage. We need to concentrate on what we are doing, shed that extra weight and leave our unnecessary baggage behind.

But first we need to identify the right door; we have to decide on a goal in life and focus our attention on it. If we are aiming for Heaven we must be single-minded in our approach, for we can easily be side-tracked by the concerns of this world. God knows that we have to be busy with our work, our families, our education. He has given us all these good things and He wants us to enjoy them, but none of these should be an end in itself - He wants us to use them to get us through the narrow door.

It may be that we don’t enjoy some aspects of our home life, our job or our studies, but by bringing God into all of these activities we make them holy. How can this be done with a difficult essay, a boring job or a pile of ironing? Think of two people who love each other very deeply. They would do anything for each other, even the most distasteful things, simply because of their love. So, too, if we love God above all things then all that we do, even the most difficult and boring jobs, will be made holy. We offer God all that we are and do, enjoyable and not so enjoyable. In this way our whole life is directed towards that narrow door.

Having set our sights on the correct door we have to make ourselves fit to enter through it. How could an overweight person wriggle through a narrow entrance? It would require dieting and training. Anyone who has tried to lose weight will know that that means discipline and determination. It means denying ourselves some of the delightful things we enjoy. Our spiritual life, too, needs trimming and shaping. If we fail to take regular exercise to tone up our muscles, they will lose their power. In the same way, if we don't make the effort to pray regularly, sooner or later we shall find that we have lost the ability to pray and we are spiritually weak. Healthy bodies need nourishing food. Our souls need to feed frequently on the sacraments which are our heavenly food. Pride, self-satisfaction and self-righteousness may taste very sweet, but they only damage our spiritual life. Like athletes in training, we must work every day to make ourselves fit to enter the narrow door.

As we make our way through life, we inevitably collect a great deal of spiritual baggage. We tend to carry with us a great weight of sin, guilt, worry, disappointment, sorrow, anger and much more. Each setback adds to the burden. But when we finally reach the narrow door we cannot go through it with this bulging weight on our back. How much easier the task would be if we could learn to throw away useless things as we go along. Do we dwell on past sins which have been forgiven? Do we harbour a grudge against someone, or nurse a grievance? ls there a persistent sin or fault we are reluctant to tackle? All this baggage will have to be discarded before we are able to slip through the narrow opening. How comforting it should be to think that one day we can lay down all our burdens at that door!

Lord Jesus, let us not be frightened, or disheartened, by what You said to Your questioner. Surely Your words should give us hope? Heaven is not restricted to the few, as the questioner thought, but is open to all who try their best. We can only do our best and then leave the rest to You.

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