A woman arrived at the Gates of Heaven. She peaked through the gate and saw a beautiful banquet table. Sitting around were many of her friends and family members. When St. Peter came by, she said to him, "This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?"
"You have to spell a word," St. Peter told her.
"Which word?" She asked.
"That's easy! I knew this word since my kindergarten." She correctly spelled "Love" and St. Peter welcomed her into Heaven.
About a year later, St. Peter came to the woman and asked her to watch the Gates of Heaven for him that day. While the woman was guarding the Gates of Heaven, her husband arrived.
"I am surprised to see you," she said. "How have you been?"
"Oh, I've been doing pretty well since you died," her husband told her. "I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were ill. And then I won the big Texas Lottery. I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a huge mansion. And, my wife and I traveled all around the world. We were on vacation in Cancun and I went water skiing today. I fell and hit my head, and here I am. What a bummer! How do I get in?"
"You have to spell a word," the woman told him.
"Which word? Her husband asked.
Life is a journey with a beginning and an end. During this journey there are moments of joy and moments of sadness. There are works to do, projects to finish and missions to accomplish. There are decisions to make and choices to choose. There are questions to answer, puzzles to solve, problems to face, struggles to overcome, crisis to deal with, and events to celebrate. There are ambitions to reach and goals to achieve. Whatever it is! At the end, we will have to face a reality: What will happen to us? Where will we be in eternity? Will we be in heaven or in hell? “Will you be saved?”
The Narrow Gate
When someone approaches Jesus and asks him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He does not answer the question directly. He neither confirms nor rejects it. He simply says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” By saying this, Jesus implies that no one is automatically admitted into heaven. There is a road to follow, a gate to enter, and an effort to get into. The road to follow is Jesus Christ. He clearly says, “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He also says, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Those who come in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:7-10).
There are big gate and narrow gate to choose. Things are waiting for us beyond these gates. When we see a big gate and a narrow gate, we naturally would take the big gate. The big gate is easy to enter and to go through. The narrow gate is more difficult and slower to get through. When we enter a big gate, we can carry many things along with us. When we enter through a narrow gate, we cannot take many things with us. And Jesus is telling us, in order to get to heaven, we must enter through the narrow gate. Heaven is waiting for us beyond the narrow gate. In order to go through this narrow gate Jesus says that we have to ‘strive.’ 'Striving' means to try very hard to do something or to make something happen. Giving it all and putting every effort we have in order to get through that gate.
St. Thomas Aquinas was once asked by his sister what she must do in order to be saved. Without hesitation, St. Thomas replied, “You can be saved if you will.” She begged him to explain; and he replied: “if you have the will, you can abandon the vanities of the world, you can avoid evil, you can do good. If you will, you can do God’s will in all things. If you have the will, you can increase God’s grace within you, and by means of sanctifying grace you can be saved.”1
When sanctifying grace enters into our souls, sins are forgiven and our souls are enkindled in our hearts. Like an ordinary fire, when it is enkindled, we must keep on adding fuel to keep it burning. The sanctifying grace is our spiritual fire. Once it is set aglow, it is our duty to supply the fuel and feed the burning embers. The fuel to keep the fire burning is our love for God and for others and all the good things we do in God’s name. This is the only way Jesus would recognize us at the end.
Evil-doers and Holy-doers
It is important for us to listen to the exchanged words between the Master and the people.
The people say: “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our street!” This means “You were no stranger. You were very familiar to us. We knew you. We socialized with you. We heard your speeches. We followed you on the street etc.”
But the master says, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers.”
Evildoers are people who do things against God and God’s plans for humanity. Jesus is looking at our actions to identify us whether we are holy-doers or evil-doers. Jesus, the master, only recognize the holy-doers. Our actions and activities in life will tell whether we are holy-doers or evil-doers. Holy-doers will be welcome into heaven. And evil-doers will be cast out.
A Story to Reflect
A rich old widower spent the last years of his life on a sickbed. His faithful niece served him as a nurse while his three sons lived in different cities and never paid him a visit. But when they were notified of the approaching death of their father, they came at once because they wanted to be sure of getting their share of their father’s fortune.
The dying man was very wise. The night before he died, He called his lawyer and changed his will. He left each of his sons one dollar. The entire fortune was divided among charitable causes, and a large share was left to the niece who had served him so generously. When the sons were called in for the reading of the will, they were angered by the fact that their father had taken away from them what they considered to be their right. They declared that this was unfair. The lawyer explained that their father had a right to change his will and to take away their legacy because they had failed to fulfill their obligations as his good sons.2
We cannot demand God to give heaven to us. God makes heaven available to us, but he is not obligated to give it to us. He is a kind, merciful and generous God, but we are also obligated to him. Our obligation is "BE HOLY, AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS HOLY" (Mt. 5:48). We can be holy by striving to enter the narrow gate and be holy-doers.
Fr. John Kha Tran
1. Clement H. Crock, “Encyclopedia of Preaching: Divine Grace.”
2. Lawrence G. Lovasik, Treasury of Catechism Stories, “The Legacy” # 50.