The narrow door
In a monastery in Alcobaca, Portugal there is a door that separates the dining-hall or refectory from the rest of the building. Monks in the Middle Ages had to enter through a single narrow passage. If any monk was too plump, he had to fast until he fit through. It is a memorable sight and tourists in this now disused monastery are invited to give it a try!
Jesus uses the imagery of a narrow door today. He answers the question ‘how many will be saved?’ with ‘how’ we are saved.
‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door.’ Admission to heaven like admission to anything has a cost. We are familiar with the need for appropriate dress or qualifications to enter many things. Certain qualities are necessary for membership of any club; admission or access can be denied; knowing the owner of the establishment is not sufficient; it has to be earned on merit.
Heaven requires certain terms of admission.
It is about making the necessary sacrifices. Presumption does not get us there; statements at the door such as ‘we know the owner’; he’s from my town’,’ he knows my people’ are simply not good enough. The Jews (Pharisees) felt that they could qualify by association. Jesus however makes it quite clear that salvation is open to all without distinction or preferential treatment but that all must find entry by the narrow door for heaven – and all must pass the same test.. Why the narrow door? It is the service entrance – humility and service – and suffering – as entry requirements.
In this Gospel Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to face His Passion death and resurrection. So the timing of this teaching is important for us to realise that the entry requirements entail imitation. But the road has a happy ending.
I think there are three things that are required of us: prayer, daily duty and sacrifice.
The first thing is perseverance in assiduous prayer, especially the daily rosary – for starters.
Secondly, I think we can sanctify our day by each day being faithful in little things – punctuality, discipline, diligence, honesty, reliability, integrity in speech.
Thirdly, accepting with submission the sacrifices that are unforeseeable that God sends us through others. Like the children of Fatima, God uses these for our and others’ salvation. I use the word “CATCH” to stand for what I sometimes experience, and indeed what all believers in Christ experience especially when they stand up for the truth:
C is for Criticism
A is for Anger
T is for Trials and Temptations
C is for Contradictions (things not going my way)
H is for Humiliation
What is required therefore for my sanctification is quite simple, but quite testing: how I handle any criticism, not complaining, bickering, or arguing, or flying off the handle, not having everything my own way, putting up with others, patient listening, being tolerant of others, and having the honesty and humility that others likewise have to put up with my faults.
The first reading speaks of people coming to Jerusalem with oblations in clean vessels. Only the pure of heart will see God in the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us try our best one day at a time the way of loving service, humility and surrender to God’s will for our station in life, all the while constantly praying to the Mother of God to pray for us ‘that we made worthy of the promises of Christ’.