August 24, 2016

So let's get this straight:

  • We will be disciplined (Heb 12:7)
  • We have forgotten the teachings of our youth (Heb 12:5)
  • Many will not be strong enough to be saved (Luke 13:24)
  • The Lord will say to many, "I do not know where you are from. Depart from me you evildoers!" (Luke 13:27)
  • And, to top it all off, there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. While we watch Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob rejoicing in Heaven, nonetheless. (Luke 13:28)

This past Sunday's readings can paint a pretty bleak picture. Honestly, it kind of should shake you up a bit; if your heart is truly set on heaven, it should affect you if you hear that the way is difficult and many won't arrive, both for the sake of your soul and the souls of the people you care about.

But I only picked and chose the worst of the worst news from these readings. What if we pluck out the grains of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty from the same day's readings:

  • The Lord comes to gather people together. (Is 66:18)
  • God treats us as sons [and daughters] (Heb 12:7)
  • The aforementioned discipline brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11)
  • People will come from all directions and recline at table in Heaven (Luke 13:29)

When we look for the voice of the Father, it can get colored so easily by our expectations. When passages of divine tough love come about, we see what we look for: if we look for tough, we get tough, and if we look for love, we get love. Further still, we pile our own imperfect experiences of fatherhood on top.

 

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household (aka the person who preaches homilies to the Pope, among other duties), uses the language of the narrow and wide paths to explain how we focus on the early parts of the journey, but don't always think about how things progress after we reach the Narrow Gate:

 

"Why are these ways respectively called "narrow" and "wide"? Is it perhaps that the way of evil is always easy and pleasant to follow and the way of goodness always hard and tiresome?

 

Here we must be careful not to cede to the usual temptation of believing that here below everything goes magnificently well for the wicked and everything goes terribly for the good.

The way of the wicked is wide, but only at the beginning. As one goes down this way it gradually becomes narrow and bitter. In any case, it becomes very narrow at the end because it finishes in a blind alley.

 

The joy that is experienced in it has the characteristic of diminishing more and more as one tastes it, and it finally causes nausea and sadness. We see this in certain forms of intoxication experienced in drugs, alcohol and sex. A larger dose or stronger stimulation is needed each time to produce pleasure of the same intensity.

 

Finally the organism no longer responds and it begins to break down, even physically.

The way of the just is instead narrow at the beginning, when one starts off on it, but it then becomes a spacious boulevard because hope, joy and peace of heart are found in it."

 

-Fr. Cantalamessa, Enter through the Narrow Gate

The beauty of a life lived in Christ is ultimate surety in how things end. Christ is the victor, 100 times out of 100. After every Good Friday comes and Easter. Resurrection, Life, Love, Self-GIft, and Presence are the language and hallmarks of our God.

Praised be Jesus Christ, the Narrow Gate through whom we spend eternity with our Creator, Redeemer, and Lover.

Frassati NY