Monday, August 27, 2007

Through the narrow gate

Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful during the Angelus prayer from his window at his summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

~from yesterday's Angelus, translated by Teresa Benedetta of Papa Ratzinger Forum:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today's liturgy proposes to us a statement of Christ which is illuminating but at the same time disconcerting. During his last journey towards Jerusalem, someone asked him: "Lord, will only a few people be saved?"

Jesus answers: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough." (Lk 13, 23-24).

What does this 'narrow gate' mean? Why will many not succeed in entering it? Is it perhaps reserved only to a few elect? In effect, we can well see that this has always been the reasoning by Jesus's interlocutors: there has always been the temptation to interpret religious practice as a source of privileges or security.

In fact, Christ's message is exactly the opposite: everyone can enter life, but for everyone the gate is 'narrow'. No one is privileged. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is 'narrow' because it is demanding, it requires commitment, abnegation, a mortification of our own ego.

Once again, as in the past few Sundays, the Gospel invites us to consider the future which awaits us and for which we should prepare during our pilgrimage on earth.

Salvation, which Jesus effected through his death and resurrection, is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites all of us to the banquet of immortal life. But on one and the same condition: that we must try to follow and imitate him, taking upon ourselves, as he did, our own Cross, and dedicating our life to the service of our brothers.

Therefore, this condition for entering into celestial life is singular but universal. On the final day, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel, we are not going to be judged on the basis of presumed privileges but according to our works.

So the 'workers of evil' will find themselves excluded, while those who did good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifices, will be welcomed. Nor will it suffice to declare ourselves 'friends' of Christ, alleging false merits: "We ate and drank in your presence, and you have taught in our squares" (Lk 13,26).

True friendship with Christ is expressed in how we live: it is expressed with goodness of heart, with humility, kindness and mercy, love for justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation.

This, we might say, is the 'identity card' that qualifies us as authentic 'friends' of Christ. This is the 'passport' that will allow us to enter into eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we wish ourselves to pass through the narrow gate, we should learn to be small, that is, humble of heart like Jesus. Like Mary, his mother and ours. It was she, first among all, who followed the way of the Cross behind her Son, and was assumed to the glory of heaven, as we remembered several days ago.

The Christian people invoke Mary as Ianua Caeli, gate of heaven. Let us ask her to guide us in our daily choices along the way which will lead us to the 'gate of Heaven.'

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