Dear friends. The Gospel this weekend begins with the question of how many of us will be saved. In times past that many of our older parishioners will remember, there was a great fear that we might not be saved - by committing mortal sin we might lose the eternal happiness of heaven and end up in the fires of hell. Nowadays, we rarely hear of hell or of God’s judgment in homilies, despite the fact that Jesus frequently mentions them. We seem to have gone from one extreme to another in a short space of time – from always hearing about God’s judgment to never hearing of it at all.
The downside of this latter extreme is that human responsibility doesn’t seem to really matter. How we behave and if we sin or not is irrelevant for we will all end up in heaven anyway. This is a flawed assumption that floats around many a funeral that we attend in modern times. We don’t assume the deceased person is with God in heaven. We hope they are.
In the Gospel today, Jesus clarifies this issue of salvation. Make no mistake, it is the most important of issue of all. To bask in the love and presence of God for all eternity is truly heaven but to lose that possibility is truly hell and is the greatest tragedy of all. We are on our way to either destination by how we live right now. Notice in the Gospel how Jesus does not directly answer the question of how many will be saved but urges us to ‘try our best to enter by the narrow door’. With these words, Jesus teaches us to be faithful to him and the Gospel, to walk the narrow path that he has marked out for us. He warns us not to go with the great crowd but to embrace a life that is distinctly Christian – a way of life that requires us to make daily choices - to reject some things in order to accept others; a way of life that involves discipline, sacrifice and focus.
The second reading today speaks about God who trains those he loves to build them up and make them stronger. Also in the Gospel, Jesus asks to try, to strive and to reach for something of infinite value. Just as being a successful athlete requires commitment and training, so being a Christian requires a daily investment of choice, time, desire and commitment. In an age of cultural Catholicism, we are called to join the increasing number of those who want to be and strive to be intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
At the end of my life will I be saved? We don’t know for sure but it is something we all hope for, pray for and live for. It depends on God of course but it also depends on us. God cannot save us without us wanting to be saved. From today’s Gospel, being a baptised Christian is no guarantee. Jesus even suggests that many who were not people of faith will be admitted to paradise. What matters is whether or not we consciously choose him in a way that gives our lives a shape and form that resembled his own life of humility, service and love.
In obedience to the Lord in today’s Gospel, let us not get too hung up on being saved in the future but strive for holiness, integrity of life and fidelity to God in the present. To conclude with the words of St Therese of Lisieux ‘I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth’.