“Strive to enter through the narrow gate…” (Luke 13:24)

One of the greatest examples for entering through the narrow gate to holiness was John Mary Vianney. He was the last in his class. In French and Latin, he was the last student. He failed in Theology studies. So, he was asked to leave the seminary. After that he was taught Theology privately and was ordained in 1815. Three years later he was appointed to the parish of Ars, a parish, where practically no one went to church. In a few years people began to come on pilgrimage to Ars. He became the most sought-after spiritual advisor. It is an example of last being first. John Mary Vianney was last but now he is the patron of parish priests. What has caused the miracle? The gracious touch of the Lord. This miracle will happen to anyone who tries to enter by the narrow gate; who disregards the standards of the world and sets his goal on high.

I think of what happens on the freeway or expressway when there is a bad accident. The police close off three lanes; only one single lane is open, which is like the narrow door. All the traffic slows down and at times comes to a complete stop because of the bottleneck. As I think of the narrow door Jesus refers to, I see people all bunched up like cars on the freeway, moving very slowly, trying to squeeze through the one open lane. Drivers are upset. They are fussing and fuming and making obscene gestures at each other. Cars and tempers are overheating. The bottleneck is a pain in the neck. Sin is like the accident on the freeway which causes all the trouble. This is not an inviting scene but is an image of what it means to get to Heaven. I realize that only one person has to get to that door. That person is Jesus Christ. And through that door he has passed in the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection. We do not have to force our way through that door. All we have to do is make sure we are united with Jesus, who is the door to heaven.

Jesus says: The gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction (spiritual ruin); but the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life (spiritual salvation). Every day we have to choose which road we will take. Spiritual ruin or spiritual salvation happens little by little every day. And every day we must choose whether we will enter the wide gate and walk the easy road, or enter the narrow gate and walk the hard road. Every day we must choose the path of spiritual ruin or spiritual redemption.

It’s not easy. Jesus said it wouldn’t be easy—it’s a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life. The spiritual journey many of us take during Lent reminds us that the adventure we are on leads not to a throne, not to a place or position of power, but a cross.

Fr. Charles Chidiebere Mmaduekwe