When I was in the major (college) seminary, one of my formators, a priest, came into the classroom one day and asked my class, “My dear seminarians, what is the easiest way to heaven?” We were not sure of what to say, so he answered, “The easiest way to go to heaven is, become a catholic priest.” We were all impressed and applauded. He then asked another question, “What is the easiest way to go to hell?” We had no idea, so he answered, “The easiest way to hell is, become a catholic priest.” Seeing the confusion on our faces, he went on to explain that as a catholic priest, you have all it takes to go to heaven; however, misuse of those graces can lead to hell. He also added, “The fact that you have the recipe, and the ingredients does not mean that you cannot go hungry; it is still possible for you to die of starvation if you don’t use them.”
Sometime ago, there was a catechist in a rural parish. Some parishioners told the parish priest of some of his bad behaviors. The priest was not courageous enough to confront him directly, so he decided to use the pulpit to address him. On the first Sunday, the priest preached against all the things the catechist was guilty of without mentioning his name. After the Mass, he was so happy with himself having given the catechist a piece of his mind. But the catechist came up to him and said, “Father, that was a great homily; I just hope the people listened; they needed to hear what you said today.” On another day, it rained heavily, so only the catechist and the priest were at Mass. The priest took advantage of that to repeat the same homily so the catechist would know the message was for him. After the Mass, the catechist came to the priest and said, “Father, I think today’s homily is your best homily so far, but unfortunately, those who were supposed to hear it were not at Mass today.”
Luke continues to give us the account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. At this point, someone comes up to Jesus to ask, “Lord, will only a few people be saved? This is supposed to be a question requiring a “yes” or “no” answer, but Jesus is known to turn such a hypothetical question into a personal challenge. So, he avoids talking about the number of people to be saved and challenges each listener to strive to enter the Kingdom of God. Each person has to strive because many will want to enter, and the gate is narrow. Earlier in Luke 10: 29, a lawyer came to ask Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In answer to him, Jesus avoided the hypothetical question and redirected his attention to the lawyer by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. The story was meant to challenge him to think of how to be a neighbor like the Good Samaritan rather than asking about who his neighbor was. In Matthew 16: 13ff, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” The disciples quickly began to answer telling Jesus about other people’s opinions, but when Jesus further asked, “But who do you say that I am?” They became silent; only the voice of Peter was heard. The main challenge of religion lies in the practical application to individual lives and real-life experiences. When it comes to the theory, so many are active, but when the light begins to shine on individuals, only few will remain standing.
Jesus continues to explain that on the last day after the master has locked the door, the people outside will be showing their credentials saying, “Lord, open the door for us…we ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets.” But the master will deny ever knowing them; their credentials will be of no benefit. Rather than help them, their credentials will even get them into more trouble. Remember, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” So those who claim Jesus taught in their streets will be in for more trouble because they knew better, but they did less. Therefore, the priesthood will not be an automatic ticket to heaven. Being a nun, a Catholic, a theologian, attending a catholic school, etc. is not an assurance for heaven; if anything, such may even get us into more trouble if we don’t act accordingly.
Jesus adds that the pain of the people outside will be much when they see the caliber of people inside. Those people inside will include people from the east and the west, from the north and the south. This will be a fulfillment of the first reading from Isaiah that God will gather people from every language. People will not be judged based on their race or language, but on how much love they showed. Those who thought they were in charge on earth will be surprised to see themselves outside, while those they looked down on while on earth will be enjoying inside. This warning is real; those who think they are standing now must be careful; those who sit in judgment against others must re-channel their efforts into loving more and judging less, for not only is the door narrow, but the door will be permanently closed one day, so, enter now, while you can!