Will we be saved? Will we go to Heaven? Ah, those are big questions for which at this moment or at any moment we simply do not have an answer, even if our non-Catholic friends tell us again and again that they know they are saved. In Catholic Theology salvation is a GRACE from God, indeed, but it is also a process of allowing that Grace of God to take over our lives until we can say with St. Paul: "I no longer live but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2, 20). And therefore that requires time; it is a journey, of sometimes ups and downs, of failures and successes, walking in the light of the Lord who wants all to be saved. It is not I was saved on Jan. 21, at 4:00 p.m. as some proclaim. It is a journey, it is a process during that journey and process "we work out with fear and trembling" as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Philippians (2: 12), a process, a journey, not a moment in time. But God's Grace is always there to sustain us during the process of perfection.
The image that Jesus uses in the Gospel of Luke of entering through the narrow door could be somewhat disheartening. Most scholars affirm that the narrow door refers to Jesus himself, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. However a mere superficial acquaintance of Jesus is not sufficient to achieve such a goal. One needs a commitment both to the person of Jesus as the Son of God and to the Doctrine he has left for us as a legacy of the Father. That is only secured by an active faith that is truly lived from day to day and from year to year. His mission was to be sent by God the Father to save us from damnation but also to teach us about the way to relate to God and to one another. His gospel of Good News may seem easy to read but requires an adherence to Him, to His doctrine, and to the Deposit of Faith as it is held in the Catholic Church, the very continuation of the Mission of the Father after Jesus went to be at his right hand with his Ascension. Humility, surrender, fidelity, the truth of God, justice, a witness to others, a Christ-like life, will allow our entrance through the narrow door.
No doubt the teaching about the narrow door stunned many of his listeners and especially the experts in the Law of Moses who had everything down to the last iota in their concept of fidelity to God. In that way Jesus is a revolutionary who taught new concepts about God and religion and no doubt shook the regularly accepted categories of salvation. The Jews thought that by being the sons of Abraham and knowing the letter of the law would be sufficient for their salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of God. Non Jews certainly will be excluded from the Kingdom. But Jesus comes to extend the parameters of God's salvific concerns, stating one time that even prostitutes and public sinners like tax collectors will precede them into the kingdom of heaven. That must have been surely a shock for all those who heard him.
How about for us? Again the question: Will we be saved? Will we go to Heaven? Again the concept of discipleship will be at the core of our identity. Who we are as Christians and as Catholics will have a bearing in us as we prepare ourselves, from day to day, from year to year to receive the generous offer of Grace and Glory God wishes to impart to us. In the end everything is a GIFT as St. Paul says. That is also the last line of the famous novel by the French Catholic author George Bernanos (1888-1948), in his book Diary of a Country Priest. After all the trials and errors and suffering and addiction to alcohol, the priest dies in the room an ex-priest had lent him out of charity. The priest's last word at the end of the novel, as he lies dying, is to trust in the mercy of God because ALL IS GRACE. This year we celebrate the JUBILEE OF MERCY. Appropriate, indeed.
May that mercy and that peace of God be ours at the end of our life,