Today’s Gospel presents a question that we have all asked at one point in our lives: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” We all wrestle with the notions of heaven and hell; salvation and damnation. We often wonder about whether few or whether many will be saved.
How should we approach this issue? Here is Bishop Robert Barron’s explanation.
“The doctrine concerning hell is a logical extension of 2 more fundamental truths – namely, that God is love and that we are free.
Love (willing the good of the other) is all that God is. He doesn’t go in and out of love; he doesn’t change his mind; he’s not loving to some, and not to others.
He is indeed like the sun that shines on the good and bad alike, in the words of Jesus. No act of ours can possibly make him stop loving us. In this regard, he is like the best of parents.
However, we are also free. We are not God’s puppets. Hence, we can say yes or no to his love. If we turn toward it, we open like a sunflower; if we turn from it, we get burned”.
Bishop Barron’s explanation makes perfect sense when we reflect on our Baptism. On the day we are born, we share in the fullness of human life; on the day of our Baptism, we share in the fullness of divine life. As today’s Responsorial Psalm indicates, God’s love is so “bounteous” that he communicates his own divine life to us through this sacrament.
Because God gives us his life, on the day of our Baptism, God becomes our Father. Since God is our Father, then, we are the sons and daughters of God. We are children of God. Since we are children of God, we are heirs of God.
Think about it. This is exactly what happens in our family life. For example, my wife and I have a will. The will stipulates that our 2 sons, our 2 children, will inherit whatever riches we have.
Since God is the perfect parent, the same reality is at work in the spiritual realm. As children and heirs of God, we inherit God’s riches. What riches do we inherit? Eternal life. As a result of Baptism, heaven is our right; heaven is our guarantee – but, we have the freedom to reject the inheritance.
Now let’s return to the question: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” Notice that Jesus does not give a direct answer. He gives no statistics, no percentages, no mathematical equations. Rather, Jesus encourages his disciples to “strive to enter through the narrow door”.
Jesus is implying that our salvation depends upon the quality of our discipleship. In other words, Jesus is saying to each of us: “Do not be concerned about numbers, do not be concerned about who will be in and who will be out. Do not be concerned about having a yardstick to measure or evaluate the lives of others. Rather, apply the yardstick to your life; As a child of God, focus on the quality of your relationship with God. Focus on your personal ‘yes’ to God”.
It is in this context that we need to understand Jesus’ strange remarks about people standing outside the door and knocking once the owner of the house has shut the door.
These individuals will hear very frightening words, “I do not know where you come from.” They will counter by saying, “We ate and drank with you and you taught in our streets.” But the owner still says he does not know them and tells them to go away.
Jesus is saying that it is not enough to be just in his company or to have heard his teaching. In other words, it is not enough to be a baptized Catholic and come to church every Sunday. It is wrong and dangerous for us to think that we are on the inside track simply because of our membership in the church.
What matters is hearing the Word of God and allowing that Word to change our lives. What matters is ability to discern the will of God for our lives as sons and daughters of God and to act upon it. What matters is the depth of our commitment to the Gospel values of love, forgiveness and compassion in daily life, rather than just relying on our religious traditions and customs.
As our Eucharist continues, let us follow the advice of the 1st Reading. Let us ask the Holy Spirit, who is there for us in our weakness, to help us to walk through the narrow door every day and all day. Let us ask God to help us to follow the path of love for God and love for our brothers and sisters. In this way, we will be accepting the inheritance that has been offered to us by our Baptism.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
October 27, 2021