Wednesday October 27, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 6:1-9) Gospel (St. Luke 13:22-30)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, makes very clear to us a point that we all know but that we do not like to think about, or that perhaps we have forgotten, that is, that entrance into heaven is not an easy thing. We live in a society where what is prevalent is what I call “cheap salvation”: “Just believe in Jesus and you are going straight to heaven.” It does not work that way; it never has. But, unfortunately, even Catholics have been affected by this. Therefore, it has gotten to the point where the idea of entering through the narrow gate has somehow or another been translated into “the wide, easy road that leads to heaven”; it is exactly the opposite, if we recall correctly. The Lord is telling us that the way to enter into heaven is very difficult and that we have to go through the narrow way, and He tells us that many are going to try and very few are going to enter.
For the Jewish people to hear this, of course, was also something that was difficult for them because He says, Many will come from the east and the west and the north and the south and they will enter and recline at table in the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves will be outside. For them, they were looking at it saying, “Well, no, we’re the ones that have salvation,” and the Lord is letting them know that it is much bigger than they. In fact, they had been given the fullness of truth at that time and what did they do with it? They used it against themselves. They were going to be held responsible to a greater degree because they had the truth.
Well, now we truly have the fullness of truth in Jesus Christ, so how much more responsible are we? Many, many times more responsible. So we need to look very seriously at the question of how we are living our lives. Saint Paul reminds us that God is going to reward each one according to the good that he has done. That is what Our Lord tells us too, that we are going to be judged according to our deeds; certainly, according to our faith as well, but not on faith alone. And even that “faith alone” is not the Protestant concept of faith alone where it is just this confident belief that “Jesus died for my sins so therefore I’m going straight to heaven.” That is completely heretical and condemned outright by the Church! Faith not only has that element, but also it has a dogmatic element; it is to believe in every single thing that the Church teaches because, once again, the truth is Jesus Christ. If we refuse to believe something the Church teaches, we are saying that we refuse to believe in Jesus Christ in the fullness of Who He is, that we are going to pick and choose what we want about Jesus. Jesus is God; if we want to pick and choose what we want about God then we may as well just be with Satan because that is what he wanted to do too.
We have to realize that these points are very important for us to understand, that we have to accept and embrace the fullness of faith but we also have to live it; and not just in external things, because Our Lord tells us what it is going to require. If we believe in Him, we are going to have to take up our cross and follow Him. He commands us to love, to love our neighbor, to love God. He does not just say, “Walk through the external observances and think that you’re justified.” In fact, Saint Paul makes it very clear when talking about the Jewish people that no one is going to be justified by works of the law. So if we decide that we want to become “Catholic Pharisees” and just do the works of the law and simply go through the external motions, that will not get us to heaven. In fact, the Lord will say, Away from Me; I do not know who you are, and we will say, “But I went to daily Mass; I was with You everyday; I received Holy Communion,” and He will say, Away from Me, you evildoer; I do not know who you are.
Unless there is truly love present, unless we are seeking God with our whole heart and soul and strength as we have been commanded to do, unless we are seeking perfection as we have been commanded to do … These are not options. People want to look at these things and say, “It’s impossible.” Yes, for ourselves it certainly is, but not with God. Why do we not trust Him? Why do we not have faith in Him? He has made the promise and He will carry it through if we are willing to trust. These are hard things, but the Lord said that was the way it was going to be. It is the narrow gate. It is the rough road that leads to life. The wide, smooth, easy road that most Americans want to walk on of easy salvation, that is the way that leads straight to hell. It is time that we get off of it and get on the right path if we have not been, that we embrace what it is that we profess and put it into practice so we will be able to enter through that narrow gate and recline at table with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.