From the Pastor – August 21, 2016

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  (Lk 13:23-24).

What does it mean to be “saved”?  We use the word all of the time. We might save money by buying something on sale. We might save electricity by turning down the thermostat. We might save for a vacation, or save our breath when in an argument against someone stubborn. We might want to save the whales, save the rain forest, save the lake or save the cemeteries, to quote some international or local causes.

So what does that “someone” in the verse above mean when he asks Jesus whether “only a few will be saved.” The Greek word being used is from the root “Swttr” or “Soter,” meaning “Savior.” The word has the sense of “rescuing” or “keeping someone safe” or “helping one from being destroyed.”  But that’s the interesting part here.  Jesus’ response to the question isn’t what is expected.

First of all, Jesus doesn’t tell us how many will be saved” (so be wary if you hear someone give you a number). What He does is give a command to that “someone” who is asking the question. Jesus tells him to “strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  The interesting thing here is that the word “strive” is “agwnizomaia” or “agonizomaia,” from where we get the word “agonize.” So when the “someone” asks about being saved, Jesus tells him to agonize, meaning to struggle or to suffer. This doesn’t really sound like the right answer, does it? The “someone” is asking about being saved, and Jesus tells the “someone” to struggle and suffer.

The truth is that the only way this answer makes sense is in the context of Heaven. The “someone” wants to be saved from ultimate destruction and brought into eternal salvation. Jesus answers that it will take a lifetime of struggle and suffering. And why not?  That’s how Jesus accomplished our salvation – by struggling at the hands of evil men and my suffering and dying on the cross.

Life is a constant struggle.  And we can never be lazy and rest on our laurels. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say, “If we’re not going uphill, we’re sliding downhill.” If we’re not swimming against the current of the world toward Jesus, we’ll be floating down stream over the falls. Or as Jesus told us: “Unless you pick up your cross each day and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

The question “who will be saved?” or “who will get to Heaven?” is one we should always be asking ourselves. Jesus gave an answer to that “someone”: “strive to enter through the narrow gate.” But also remember one thing: that “someone” who is asking?  It should be us.  As Sheen once said: “The correct definition of a good Catholic is a Catholic who takes the salvation of his soul seriously.”

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty