The Pain of the Narrow Gate


    The football season is upon us. Yeah! It seems so long since last year's Super Bowl.  For the athletes, though, the season never ends. Our Bucs have been working out since last year’s ignominious flop to find a way to be somewhat better. The individual athletes have been lifting weights, running sprints, etc, all to prepare for the next four (or hopefully five) months. Their workouts have not been easy, but, as their trainers have drilled into them, "No pain, no gain."


    The second reading reminds us that this is also true regarding our the strength we need to live our spiritual lives. It is easy to voice our faith, but difficult to live it. A man can give a great talk, a woman can give a very beautiful reflection, but that is easy. Far more difficult is living the faith. I have met plenty of people, priests included who give wonderful talks, but don’t live the faith. This great spiritual leader has a sinful, secret life. He even justifies it by saying the Lord is leading him to do this or that. He is in the grips of the devil, the Deceiver. That spiritual leader learns that his teenage daughter is pregnant and encourages her to get an abortion. He is far more guilty than she of committing a serious mortal sin. He speaks well about Christianity, but fails when he must make a Christian choice.


    But then, there are those who may not be as vocal about their Christianity as others, but who know how to live their Christianity. You are like that. And hopefully I am too. If you have a child who suffers from a chronic ailment like cancer or cystic fibrosis, you know where you need to be and you will be there, with your child. This is not easy. Sadly I have encountered situations where parents have left a child alone in a hospital for weeks and then will talk about being Christians. They aren’t. The real Christian parents are those who do what everyone here would do for their children.


    A number of years ago one of our newly ordained priests was caring for a woman dying from cancer. He was shocked that she was getting no support from her husband of five years. So he called the husband up and said that he visited the man’s wife. In the conversation he asked the man if he could meet him in the hospital, and the man said that he had more important things to do, after all he and a life to live, hers was coming to an end.


    As upset as you and I could be at a guy who behaves like this, we have to realize that sometimes we ourselves are tempted to balk at the demands of Christianity. But we fight this off. We have to respond to the challenges of love.


    All of us have times that we feel we just can’t go on. The fight against an addiction in our lives or in the lives of someone in our family is an unending fight. Sometimes we are tired of fighting and we give in or we enable someone to give in. Sometimes we are so drained with the daily events of our lives that we feel overwhelmed when suddenly a member of the family comes down with a major, critical problem. We say to ourselves or, perhaps, to others, "I don’t know if I can go on."


    But we can go on. We have the power from the Lord.


    A while back, I was talking with Sr. Deborah at Guardian Angels School about the many times each of us feel overwhelmed with that which we must do as well as that which others expect from us, and many times rightly so. Sister is very wise. She said, "We can go on and we just do what we have to do." Ultimately, whether we are a Mom or Dad, a Teen or child, a priest or sister, our service is to the Lord through others. He gives us the strength to do what we need to do.


    "Lift high your drooping hands. Shore up your knocking knees," the Letter to the Hebrews says. "There is work to do. We have to do the work of the Lord."


    And that’s why we train. That is why we build up our spiritual strength. That is why we receive communion weekly, why we pray every day. The athlete can’t expect to win the race if he or she is out of shape. We can’t expect to triumph for the Lord if we are out of shape.


    The prayers that we are saying today will help us get through the crisis should one come tomorrow.

Not everyone is willing to do this. The vast majority of Western culture revolves around self-gratification. To love as Christ loved is love in a sacrificial way. Living like this, putting the needs of others before our own is not in keeping with society.


    The life of a Christian, a real Christian, is a journey along a road less traveled. The life of a Christian, a follower of Jesus leads through a narrow gate.


    We can do it. His strength, His love, his care, allows us to live His life. Jesus is the Victor. We share in his victory. The Olympic athlete wins a medal and a wreath. The Christian wins eternity and a halo.