Today in the gospel, Jesus is asked if only a few are saved. We are hoping that he would just say: no, no everyone is saved. Rather, he somewhat agrees and says that we need to strive for the narrow gate. Many will seek it but will not be strong enough.
The gate we are looking for is the gate to heaven, the door to God, the door to everlasting life. This reminds me of something. One night I was flipping through the channels and came across CNN and Larry King Live. The guest that night was Pastor Joel Osteen. Have you ever heard of him? He was promoting his book Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to living your full potential. Now Joel is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston Texas, where they get up to 45,000 people a week in this church. So Larry asked Joel a question: Will I who am Jewish go to heaven? He was asking if he could go to heaven without believing in Jesus. You could tell that Joel was really uncomfortable, I would be too. He basically answered that he didn't know, for him Jesus was important for salvation, but he didn't want to judge anyone.
Now this answer was ok, not great. I think Larry was looking for a fight and it was probably wise of Joel not to give it to him. Still I have wondered for years what I would have said if I were on the program. What I've decided is that there is a problem with the question. What is heaven? Is heaven the fluffy clouds and our wildest dreams? We talk about heaven often, but do we ever define it? I would define heaven as communion with God. Human beings were made with a capacity for love and communion. These desires can only be perfectly fulfilled in our communion with God.
So this is what heaven means. We were made to be united with God, and heaven is union with God, it is the fulfillment of all our desires. But, we have to ask: why don't we have this communion. If I were made for this communion, why don't I have it automatically? Sin! Original sin messed up our communion with God. Original sin severed the connection between God and humanity. But, God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son so that all those who believe in him might not perish, but might have eternal life. Jesus is the only way to heaven. In fact, Jesus is heaven. Heaven means we are united to Christ, part of his body. Our communion with him means perfect communion with God, also known as heaven. There is no heaven apart from Christ. It is not so much that one can go to heaven without Christ, rather there is no such thing as heaven apart from Christ.
I would have told Larry: I don't know if you are going to heaven, but I do know one thing, the only heaven there is is communion with God in the person of Christ. Everyone that goes to heaven will only go to heaven through the person of Jesus. Because it was through his death and resurrection that eternal life is possible.
In the death and resurrection of Jesus we have found that narrow gate. Certainly the way is difficult, for it took Jesus his very death and resurrection. The gateway to heaven is the cross of Christ. If we realize that the doorway to heaven is the suffering of Christ it helps us to understand how we are to enter through that gate. Through the grace of Christ we become strong enough when we bear with our sufferings and trials. Jesus saved the world through his suffering, when we join our suffering to that of Christ, we become strong enough, by God's grace, to enter the kingdom of heaven.
God calls many, in fact God calls all nations. Yet, there is only one way to heaven: through the suffering of Jesus. The only gateway to heaven is the cross of Christ. When we are united to Christ in our sufferings we become united to him forever.
As we turn now to receive the Eucharist we can offer our whole lives to Christ, be more intimately united to him so he can give us strength to enter through the narrow gate of the cross to the everlasting life of heaven.