Heaven Is Hard to Get Into
User's Guide to Sunday, Aug. 21
Sunday, Aug. 21, is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass Readings: Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117:1, 2; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
Today’s Gospel should make us stop and re-evaluate everything.
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” asks someone as Jesus journeys on his way. Jesus’ answer is essentially: Yes, only a few are saved.
“Many, I tell you, will attempt to enter” the “narrow gate,” he says, “but will not be strong enough.”
Heaven is hard to get into, and we need to be strong to handle a face-to-face relationship with Almighty God.
Jesus then describes the dialogue that those who want to be saved will have with the Master.
“Lord, open the door for us!” they will say.
“I do not know where you are from,” he will answer, because these people don’t truly know God.
“We ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets,” they will say. In other words, these are people who were open to faith.
His response: “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!”
Wow — these people who wanted heaven are “evildoers.” How can we avoid their fate? The rest of the readings give us some clues.
First: Be open to God in your intellect and will.
The first reading from Isaiah begins with these words: “Thus says the Lord: I know their works and their thoughts.” Then it explains how the Lord is gathering foreigners from all over the world to his side.
What does this mean? Going through the motions of a Christian life simply doesn’t work. God isn’t looking for people who checked off boxes — he is looking for people who have come to know him through prayer and spiritual reading and a lifelong, intentional moral life.
Second: Be open to the trials God sends.
“Endure your trials as ‘discipline,’” says the second reading, from Hebrews. “Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
When difficulties and sufferings come in life, we can easily decide that God doesn’t love us. We say, “Why me?”
But, says the reading, trials are signs that “God is treating you as sons, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
The more we meet hardship by praising God and showing faith that he is in charge, the closer we will be to him.
Third: Get ready for heaven by bringing others with you.
The Psalm gives the last clue: “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” Evangelization is a shortcut to all of the other means God gives us. You can’t evangelize effectively unless you train your brain and your actions and accept the hardships the Lord sends.
Besides, any journey requiring strength and purpose is easier if we go with a group. The journey to heaven is no different.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
His book, What Pope Francis Really Said, is available for preorder at Amazon.com.