The way to eternal life is narrow because it is demanding, requires commitment and denial of one’s own selfishness, Pope Benedict XVI said today in his Sunday angelus address. He was referring to today’s Gospel in which Jesus calls on his followers to strive to enter the “‘narrow gate’ to eternal life, because many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able”.
“What does the ‘narrow gate’ mean?”, the Pope asked pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. “Why do many not succeed in entering through it? Is the way reserved for just a few elect?”
The Pope said it is often a trap and a temptation to interpret this passage as a reference to religious practice as a source of privilege or security. But in reality, “the message of Christ is actually quite the opposite”, the Pope explained. “All can enter eternal life, but for everyone, the door is narrow. They are not privileged. The path to the eternal life is open to all, but it is narrow because it’s demanding, asks for commitment, abnegation, and the mortification of selfishness”.
The Pope said that to pass through the narrow gate, means “we must commit ourselves to being small, that is humble of heart like Jesus; like Mary, His and our mother”. “Christians call upon Her as Ianua Caeli, Heaven’s Gate,” the Pope said. “Let us ask Her to guide us in our daily choices and take us to the path that leads to ‘Heaven’s Gate’.”
The Pope added that Christ is the one Redeemer, “inviting us to his feast of immortal life, but on one and only one condition, that of following and imitating him, bearing as He did our own cross and devoting one’s life to one’s brothers. This is the single, universal condition to join the heavenly life.”
The Pope stressed that on the last day, “it is not on the basis of alleged privileges that we shall be judged but on the merit of our deeds. The ‘agents of iniquity’ will find themselves excluded while those who did good deeds at the cost of sacrifices shall be welcomed.”
The Pope added: “It will not be enough to say that ‘I was a friend” of Christ, and claim false merits such as: ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets’. True friendship with Jesus is expressed in how one lives; in the goodness of one’s heart; in one’s humility, kindness and mercy, in one’s love for justice and truth; in one’s sincere commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the ‘identity card’ that qualifies us as true ‘friends;’ it is the ‘passport’ that will let us enter eternal life.”
After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father especially mentioned 27 cyclists who today completed 1600 miles in 16 days, cycling from Canterbury Cathedral to Rome along an ancient pilgrimage route. “You have cycled the traditional Via Francigena, following in the footsteps of so many men and women of faith on their way to the tombs of Peter and Paul”, the Pope said. “I pray that your visit will be a time of spiritual and ecumenical enrichment. May Christ keep you and your families in his love.” The Pope also welcomed new seminarians of the Pontifical North American College, and prayed “that their formative years in Rome will help them to grow in wisdom and pastoral charity”.