.- The way to eternal life is narrow because it is demanding, requires commitment and denial of oneâs own selfishness, Pope Benedict XVI said today in his Sunday angelus address. He was referring to todayâs Gospel in which Jesus calls on his followers to strive to enter the âânarrow gateâ to eternal life, because many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be ableâ.
âWhat does the ânarrow gateâ mean?â, the Pope asked pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. âWhy do many not succeed in entering through it? Is the way reserved for just a few elect?â
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, âthe message of Christ is actually quite the oppositeâ, the Pope explained. âAll 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 itâs demanding, asks for commitment, abnegation, and the mortification of selfishnessâ.
The Pope said that to pass through the narrow gate, means âwe must commit ourselves to being small, that is humble of heart like Jesus; like Mary, His and our motherâ. âChristians call upon Her as Ianua Caeli, Heavenâs Gate,â the Pope said. âLet us ask Her to guide us in our daily choices and take us to the path that leads to âHeavenâs Gateâ.â
The Pope added that Christ is the one Redeemer, âinviting 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 oneâs life to oneâs brothers. This is the single, universal condition to join the heavenly life.â
The Pope stressed that on the last day, âit is not on the basis of alleged privileges that we shall be judged but on the merit of our deeds. The âagents of iniquityâ will find themselves excluded while those who did good deeds at the cost of sacrifices shall be welcomed.â
The Pope added: âIt will not be enough to say that âI was a friendâ of Christ, and claim false merits such as: âWe ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streetsâ. True friendship with Jesus is expressed in how one lives; in the goodness of oneâs heart; in oneâs humility, kindness and mercy, in oneâs love for justice and truth; in oneâs sincere commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the âidentity cardâ that qualifies us as true âfriends;â it is the âpassportâ that will let us enter eternal life.â
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. âYou 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 Paulâ, the Pope said. âI pray that your visit will be a time of spiritual and ecumenical enrichment. May Christ keep you and your families in his love.â The Pope also welcomed new seminarians of the Pontifical North American College, and prayed âthat their formative years in Rome will help them to grow in wisdom and pastoral charityâ.