He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13:24).
Jesus offered this answer to the person who asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” Jesus’ parables about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven (cf Mt 19:24) and the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) also reveal to us that what we say and do in our lives regarding the welfare of others matter. Are we building walls or bridges regarding our relationship with God and one another, are we including or excluding?
There are many distractions, diversions, and temptations that pull at us. When we give in to them, we can strain or even break our relationships. Jesus said many will not be strong enough, and on our own he is right. St Paul also realized this, for he wrote, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:19). How many of us could say the same?
Relationships are not easy in the best of circumstances, this is true on the human level as well as the spiritual. St Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Spanish saint, and doctor of the Church, shared openly with Jesus once after being thrown from a carriage into a mud puddle, “If you treat your friends so poorly, it is no wonder that you have so few!” I relate to the honesty of this quote. My maternal grandparents had the same kind of open, unfiltered relationship with each other. To an outsider looking in, they would have missed the depth of love they had developed for one another for over sixty years and which continued to grow into their last days.
Authentic relationships demand that we go through the narrow gate of love. Love is more than emotions or feelings. We must grow in our willingness to sacrifice, to be committed, to be understanding and forgiving, to be present, to risk being vulnerable, to be honest, to respect boundaries, to share who we truly are with one another, free of any pretense or masks. On our own, we are not strong enough to persevere, but with God, we will remain faithful.
My grandmother told me to take the time we needed to get to know each other, but once we knew, not to wait too long. We didn’t. JoAnn and I were married six months after we started dating. Each of us brought our own baggage, wounds, and mistakes, yet each year was better than the one before because we grew closer to God. We became more patient and understanding, we empowered and were there for each other. At each of the crossroads that arose over our twenty-four years, we chose the narrow gate. We loved Jesus and each other and our relationship continued to grow.
Jesus invites each and every one of us to take His hand today and every day, so we can help others do the same. Who then will be saved? Not those who believe they are worthy, but those who are willing to enter the narrow gate, to love others as He loves us.
Photo: Visiting my grandparents before moving to Florida.