In the beginning God had a plan for us as the ultimate piece of his creation. Why were we the ultimate piece of his creation? He created us in his image, gave us his glory and gave us free will to always choose to be in his presence. If you read the creation story in Genesis you can see how God interacted with Adam and Eve daily; read it slowly one day and look for the intimacy. You will also read how Adam and Eve broke that relationship because they sought to seek self-glory rather than obey the one thing God asked them not to do.
Their disobedience cost all of us the life God desired to give us in that special place where there was no death, no sickness, no war, no hot or cold; everything was perfect. But God as he sealed the gates to Eden did not change his plan for us to be with him in that place. God set up a new way for us to obtain it not on our own merit but based on the work of the other two persons of the trinity.
God’s plan I describe as having three parts or phases as it unfolded. The first part involved the prophets and the patriarch we read about in scriptures. We see it unfolding with Abraham and Sarah as they become the two who would be the beginning of a great nation. Imagine how impossible that sounds to anyone who heard it. Abraham and Sarah, two people beyond child bearing years, but we know that is exactly what happened. The descendants of Abraham grew into a vast nation but ultimately were enslaved and cried out for mercy. God freed them with signs and wonders but because they failed to listen to him as Adam and Eve failed to listen they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Why is it we cannot learn this lesson of listening to God instead of doing it our way?
Finally entering the Promised Land, God’s chosen people continued to have those moments of great blessings and moments of great despair because they failed to follow God’s will. At this phase of our interaction with God he tells us how we will be able to once and for all attain that place of intimacy with him and life in his presence. Phase two of God’s plan involved the era of the prophets.
Phase three is described in the prophesies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In those prophesies we are told about the Messiah coming, the promise of God to put his Spirit in us and to change our hearts so we will automatically follow his will. Here again we encounter the problem we have – our inability to trust God’s plan – so we engage in things to please God. In doing this we are embracing salvation apart from the savior.
That was Adam and Eve’s problem – desiring to be like God’s when they were already like him. Salvation and intimacy with God is not ours by merit it is ours by grace. It is available to us if we only can recognize it and embrace it. This was the problem the Pharisees had with Jesus; he was from a non-descript family in a no nothing town, how could he be the Messiah. Again some people heard the message and became disciples and some rejected it following other voices including their own.
We know Jesus was the Messiah and we know this from our churches teaching and our own faith confirming it as truth. God’s plan for intimacy with us did not just involve Jesus dying for our sins but it includes the promise to send us the Spirit to change our hearts and to pour God’s love into our hearts.
So where does that leave us today as we hear from Jesus himself tell us the gateway to that place we are destine to be with God is narrow. If God desires us to be with him in that place why not make the way wide and easy to find? Can these words of Jesus in today’s gospel be true? If so they are hard to take; Jesus is saying all the good things we do for God are not the things that open that narrow door for us.
He is telling us the fact we are obedient to the laws of God and the Church do not earn us entrance through that gate. The fact we are on teams that serve the poor do not earn us entrance through that gate. The fact we are faithful in attending mass each week or even daily does not earn us entrance through that gate. The fact we teach the young, the teens or adults will not earn us entrance through that gate. The fact we go to pray with others, go to bible studies, and bring the Eucharist to others will not earn us entrance through that gate.
My brothers and sisters those are the words of Jesus not mine but God’s plan has not been altered or changes – he desires us to be in his presence in that perfect place and in an intimate relationship with him now – today in the kingdom of God on earth and ultimately in heaven. The key to kingdom living is to let the Holy Spirit guide us into an intimate relationship with God.
The gate is narrow for it is Jesus himself – “I am the sheep gate” he told us – there is no other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ. Kingdom living begins and ends with us entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has always wanted our hearts to respond to his love. That is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives to change our hearts so they burn with fire for God’s word, his presence, his touch, his forgiveness and his joy to surround us. The things we do daily for the kingdom flow out of God’s desire for us to use our gifts to show others his love and ours for him. When that happens the narrow gate becomes as wide as God’s love.