The gospel reading for this 21th Sunday in ordinary times, year C, (Luke 13:22-30) outlines some critical considerations that require our attention. First, no one gets to heaven by accident (verse 24). Getting to heaven requires that we strive for it. The word “striving” comes from a root that describes athletic contests, fights, or struggles, which require great exertion to compete. No wonder St. Paul looks at Christian faith as running a race; a fight to the finish; a competition in which we must fight so as to win. Today’s gospel tells us that many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough to succeed, just as not everyone who enters a race wins. This is to say, following Christ is not for the faint hearted or for the armchair quarterback. Like every other good thing in life, we have to fight for it with the intention to succeed. As Scripture says, “What benefit is it for one to inherit the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul.”
Second, not all roads lead to heaven (verses 24-25). Not every life-style leads to eternal glory. The road to heaven is narrow and it is for those who have disciplined themselves enough to be able to walk through it. It is not different from what we do in life, when things are important to us. When one of my nieces was planning for her wedding, she got into a serious regiment to lose weight, so that she could fit into her wedding gown, and so did many of the girls in her bridal train. It is the same thing with heaven; it requires lots of trimming, lots of letting go, lots of sacrifices, creating lots of holy moments, so that the inner person will be trim enough to pass through the narrow gate. When it comes to getting into heaven, weight loss begins with understanding the need for a Savior and accepting Jesus Christ as that Lord and Savior; dealing with iniquities that create and cause sin in our lives; reconciling ourselves with God, self, and neighbor; trusting that there will be a day of judgment, a fact that does not depend on whether we believe it or not. Iniquity, sin, lack of charity, and unforgiveness, are the biggest fat-weights that make it difficult for us to pass through the narrow gate. It is important to realize that this narrow gate is also a closing door and we do not know the time or the hour the door will close.
Third, to hear about God and to be familiar with His work is not a visa to get into heaven (Verses 25-27). Many of the people, in the gospel reading, thought that they should be able to get in simply because they were familiar with God and the work of God. But knowing about God and to hear His word without knowing God doesn’t cut it. No wonder, the Lord said to them, “Depart from me you evil doers”. Heaven is about obedience to God’s word; daily choosing holy moments—moments when we set aside our self-interest and collaborate with God, in prayer, to do good for the sake of humanity and His kingdom.
Fourth, hell is a reality (Verses 28-30). Eternal damnation is the greatest disaster that can befall us as human beings. It is the experience of God’s unrestrained wrath. It is the fruit of depravity, unrestrained and unchecked; taking God’s word and warnings for granted and acting as though they do not matter. This is the destructive force of the modern world. May the good Lord save us from this presumption and assumption, for our own salvation, Amen!