Today, as we celebrate our parish feast of St. Pius X, today's readings give us an opportunity to reflect on where we are going as a parish. I don't mean some kind of field trip, but what life is all about: Salvation, which is found through a narrow gate.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, speaking of heaven, says: “No misfortune should distracts us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind.” Ultimately, heaven is worth the challenge of getting there.
This past February I travelled to Buffalo, NY, to visit a close college friend for a few days of skiing and catching up with him. Driving over there in the winter, I was really pleased that I had perfectly clean roads as I carried into Ohio. However, things eventually changed after sunset. When I got around Erie, PA, a storm brewed up and snow was coming down hard, but the more I turned North, the crazier it got. Eventually, there were practically no cars on the road, and I could barely see a thing. Finally, all there was to see were my headlights, an unmarked mound of snow with a road somewhere beneath it, and every 4-5 seconds, the poles marking the end of the pavement on each side. Those poles were all I had to stay on this little path and carry through to get to my destination, and boy was I poking along and hoping things kept going well.
“No misfortune should distracts us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind.”
So in the Gospel today, we have a negative example, someone that we should not imitate: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” This person is either overly curious (and we all know what happened to the cat), or they are seeking this information for a purpose: “what is the least amount of work I need to do?” It is like a student viciously calculating what they have to do to get a good grade in school.
Jesus' response, then, avoids two bad results. First, if he says “hardly anybody,” then we would all fall into fear and forget why Jesus came to die on the Cross. Second, if he says “mostly everybody,” we would all then be prey to presumption, to lazily moving through life as if heaven was a given – and there are few things that will make our love for God fade away faster than like assuming on God's love, just as a married couple that doesn't show affection will eventually deteriorate.
Rather, Jesus says “Strive to enter by the narrow gate!” You yourself, stay focused! Keep your feet moving; keep your hands on the plow; keep your nose to the grindstone; keep your eyes on the road; keep your head in the game!
Strive! Becoming a Saint, which is what we are all meant to be about here, means striving! And let's not forget that this does not mean that we are 1. self-made, or 2. entitled, another pair of parallel traps. Saints are not self-made, as if they did it on their own. No, getting through the narrow gate to heaven means that we more and more allow God to re-make us, not we ourselves. Nor is it something that we expect to come our way as we just sit around. We have to strive.
Instead of asking in our hearts “What is the least I can do to be saved?” We instead follow our patron, St. Pius X, guided by his episcopal and papal motto: instaurare omnia in Christo. These words, borrowed from Saint Paul and prayed every Monday evening in the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, are known well to us: “renew all things in Christ.” (Eph. 1:10).
It is in Jesus that we are sanctified. This means the Cross. This means striving.
As a parish family, we strive together. We stay focused together. We allow ourselves to be renewed in Christ together, here, gathered around this altar. May it be so every single week, and may we never give up on the journey, because its worth it. St. Pius X, Pray for Us.