A HARSH PHRASE
It is without doubt one of Jesus’ harshest phrases to the ears of contemporary people: «Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door». What could this Gospel exhortation mean today? Do we need to go back again to a Christianity of gloom and warning? Do we need to enter again by the path of a narrow moralism?
It’s not easy to grasp precisely the intention of the image used by Jesus. The interpretations of experts differ. But all agree in affirming that Jesus is exhorting effort and personal renunciation as indispensable attitudes to save our life.
It’s couldn’t be any other way. Though a permissive society seems to forget it, effort and discipline are absolutely necessary. There’s no other way. If someone wants to reach their realization by the path of what’s nice and pleasing, pretty quickly they will discover that over time they’re less the master of themselves. No one reaches a really valuable goal in life without renunciation and sacrifice.
This renunciation mustn’t be understood as a stupid way of doing damage to oneself, depriving oneself of the pleasing dimension that involves living healthily. It’s a matter of taking on the renunciations that are necessary to live with dignity and positively.
Thus for example, true life is harmony. Coherency between what I believe and what I do. This personal harmony isn’t always easy. To live coherently with oneself demands renouncing what goes against my conscience. Without this renunciation, the person doesn’t grow.
Life is also truth. It has meaning when the person loves truth, seeks it and walks behind it. But this demands effort and discipline; renouncing so much lying and self-deception that disfigures our personhood and makes us live in a false reality. Without this renunciation, there’s no authentic living.
Life is love. Whoever goes about closed into their own interests, slave of their ambitions, could accomplish many things, but their life is a failure. Love demands renouncing selfishness, envy and resentment. Without this renunciation, there’s no love, and without love there’s no growth in the person.
Life is gift, but it’s task. To be human is a dignity, but it’s also a chore. There’s no greatness without detachment; there’s no freedom without sacrifice; there no life without renunciation. One of the most serious mistakes of a permissive society is to confuse «happiness» with «easiness». Jesus’ warning preserves all its weight even in our day. Without renunciation we don’t gain either life here or life eternal.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf