I often get the impression that people see some of the other world religions as much more challenging than our own. The Muslims often seem to be much stricter in living out their faith than we are and it is very impressive. Buddhists seem to have great discipline and meditation. We can appear to be a bit too easy-going sometimes, especially for younger people with high ideals. However, I think that we forget how demanding our faith can be too. Jesus was quite definite about what you could and could not do. And when asked a direct question, he gave a direct answer.
There is an idea around today that really the best thing to do is to make your own of our faith. Take the bits that work and that suit and dump the rest. After all, what do those men in Rome know anyway?! They are out of touch with the real world. This is a mistake for the simple reason that faith doesn’t work like that. We can not take certain parts and leave the rest. We must be prepared to come to the Lord on his terms and not on our terms, even though this can be very difficult sometimes. This is why Jesus talks about entering by the narrow door. ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door…’ It is the more difficult way, but the way that leads to God.
What is this narrow door? It is just trying to live as the Lord Jesus taught us; keeping the commandments of God and keeping to what we know is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing. That is the narrow door. Not sleeping with someone before you are married, as the Lord taught, keeping Sunday holy, not stealing, or killing, or lying, etc. The Lord gave us the commandments as a guideline, or a blue print for living. If we follow these we will flourish, they will help us to do well as people. They make for a society that works. But if we just do our own thing, we will get into trouble.
The story of Adam and Eve in the garden is teaching us the same thing. It is saying that as people we have limits which we must not try to go beyond. If we do we won’t be able to handle it. That’s why the Lord told them not to touch certain trees. They are symbols of our limitations. As soon as Eve took the fruit from the tree of good and evil she was in trouble, she felt guilt and shame, she was confused and she didn’t know why. The story was explaining that they had gone beyond their limits as human beings and so they couldn’t handle it. They needed God’s help again. Then when God came to them in the garden he asked them why they were hiding, what was wrong? God wasn’t just giving out to them but helping them to see where they had gone wrong. ‘Have you been eating from the tree from which I forbade you?’ ‘Who told you you were naked?’ Whatever God does is always helping us in the long run, but we often don’t see it that way and we cry out to God, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’
God didn’t give us the ten commandments just for the sake of giving us laws, to make life difficult for us, but to help us. And then when Jesus came along he helped people to understand these laws at a deeper level. He began to teach people to live from the heart, to pray from the heart. You hear in Matthew’s gospel where many times Jesus quotes the Law, which are from the Commandments and then He says, ‘But I say this to you.’ ‘You have heard how it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I say this to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute.’ Jesus is teaching us to live at a deeper level at the level of the heart, so that we’re not just doing the bare minimum. Outward observances are not enough.
Now the most important part of all this is to realise that before we can do any of these things, we must begin with our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not a relationship about a thing but a person. Once this relationship grows then it makes it possible to live the way he asks us to, not the other way around. People often get bogged down with Catholicism because they begin with all the controversial issues and of course they get into a black knot and just think that the whole thing is a waste of time. We are also heavily influenced by the media here because they will keep bringing up the controversial things. If we focus first on God and on trying to get to know him a little bit more, then the other issues begin to fall into place. Relationship with God first, through prayer, mass, reading the word of God, then everything else begins to make sense.
‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door.’