Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Gate is Narrow and the Way is Hard

Dear Theophilous,

Every week when the local paper shows up at the door, one of the first things I do is flip to the back and scan the obituaries. Whenever I get caught doing this I’ll glibly reply that I was just making sure my name wasn’t there and I can continue breathing.

Joking aside, I have noticed an interesting trend from obituary writers, most of who use opening lines such as:

… has gone to reside in the Lord.

… has become another angel in heaven.

…has joined mom/dad in heaven.

Reading the obits these days, it seems as though everyone gets into heaven and no one is going to hell. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we all don’t go to the Lord, we do since He is our final judge, but it seems that we think we have already figured out what His verdict of our loved ones will be.

This is our calling, and this is our hope; that we will be reunited with our Lord in paradise. This is something I pray for everyday; for myself, for my family, for my friends and for those who have no one to pray for them.

Yet, in a world that’s rife with evil, we need to acknowledge the existence of hell. We need to recognize that not everyone accepts the will of God. We need to understand the truth behind one of Christ’s most difficult teachings; a lesson I’m certain it pained him to share:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mt 7:13-14)

This teaching of Christ struck me recently while I was reflecting on my misspent youth, and I realized the irony of the titles of two of my favourite songs from my teenage years: Highway to Hell and Stairway to Heaven. It seems these two rock bands understood Christ’s teaching on traffic flow. Even within the songs’ lyrics we can see hints as to cosmic battle for souls:

No stop signs
Speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel
Gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me around
Hey, Satan
Payin' my dues
Playin' in a rockin' band
Hey, mamma
Look at me
I'm on the way to the promised land

I'm on the highway to hell
Highway to hell

(excerpt – Highway to Hell – AC/DC – 1979)

To which the answer would be:

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.

(excerpt – Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin – 1971)

Intentional or not, these songs fit so nicely into Jesus’ teaching on salvation.

The pathway to destruction is wide and easy, very much like a highway. Although it may not be the Autobahn without a speed limit, once we get rolling along that highway to perdition it becomes very hard to slow down, change lanes and take the off ramp. And Satan makes no bones about it, even though he promises you greatness and pleasure in this life, he promises neither joy nor comfort in the life to come.

The pathway to life is hard, just like spring cleaning or climbing a stairway that seems to go on forever (or an eternity). However, be not afraid, don’t be alarmed, because the May queen, Mary, is here to help. Christ’s mother draws us closer to Him with a simple phrase: Do whatever He tells you. (Jn 2:5)

There’s till time, dear Theophilous, for both of us, as well as the whole world, to change the road we are on; to find the narrow gate; to take the way that is hard; and to climb the Stairway to Heaven.

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