What’s the Size of the Door to Heaven? Homily 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

What’s the size of the door into heaven?

A priest tells the story of a woman, now in her eighties, who sometimes seemed a bit queasy about the aftermath of her death. She said one day, “I hope I don’t die in my sleep; I’m not sure I’ll like where I wake up.”

I imagine that many of us feel that way sometimes. Am I going to make it? What do I have “to do” to get into heaven? Am I doing too little. Am I perhaps doing too much and making it too hard on myself?

In the First Reading, Isaiah prophesies that salvation is offered to all peoples (“from all the nations”). However, in the Gospel Jesus seems to mention two conditions for salvation.

The first is to realize that that those who desire salvation must journey with Jesus to Jerusalem – and accept all this entails. The gate is narrow because the way is difficult—journeying with Jesus leads to Jerusalem and the cross. The journey to Jerusalem always means a journey to the Cross.

The second condition involves the Eucharist. One scripture scholar mentions that “The strength needed to persist on this journey comes from reclining “at [his] table in the kingdom of God.” It comes from eating and drinking the Messianic Food with the Messiah.” However, casual eating and drinking with Jesus is not enough.  Matthew 25:12 – And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ You could arrive at a banquet – to which you thought you were invited – and find yourself rejected at the door by the host. Eternal fire is frightening enough, but Jesus is talking permanent rejection from the place – where you thought you belonged.

One cannot simply boast that they know about Jesus. Acquaintances don’t make it; Disciples do.

So how can we be sure we will get in? What’s the size of the door into heaven? It’s the size of a person. It

is the size of a person – because it is a person. Jesus is the narrow door. Jesus is the way by which anyone can get through to the heavenly city.

Pope Francis commented on this:

The narrow gates of the old cities were wide enough for a person to get through. The door that is Jesus is never closed. It is always open and to all, without distinction, without exclusion, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone. (Pope Francis ANGELUS Saint Peter’s Square. Sunday, 25 August 2013)

Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh, S.J. writes that “There is a generous wisdom far greater than perhaps we realize in the old prayer often said amid the rosary mysteries of our redeemer’s life.

Dear Jesus, save us from the fires of hell. Bring all souls to heaven, those most in need of your mercy.

That is a prayer to the narrow gate, wide enough, however, for all to enter, even those who die in their sleep.


How long, covered in the sackcloth of grass, thorn and sky,

before our desires and illusions fall to intimations of communion;

before edges dissolve

and we comprehend the mystic’s dream

of union beyond all boundaries and distinction?

(Trevor Herriot quoted by Father Ronald Rolheiser)










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