Let’s consider Our Lord’s advice about entering through the narrow gate. He was basing this on the way old Jewish walled towns had one large swinging gate through which all commerce had to pass. Through it travelers came and went, farmers pushed their carts, and women passed with loads of wares on their heads.
The gateway was constructed with an ornate shelter where the elders sat daily to settle the town’s legal matters. They were in control of opening the gate, but also of closing it tight when disease or bandits were threatening. It was bad luck for anyone who was caught outside when the gate was closed.
Some of those caught out knew of another option. On a rise around the back, hidden by bushes, there was a narrow gate guarded by an old-timer who would open only to townsfolk who had made themselves known to him. It was bothersome coming that way, climbing the hill, pushing the branches aside; but it was worth any amount of trouble to avoid being locked out for days when plague was on the land.
By telling us to strive to enter through the narrow gate Jesus was telling us to lead disciplined lives that guaranteed success in our studies, our work place, our family life. By habits of making extra efforts, rather than taking the easy way, we will be happy in the end.
I saw a case of that back in the summer of 1952. The Arkansas River that runs through Wichita Kansas flooded, bringing disaster on everyone. A priest friend of mine in St. Louis, anxious about his cousin who was married ten miles south of Wichita asked me to drive out there to check on his cousin and her family.
All the Catholics in her area were connected with fattening up cattle for the Cudahy Meat Packing Company in Witchita, and they were all ruined when in the midst of the disaster that company went out of business for good. Visiting from house to house we met with horrors of every kind.
I bring up this matter because of one thing that impressed me. Those Catholics who had kept up the practice of driving into the city for Sunday Mass all seemed to be able to bear with the hardships, while with those who had slept in, stopping going to church, we came on suicides, wife desertions, crazy behavior of every kind.