In today’s gospel Our Lord advises we “enter through the narrow gate,” not the “wide one.” Both are unlocked, and each gives access to a way with its own destination. One has “Death” blazed across it and the way it opens up leads to a dead end: it gradually leads to death. The sign on the other says “Life,” and the way it opens leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Our Lord leaves it up to us to choose which one to enter.
Our choice will reflect the destination we want, and it will likely govern our other choices along the way. So it’s good to examine our choices: those made, and those anticipated. Another perspective is that our choices along the way and over time will likely reflect in the practical order what we really want, and will reveal the gate we choose as well as the destination we are in fact headed for. Ignatius of Loyola offers a wonderful consideration to help us do the examination – to see which choices lead to death, and which to life. He divides them according to “the Standard of Satan” and “the Standard of Christ.” Each has three precepts.
- The first precept under Satan's Standard is greed. We all need money and things money buys. But when the purchases become wasteful or frivolous, we’re at Satan’s gate. Hoarding it and possessing it becomes the point. When this gets compulsive we’re hooked and are heading full steam to the destination Satan has in mind, where freedom from greed is lost. Once there, our self image and personal identity shifts from who we are to what we have.
- The second is self-centered ambition. This precept gets especially attractive when we’ve already followed the first. It leads to inordinate pursuit of popularity, celebrity, and success for its own sake. This can also become addictive. When it does, our ability to give others their due and to relate to them with love gets smothered, and Satan’s third precept becomes attractive.
- The third is arrogant pride. Chosen, it moves us to lust for power, bully others, and crave control over everything life offers (including the lives of others). This way can get addictive too, and when it does, we're all but dead. Only God can free us.
- The Lord's first precept is poverty of spirit. It gives access to a way of avoiding inordinate attachment to money and possessions; it secures our personal identity and freedom; and it fosters a desire for total dependence on God. This way is attractive because it corresponds to our deepest longings and it keeps us free from inordinate attachments.
- His second is to go the way Christ Himself did -- even if it means contempt and humiliation. It discourages self serving behavior and fosters the desire to serve others and trust God. When we go this way, we look progressively more for God's will in all things, and the grace of God will gird our loins to suffer humiliations, insult, and rejection as Christ did. This is the way to the Kingdom of God, and it heads towards the third of Our Lord's precepts.
- His third precept is humility. It opens the way to live as Christ did. The further we go, the more we see our very world as a place where God wants us to become partners with Christ to establish God's Kingdom. As we get closer to our destination, we will commit to a humble life dedicated to unconditional love and service of God and others.
The wide gate opens to Satan's way, the narrow one opens to Christ's. "Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." (Mt 7:13-14) But with the light of the Spirit of Christ shining before us, we will find the narrow gate. Once we go through it, we are on the way to eternal life .