Saturday, October 1, 2022

That Amazing Mustard-Seed-Size Faith!


Homily for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Oct. 2, 2022. Luke 17:5-10. Theme: That Amazing Mustard-Seed-Size Faith! 

Our first reading today comes from one of the most remarkable books in the Old Testament. It contains an extended dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God. The prophet is confused and upset about God’s apparent lack of intervention into the sufferings of this world. He wants to see God do something about it! God responds to Habakkuk by reminding him that, while he may seem silent and uninvolved in our world, He is very aware of what is going on and carries out his plans for good through others. 

Jesus’ words in today’s gospel about a mustard-seed size faith are a key as to how God does this. Some people think that Jesus is putting the disciples down for not having enough faith, but I think what he is really saying is that even just a little faith, small as a mustard seed, contains within it the power to do the impossible. This small mustard-seed-size faith, planted in the hearts of those who trust in God and who are willing to take a step out of their comfort zone, can bring about incredible responses to Habakkuk’s concern about divine intervention against the evil and injustice in the world. 

In 1948, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was just an ordinary nun teaching high school to wealthy girls in India. But every day she came face-to-face with the destitute poverty and hunger of the poor outcasts in the streets. Her mustard-seed sized faith that God could somehow use her to do something about it moved her to leave her comfortable convent and live among the poor. Many years later, after she was world famous, she was asked how it all started. She replied, “I never thought of doing anything big. I just saw one poor abandoned dying man lying in the street and so I picked him up and brought him home.” Today, there are over 4,000 Missionaries of Charity relieving the suffering of hundreds of thousands across the globe. All because of God acting through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith. 

In 1964, Rosa Parks, a devout Christian black woman in Montgomery, AL, was on a segregated bus-ride home after a long hard day at work. When 4 black passengers were told to give up their seats for white passengers, 3 of them got up but Rosa stayed put. Her mustard-seed size faith was enough to inform her that she had dignity as a child of God just like anyone else. So, she just stayed seated. Rosa was arrested on the spot and lost her job. Once word of what she did spread, the very large black population of Montgomery boycotted the bus system for 381 days. They brought it to a stop-still, causing it to fall right down to its financial knees. This eventually resulted in a Supreme Court decision opening the doors to racial equality and jump-started the civil rights movement. All because of God acting through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith. 

Such true stories should make us stop and think: What small act of mustard-seed size faith might God be asking me to do regarding the struggles or sufferings around me? Is there something that I know I should be doing but don’t have the courage to step out of my comfort zone to do? Or perhaps do I think that what I have in mind is too little or too insignificant to make any real and lasting difference? 

We need to toss those kinds of thoughts aside. Recall that Mother Teresa never had the slightest clue that picking up one dying man off the street would result in an international movement of service to the poorest of the poor. Rosa Parks had absolutely no idea that her refusal to give up her seat on that segregated bus would become the catalyst for a worldwide racial equality movement. They were, each one of them, simply acting upon their mustard-seed size faith and doing what little thing they thought they could do at that time and in that place. 

How does Jesus want me to respond to the injustice and suffering I see around me? Ask him this question often in your daily prayer and especially after you receive Him in Holy Communion. Then be sure to listen for his voice for he will truly respond. Trust him, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do what he asks of you because… it’s absolutely amazing what God can do through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

...And In What I Have Failed To Do...

Homily for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, September 25, 2022. Amos 6:1-7; Gospel of St. Luke 16:19-31. Theme: ..And In What I Have Failed To Do… 

At the beginning of Mass we prayed the Confiteor, admitting that we have sinned in the things that we have failed to do. And this admission of our guilt brings us directly to the heart of what Jesus wants us to remember and carry away with us through today’s Gospel: that the things we do - or fail to do - in this life have a direct connection to where we will spend our eternity. Because you see, true religion as taught by the Bible and our Faith, is not a matter of just “God and me”. It’s a matter of “God, me and my neighbor”. It was precisely because the Rich Man in the parable failed to do good to his neighbor in need that he found himself in a terrible and eternal predicament. 

Jesus begins the story by making a point that the man was dressed in purple and fine linen. This isn’t a fashion statement but informed the original hearers of the parable that the man was extremely wealthy, what we might call “filthy rich”. Purple cloth was the most expensive fabric in the Roman Empire and linen came from Egypt at exorbitant prices, so these were worn only by the nobility. Our Lord is telling us that the man could have done whatever it took, whatever was needed to help Lazarus. He had all the means at his disposal. But he chose to do nothing. 

Suffering humanity was right there before his eyes daily but he refused to see it. Lazarus was literally at the man’s front door but he simply didn’t care. He could have sent a meal out to him or even just had one of his servants go and check on the poor man’s condition. Instead, he just left him there to suffer alone. And I would imagine that Lazarus’ pain was increased by the fact that he could hear and smell the food and festivities just a few yards away in the mansion. That man was like the self-indulgent and complacent rich in our first reading who were condemned by God through his prophet Amos. 

Jesus speaks this parable to shake us out of our own self-focus and complacency. He calls us to examine ourselves on what we are doing for the Lazaruses who sit at the front doors of our stores, on the sidewalks of our streets, and throughout our towns and nation. These Lazaruses suffer from various forms of poverty and not just that of the body. There is also a poverty of spirit, a poverty of the very soul, which is deeper and hurts even more because it consists of ridicule and rejection. There are places and people who treat the homeless as if they do not exist or who move them to less desirable locations so as not to disturb the neighborhoods of the rich. But at the same time they don’t even lift a finger to try and help them. They just push them along and out of the way. 

As Christians we have a serious responsibility to respond to our neighbor in need as individuals, as a Church and as members of society. As individuals, we need to find a Christian and humanitarian way of responding to the needs of the Lazaruses we encounter as we go about daily life. A priest who had a lot of experience ministering to the destitute once taught me a simple and very personal way to do this. He said that when seeing a beggar at a storefront don’t just walk past them looking the other way, but extend a greeting to him or her. And when you hand someone a bit of money or some food, don’t just don’t hand it off to them briskly and impersonally, but ask their first name and use it. These basic human interactions cost us nothing extra but lets them know that you see them, that they are not invisible or a meaningless person to you. It’s a simple but powerful way to acknowledge that they are persons with a name, that they still with dignity, and are not just another dirty beggar on the street. 

But along with individual action, we also need the combined effort of organized charities like the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Two is better than one and a united group can make a world of difference in the suffering of the poor. The Vincentians extend mercy and rebuild hope in the lives of many who struggle to survive. All of us can be involved in this group response either by becoming Vincentians ourselves or by funding their many never-ending charitable works. 

Finally, there is also a third response we all must have in helping Lazarus today and this is one of social justice, of social reform. We need to look at what causes and perpetuates destitution and homelessness in our society so that we can work to fix it. Our Christian consciences must make us ask: “Why is Lazarus in this condition in the first place? What in our culture is perpetuating his poverty? Why is our nation promoting such disregard for human life that even the unborn Lazaruses are rejected and their budding lives terminated?” These are hard questions that we have a responsibility before God to discuss and answer. 

As Christian citizens who have the privilege to vote and therefore effect changes, we have a duty to inform ourselves as to the morality of issues and proposed laws in the light of the Bible, in the light of our Faith. Our consciences must not be formed according to a particular partisan platform or by what a popular news program might suggest or according to what our friends and co-workers might think. When we leave this world and like the Rich Man stand before God, our moral choices will not be judged by politicians or newscasters or our friends. We will have to give an answer directly to Jesus Christ as to how each one of us treated the Lazaruses who came into our lives with outstretched hands asking for our help.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Are You Investing in Heavenly Treasure?


Homily for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 18, 2022. Gospel of Luke 16:1-13. Theme: Are You Investing in Heavenly Treasure? 

The parable in today’s Gospel was not told in order to give a lesson in business management or financial investments. So, no need to get caught up in the shrewdness of the steward cutting his commission or in wondering what the curious phrase “dishonest wealth” might mean. These are simply attention-getting tidbits in the story Jesus told to convey his teachings on wealth, trustworthiness and keeping a proper perspective on material things. The parable is also meant to be a reminder and a warning to us. 

Jesus is telling us to be wise in what we do with our money, in how we use it for the sake of the bigger picture of our lives. He wants us to plan ahead and make a long-term investment that will yield for us the dividends of eternal life. I think we can say that, like the clever steward of the parable, Jesus wants us to be purpose-driven, but in the right direction! And that direction is towards Heaven. He knows that attachment to wealth and riches too easily become for us an obstacle, a distraction and a deception. It misleads us away from the ultimate purpose of human life, which is to know, love and serve God in this world so as to be happy with him forever in the next. 

Jesus taught this lesson on the proper place that wealth and material things should have in our lives both by both his words and by his example. I think we often seem to forget that, as God-come-in-the-flesh, he could have pre-arranged for himself a life in a luxurious palace with royal parents, but instead he freely chose to be born in a stable and grow up in the simple home of a poor working class family. He grew up to become a laborer in Nazareth and then a traveling teacher without any home of his own. For the last three years of his life he lived in utter simplicity, devoting his time and energies to preaching about the true riches that last, which means the treasure that we make for ourselves in Heaven by our acts of love for God and neighbor while we are here on planet Earth. 

You see, Jesus knows that the danger of wealth is not at all in the money itself.  As with most any objects in life it can be good or bad depending on what we do with it. But it seems that wealth so easily enslaves those who possess it, or better yet, who become possessed by it. Both rich and poor can become consumed with an unhealthy desire for more and more – which we call greed - allowing it to become a driving force, a central motivation in their lives. The Scriptures and human experience teach us that greed is such an ugly thing that can fool even the best of us. It lures us to see people as potential profits or debits instead of as persons. It tempts us to dismiss the poor and needy as a drain on society or write them off as lazy. It motivates us to use our talents primarily for ourselves and our personal advancement instead of for God’s glory and the good of the human family. It works against us in the eternal long-run, accumulating for the greedy a deposit awaiting them in Hell. 

Ultimately, what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel is that from God’s point of view the amount of money we have is irrelevant to him. It’s what we do with it that makes all the difference in this life and in the next. With this in mind, I want to close with a few questions for personal reflection that can help us each see where we stand in the light of this social teaching of Jesus Christ: 

 · If I am wealthy, am I attached to the money I have? Would my life become less meaningful if it was all suddenly taken away? 

 · If I am not wealthy, am I struggling with an unhealthy obsession for money ? Do greed and envy dwell in my heart? 

 · Do I truly understand deep within me that while money can take care of my material needs, it can never satisfy my emotional and spiritual needs and bring me peace? 

 · Do I keep in mind that one day I will have to stand before God and give an accounting of how I used my money and possessions? 

 · Do I realize that there is a direct relationship between how I use wealth in this world and where I will spend my eternity in the next?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Precious & Invaluable in His Sight


Homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 11, 2022. Gospel of Luke 15:1-32. Theme: Precious & Invaluable in His Sight 

Today’s gospel presents us with three of Jesus’ classic parables aimed at helping us better understand and live our relationship with God. Each one is so full of meaning within itself that it could stand alone as its own Sunday Gospel. Each one teaches us how precious and invaluable we are as individuals in God’s eyes. Each one illustrates in its own way the heart of the Gospel message: that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to save us and restore us to an intimate relationship with him, both in this life and in the next. 

Jesus tells us that like the shepherd of the one lost sheep, God goes seeking after us and continues this quest until he has found us. And when he finds us he scoops us up in his arms, so to speak, presses us to his heart, and carries us home over his shoulders. What a beautiful image of God’s tenderness! It shows us how precious we are to God. It reminds us that the individual is important to God; that we are not just one person lost in a crowd of a billion faces to him. 

Like the woman devoting herself wholeheartedly to finding the one lost coin, God never gives up on us. The coin that Jesus is talking about was called a drachma and it was worth a day’s wages. The drachma was extremely tiny and easily lost in the straw and dirt floors of the day. And so, the lady of the house turned the entire place upside down until she found her missing treasure. This shows us that even if we feel like we are nearly invisible in life, small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, we are extremely valuable in God’s sight. No matter what mess we may have made with the drachma that is our life, God does not give up his efforts to bring us back to a relationship with him. 

Like the father of the prodigal son, God is on the lookout for us, awaiting our return home. And as soon as he sees the tiniest bit of remorse within us, his joy over our change of heart causes him to run out and embrace us. And not only does he welcome us home, he goes above and beyond, dressing us in the finest clothes and jewelry, which are symbols in the parable of the many graces and blessings God showers down upon us. You see, with God, there is no such thing as a “lost cause” or a “hopeless person”. There’s no such thing as God holding a grudge! He is always reaching out to us and before we can even confess our sin, he is wrapping his arms around us and enveloping us in his mercy. 

These three parables are deeply touching examples of what we call reconciliation: the act of being restored to a personal intimate relationship with God that has been ruptured by sin. The healing of this broken relationship is made possible only through the intervention of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who obtained it for us by his Cross and Resurrection. He took on our fallen human nature so that as one of us, he could break the power of sin over us along with its consequence of spiritual alienation from God. Reconciliation with God through Christ was an “inside job” carried out by the only human being who was himself without sin and had the power of divinity within himself to accomplish it. 

But our reconciliation isn’t automatic, it doesn’t work like magic. We must do our part and respond to God with mindfulness and intentional action. The Gospel of Jesus shows us the way to do this. It calls us to repent, that is, to turn away from our selfish behavior and take on a new way of thinking, a new way of acting and new way of loving, patterned after the example of Jesus. It encourages us to have faith, that is, to trust in Christ as our Merciful Savior who has offered himself up for us. And it requires us to open our hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit who is the agent making this reconciliation with the Father through the Son a reality within us. 

Why in the world would Almighty God, who created the vast universe, care so much about us little mortals, specks of human life on planet Earth? Why would this same God leave the glory of Heaven and become man, freely going to the cross as a sacrifice of reconciliation for us sinners? Well, the only answer as to why he did all this can be found in the uniquely Christian revelation that God is love. And this means that we - each and everyone of us - are individually precious to him and invaluable in his sight. This is where we find our true value, our real dignity. It’s not in how we look, or where we live, or how much money we have, or what kind of work we do. It’s simply in the fact that God loves us and desires to be in a relationship with us both here and now as well as for all eternity.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Informed Consent


Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 4, 20223. The Gospel of St. Luke 14:25-43. Theme: Informed Consent 

I think most of us are familiar with what is called “informed consent” in the health care world. Just to refresh your memory, when someone has a serious condition that requires medical intervention it’s required that they be told about what they will undergo. They are made aware of all the basic details, of the potential suffering involved and the positive benefits to be gained. In this way the patient can make a fully informed decision as to if they wish to go forward with treatment. 

Well today’s Gospel is very much the same in regards to our spiritual health and life. It’s like Jesus seeking our informed consent about embracing Christianity, about what it means to live out our baptismal relationship with him as his disciples. He’s pointing out to us very clearly the conditions for following him and he is informing us that the benefit to be gained is the gift of eternal life. Using exaggerated language common for his day, he is informing us that we must give our love and allegiance to him over that of our families, our possessions and even our very lives. He is not saying that we are not to love ourselves, or our families but that we are to love him more. Now let’s be careful to not confuse love here with emotional affection or blissful happiness because that’s not always how we always feel about anyone we love. Our spouses, families or friends don’t always make us feel good nor do we do the same for them. Yet we love them with all our hearts. 

Love of Christ means that we commit to live in a close and intimate relationship with him even when doing so is challenging or difficult. Following Jesus and embracing the cross means suffering with him, bearing the potential pain of persecution, and experiencing possible rejection from others. Just as we do not remain quiet when people gossip about our family or friends we also speak out when Christ is mocked or Christianity is ridiculed. And it means that when Jesus is attacked, we are attacked. When social opinion or laws contradict the Gospel of Christ, we stand up for the reality of truth, for the necessity for justice and for the sanctity of all human life, from womb to tomb. We stand up to defend the ones we love. 

In laying out these conditions of discipleship Jesus is actually reminding us that he is God. For no one but God can ask for, deserve and expect such a drastic re-prioritization of our lives. And it is only because he is indeed God that he can promise us with certainty the gift of eternal life as a reward for having done so. So, having been fully informed we need to each ask ourselves: are we still willing to proceed with living this way of life called Christianity? Are we ready and willing to keep Jesus as the center of our lives at any cost? 

If our reply is yes, then we need to understand and embrace what Jesus means by the word, disciple, which he uses and repeats quite often in today’s gospel. “Disciple” literally means student, but it’s not exactly the way we think of being a student today. For us 21st century Americans a student is someone who attends school to accumulate information that will enable him or her to lead a successful life. It is very self-focused, self-oriented. To be a disciple in the Christian sense of the word means to be God-focused and neighbor-oriented. A disciple is someone who commits to follow a Teacher, who memorizes the Master’s lessons about God, life and relationships. The disciple observes his Teacher’s actions and tries to integrate them into his or her own behavior. 

So, to be a Christian means to think and act like Jesus the Teacher. It means to enthrone him as Lord and King of our hearts and lives. It means that we take on a Jesus-way of thinking, a Jesus-way of behaving, a Jesus-way of looking at God, at life and at relationships. And then, after a lifetime of learning from Jesus, of carrying the cross and renouncing ourselves out of love for him, we can receive the reward of everlasting life. And that’s a benefit worth living and even dying for!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Grounded in Truth, Living in Reality


Homily for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 28, 2022. Gospel of Luke 14:1-14. Theme: Grounded in Truth, Living in Reality 

To better understand the back-story to Jesus' parable of the wedding feast, we need to recall a few basic facts about the Pharisees. They were religious zealots who considered themselves to be better, holier, than the average Jew. As a matter of fact their very name “Pharisee” meant “those who are separated from the others”. They demanded strict observance of tradition and put great emphasis upon the external rituals of Judaism. As far as they were concerned, if you said the right words, did the right actions and followed the rules, then you were all good to go with God. Where your heart was didn’t really enter into the picture. By both the power of his words and the example of his life, Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He described them as being like “white-washed tombs that looked good on the outside but stunk with death and decay on the inside.” He became their Enemy #1. 

So, it might seem a bit surprising to hear in today’s Gospel that Jesus was invited to a Pharisee Sabbath dinner. However, he wasn’t invited not out of respect but in order to entrap him. The host and guests were intent upon “observing him carefully” as we heard in today’s opening line, meaning they were on the lookout to find something he said or did that could be used against him as a violation of God’s law. They were always on the lookout for a way to put him down in the eyes of the people because he was a constant threat to their power, prestige and position. But Jesus did not react in the same hostile way towards them. Instead, he reached out to try and touch their hearts by speaking the parable of the wedding feast that we just heard. It’s a not a lesson in social manners, but a teaching on the importance of humility. 

Humility is something many find difficult to define, let alone possess. There are those who erroneously think that humility is weakness, a kind of whimpiness, and that the humble person is like a doormat to be walked on. Others falsely imagine that humility is an attitude of putting oneself down, of denying the gifts we have received or the achievements we have accomplished. And of course I think we’ve all encountered what is called “phony humility” at one time or another. It's really pride-in-disguise begging for more praise! A phony-humility conversation goes something like this: “Oh you did such a great job!” “No, I didn’t. It wasn’t that great.” “Yes it was! It was terrific!” “Oh please stop, no it wasn’t.” And so forth…this is phony humility having a field day! 

Genuine humility, on the other hand, is clarity and honesty about who and what we are, plain and simple. It recognizes the gifts and talents we have received, but it gives the praise and thanks to God for them, not to ourselves. Humility also admits to and claims ownership of our faults and failings, but it does so in the comforting knowledge of God’s forgiveness and mercy. In other words, humility allows us to see the whole picture of who we really are in God’s eyes. The humble person is someone who walks in the clear light of this self-knowledge. They don’t form social contacts and friendships based on what others can do or be for them. Instead, they enjoy the company of those who are down to earth and who speak the truth to them. They want to be around people who can keep them real and level headed. 

I find it interesting that the word “humility” comes from the Latin “humus” which means ground, dirt, earth. So fundamentally, humility means that we have our feet firmly planted on the ground, and that our self-assessment is firmly rooted in reality. Authentic humility goes hand-in-hand with truth because it allows us to make an honest assessment about ourselves, about the state of our souls, about how we treat others and about where we stand in our relationship with God. It’s only by seeing and accepting this reality about ourselves that we can make real changes in our lives and grow into the persons God created us to be. 

And this is one reason why the Sacrament of Confession is so very vital to our personal and spiritual growth. By its very nature this sacrament calls us to reflect upon our lives and our relationships in the light of the Gospel. It’s a heaven-sent path to humility because it requires that we honestly admit to ourselves, to Christ and to his priest the exact nature of our wrongs. Now, it’s true that we only must confess if we have committed mortal sins, that is, serious sins which have ruptured our supernatural relationship with God. But the saints of every era have repeatedly advised that we confess even our smaller sins on a regular basis, precisely because this keeps us on the sure path of humility. 

Humility can make our lives more genuine and joyful because there’s a special kind of freedom in living in the truth of who we really are. The importance and necessity of humility can be found in the fact that it is called the “queen of all virtues” because without it no other real virtue can exist. However, with it we can become, by God’s grace, both admirable human beings and spiritual giants in the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Hiking the Narrow Path to Heaven


Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 21, 2022. Gospel of St. Luke 13:22-30. Theme: Hiking the Narrow Path to Heaven 

Last Sunday we heard about Jesus as a Prophet of Fire and the Sword, saying that faith in Him had the potential to sow division among families and friends. This side of Jesus surprises people who prefer a Savior who is an exclusively soft and gentle Lord. They are comfortable with a Messiah who accepts everyone exactly as they are, and who pats them on the back, so to speak, for trying to do a good job of following him. Now it’s true, of course, that Jesus does accept us as we are when we first sincerely come to him. And he does, indeed, encourage us on. But he doesn't leave us complacent in our mediocrity or stuck in the rut of our weaknesses and sins. He reaches out to us, takes us by the hand, and points out to us the way that leads to Heaven. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus surprises us once again by telling us that this way to Heaven isn’t going to be an easy hike. He calls it narrow and demanding. He cautions that only the strong, that is the spiritually disciplined and committed, will successfully make it there. In other parts of the Gospels he says that few people choose this narrow route because it requires a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline. Along this pathway we will have to make some changes and adjustments in our lives, and this won’t always be easy, but we know that it will all be worth it in the end. Those who do choose to travel this way understand that life on planet Earth, even when it's at its absolute best, is still only temporary and actually very short. But Heaven and Hell are forever. And so they go for the gold! 

And you know, I think the motif of a hike is a good way to get a handle on what Jesus is telling us. When we plan such an outing we prepare ourselves as best we can to have a safe and rewarding experience. We review a map of where we’re going. We ask others who have hiked the trail what we need to know or do to avoid problems and arrive safely at our destination. We make sure that we have good support on our feet and perhaps even a walking stick in our hands. And of course we bring along some water and nutrition to see us through the day. Well you know, our Faith provides us with similar kinds of advice and support for our trek through the narrow gate and along the narrow pathway. 

The Sacred Scriptures and Church teachings are our basic map to Heaven. They clearly point out to us the directions we need to follow, the dangers we need to avoid along the way, and the best routes to take in order to arrive at our destination. In addition, we have a whole company of saints who have blazed the trail before us and their example can show us how to reach a successful completion of the journey. The living waters of grace refresh and strengthen us when we get tired and the supernatural food of the Eucharist provides spiritual energy to persevere on the hike. In other words, we will have absolutely everything we need to be strong and remain on the narrow path. So, the main question for each one of us is this: will we refuse to give in or give up when the going gets tough? 

Yes, the gate and trail through which we pass to get from this world to the next is narrow and challenging. But Jesus knows that the hike can be quite difficult for us and often sends us encouragement along the way. Things like a special friend who always seems to be able to lift us up and make things brighter; a spiritual experience in prayer or at Mass that affirms what we believe and stokes the fire of the Holy Spirit within us; an encounter with someone who even in the midst of their own suffering and struggles radiates hope and joy; a particular saint who has special meaning to us and whose example encourages us to keep pressing forward towards the goal. Any and all of these things can strengthen our drooping hands and support our weak knees so that we can persevere to the end and eventually arrive at the awesome and eternal beauty of Heaven.

Interpretation of Jesus' Word about the two gates.  The Narrow Gate requires self-discipline and surrender to God in this life. It leads to Heaven. The Wide Gate is open to those who live to please and pamper themselves. It leads to Hell.  The artist uses traditional imagery to convey this point.