The Eternal Perspective of Emotion
God endowed Man with passions, or feelings/emotions (CCC 1771), to assist Man towards moral perfection (CCC 1770) and beatitude (CCC 1762). Emotions (meaning “to move out”) are natural components of human psychology that connect the senses and the mind (CCC 1764) and are not inherently good or evil (CCC 1767). Emotions do incline Man to embrace good/virtue or evil/vice (CCC 1763, 1774); they become good when they incline the will/reason towards good or become evil when they incline the will/reason towards evil (CCC 1768). Emotions inclined to beatitude include love, joy, peace and happiness (CCC 1718, 1024, 1029). Other emotions include fear and sadness (CCC 1772). Some emotions are inclined toward/or are always evil including pride, lust, envy, jealousy, anger, greed, gluttony (CCC 1852, 1866), despair (CCC 2091) and hatred (CCC 2303). One cannot love and engage in evil emotions at the same time (CCC 1825-26).
When Emotions become Evil
At Eden, emotions became perverted and evil in Man. Before falling to temptation, Adam and Eve were envious of God and full of pride; after eating the fruit they felt lust, shame and fear (Gen 3:1-22). After Eden, Genesis records Man’s continued perversion into sin and evil emotions: Cain is filled with envy and murderous anger (Gen 4:1-16); Noah falls to drunken gluttony and Ham lusts after his mother (Gen 9:18-28), the builders of the Tower of Babel are filled with pride; Sodom is consumed with lust; Laban deceives Jacob in greed (Gen 29:25); Simeon and Levi burn with rage and murder (Gen 49:5-7) and Joseph’s brothers are filled with jealousy and hatred (Gen 37:4).
The Emotions of Jesus Christ
Jesus demonstrates the perfect engagement of human emotions:
- Demonstrates perfection in emotion – Through His human nature, Jesus experienced all aspects of being human except for Sin (CCC 470). Jesus is Man’s model of holiness (CCC 459). In His Perfection, Jesus’ emotions are perfectly ordered towards the embrace of the Will of the Father to love. Jesus has no evil emotions (i.e. pride, lust, envy, jealousy, greed, gluttony and hatred). Jesus’ cry of “My God why have thou forsaken me” (Matt 27:46) is not a cry of abandonment, fear or cowardice, but a reference to God’s coming victory (Psalm 22).
- Experiences love as His primary emotion – “Jesus Christ is love” (1 John 4:8) and He demonstrates the perfection of love as the Son of God (John 3:16). Love, as an emotion, is “aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed” (CCC 1765); “all other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart towards the good” (CCC 1766). Jesus expresses compassion numerous times (Matt 9:36, 14:14, 20:24, Mark 1:41, 8:2; Luke 7:13). Jesus offers the greatest love, by His own choice (CCC 609), to lay down His life for His friends (John 15:13).
- Is full of peace and joy – As the Prince of Peace, Jesus possesses peace in perfection (CCC 2305). Jesus also possesses abundant joy (Luke 10:21, John 15:11; 17:13). The joy of Jesus is sometimes expressed in humor (Matt 7:4, 23:24).
- Experiences “agony” at Gethsemane – As He anticipates His own suffering and death at the Passion (Matt 26:36-46), Jesus sweats blood (Luke 22:44). Jesus experiences grief (Matt 26:38; Isa 53:3) at Man’s coming evil acts at the Passion (CCC 1765). Man also experiences negative emotions (grief, fear, disgust, etc.), moved by the Holy Spirit to reject evil (CCC 1769).
- Shows Perfection in “anger” – Jesus’ zeal/anger in the clearing of the Temple (John 2:13-20) should not be confused with a fit of anger or “anger [which] is a desire for revenge” (CCC 2302-03); Jesus specifically denounces this type of murderous anger and hatred as immoral (Matt 5:22). Rather, Jesus’ reaction of righteous indignation is praiseworthy (CCC 584; Psalm 69:9, 119:53; Mark 3:5) because it “imposes restitution to correct vices and maintain justice” (CCC 2302). Jesus does not seethe in rage, for to do so would be sinful (Eph 4:26-27). On other occasions, Jesus uses anger to communicate displeasure and to correct Man (Mark 3:5, 10:14) and expresses anger in reaction to betrayal (John 11:33, 13:21).
- Experiences sorrow – Jesus experiences sorrow at the hardness of Man’s heart (Mark 3:5), in sympathy to the sorrow over Lazarus’ death (John 11:33-38), over the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) and at His death on the Cross (Matt 27:45-46).
Jesus instructs Man how to properly engage the emotions:
- Instructs the disciples to embrace love – Jesus distills the entire Mosaic Law to the “love of God and neighbor” (Matt 22:34-40) and commands the disciples to “love one another” (John 13:34), moved by the Holy Spirit (CCC 1822-29). The acts and emotions of love can not be truly engaged out of fear of punishment (Hell) or out to the greed of reward (Heaven), but out simple love of Christ and the good (CCC 1828). The fruits of love are the beatific emotions of joy and peace in which Man finds true rest (CCC 1829; Gal 5:22-26).
- Promises to give peace and joy – As the Prince of Peace (CCC 2305) Jesus blesses the “peacemakers” (Matt 5:9) and offers to give peace (Matt 11:28-30, Mark 5:34, Luke 7:50, John 14:27) and joy to those who seek His Will (CCC 2304-05) through the Holy Spirit (CCC 736). The Apostles underscore the importance of embracing peace (Heb 12:4, Rom 5:1, Phil 4:7, 1 Cor 14:33, 2 Thes 3:16).
- Instructs Man to turn from evil emotions – Jesus specifically instructs Man against evil emotions: lust (Matt 5:28), fear and worry (Matt 6:34, Mark 4:40, John 14:27), envy (Luke 12:15), greed (Luke 12:16-21), pride (Luke 20:45-47) and anger (Matt 5:22). The Church also warns against despair as a sin against hope (CCC 2091).
- Demonstrates how to turn to the Father in times of emotional turmoil – Jesus demonstrates that in times of emotional turmoil and stress, one must quickly turn to the Father: at the sorrow of John the Baptist’s death (Matt 14:13), at Lazarus’ death (John 11:41), in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-44) and at the Passion (Matt 27:46).
Modern Men are Confused about Truth
Today, many deny that “truth” exists. Pluralism argues that all “truths” are equally valid, while relativism argues that no “truth” is valid. Ironically, and satanically, secular activists deny that “truth” exists while militantly manipulating government to enforce their own “truth” (relativism/pluralism). The denial of knowable absolute truth is simply a modern version of Satan’s deception in Eden.
It is confusion about “truth” that has led modern society into darkness. The rejection of truth has resulted in the collapse of marriage and families, the attempts to pervert marriage, the slaughter of millions of children through legalized abortion, the mainlining of sexual perversion and adultery, growing acceptance of euthanasia and the rejection of Christ by millions. The lack of clear catechesis in Truth and aggressive secular tactics has intimidated the faithful into silence in the public square.
Jesus Christ is Truth
The Descent into Dirt
The Church teaches that Satan was full of Pride and rebelled against God, causing God to cast Satan and his angels out of Heaven and into Hell (CCC 391-92). Still full of rebellious Pride, Satan slithered into Eden and seduced Eve (and Adam) to join in rebellion against God (Gen 3:5). God’s response to the Sin of Pride was definitive: Satan was cursed and deemed the enemy of Man; Adam and Eve were to live with pain, toil and death. Rather than immortality, Man was to “return to dust” (Gen 3:19); turning to dust is the ultimate lesson in humility (from the Latin, humus, meaning, “of the soil”). Pride remains the first of the Capital Sins/Vices (CCC 1866) leading Man to envy and resent God (CCC 2094, 2540).
Modern Man’s Empty Chest-thumping
Modern culture is infected with the insanity of the “Enlightenment”: the prideful rejection of God and the embrace of radical individualism/selfishness. The prideful rejection of God infects Man with all kinds of schemes to attempt to find happiness: the false political “progressivism” that promises an earthly Utopia (literally, “no place”), insatiable capitalism, the reliance on technology and science to solve all the ills of society, the rejection of sexual morality (e.g. rejection of marriage, contraception, abortion, the acceptance of homosexuality/same sex “marriage”, transgenderism, etc.) and the totalitarian use of government to enforce pluralism/relativism to the point where nothing is sacred. Man’s pride threatens the very peace of the world (CCC 2317).
Like gorillas in the wild, Modern Man thumps on empty chests in prideful display that cries out “Look at me!”: conspicuous consumption (clothing, cars, McMansions), body adornment (tattoos, strange hair and cosmetics), exhibitionism (Facebook, Twitter), the scandalous antics and self-promotion of politicians, celebrities, “comedians” and athletes. In the modern mind, Humility is not a virtue.
The Humility of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ demonstrates the perfection and power of humility in the Incarnation.
Descends to become the Son of Man – As the Divine Son of God from the beginning (John 1:1), Jesus demonstrates the ultimate humility by becoming Man, emptying Himself (Phil 2:7), taking the form of a slave (Phil 2:6-7) and willingly accepting the constraints of human learning (CCC 472). As the “Perfect Man”, Christ’s whole life is the model for Man to follow in holiness (CCC 520).
Chooses to be Incarnate to humble parents – Rather than the pride of Eve (Gen 3), Virgin Mary becomes the “New Eve” (CCC 411) in the humility of “the handmaiden of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). God chooses Joseph, a carpenter, who humbly accepts and defends the pregnant Mary (Matt 1:18-25), accepts celibacy in marriage (CCC 499) and raises Jesus as his own son.
Embraces humble circumstances – Jesus is born in a humble manger (Luke 2:1-7), has no earthly pedigree (money, political, scholarly credentials), lives in poverty (Luke 9:58) and associates with the lowliest of sinners (Matt 9:10-13) and outcasts (Matt 8:2-4).
Submits to the Baptism – Despite being without Sin (CCC 536), Jesus humbly accepts Baptism in solidarity with Man (Matt 3:13-17); each Christian is called “to enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance” (CCC 537).
Allows Satan to attempt temptation – With the humility of perfect love and in solidarity with Man, Jesus allows Satan to tempt Him, refraining from destroying Satan: in the desert (Luke 4:1-12) and perhaps in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46; CCC 612).
Rejects earthly accolades – The Jews expected the Messiah to be a royal king to eradicate Roman oppression. Instead, Jesus refuses earthly kingship (John 6:15) and human glory (John 5:41).
Embraces humility in the Passion – Jesus enters Jerusalem on a lowly donkey (Matt 21:1-10). He washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He bows to the Father’s Will in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46) and willingly (CCC 272) allows the Jews and Romans to insult (mocking an spitting), torture and kill Him by scandalous Crucifixion (Matt 26-27) while asking the Father to forgive His persecutors from the Cross (Luke 23:34).
Jesus Christ explicitly directs Man to embrace humility and to reject pride.
Condemns the sin of pride – Jesus opposes the proud (Jas 4:6) including the Pharisees (Matt 9:10-13), Pilate (John 19:10-11), Herod (Luke 23:9), and admonishes the proud ambitions of the Apostles (Matt 20:20-28, Luke 22:24-27, Mark 9:35).
Directs Man to be humble – Humility is at the core of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12); “poor in spirit”, “the meek” and “the merciful.” He teaches that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23:12), to take the lowest seat at the table (Luke 14:7-11) and to be a servant to all (Luke 22:26), even a slave (Mark 10:42-45). Jesus instructs the leaders of the Church and all Christians to be humble (Matt 18:1-4) and in self-denial to take up the Cross (Matt 16:24-26; Rom 8:17).
Demonstrates that humble dependence on God can defeat temptation – Even though weakened by a 40-day fast, Jesus rejects Satan’s temptations by calling on the Father (Luke 4:1-12). He again defeats Satan’s temptation in Gethsemane (Luke 22:53; CCC 612).
Clarifies that humility is mandatory for Salvation – Jesus teaches that a humble repentant heart is necessary for justification (Luke 18:9-14; CCC 1446; see Reconciliation: CCC 1442-1498) that the humility of a child is a pre-requisite for Heaven (Matt 18:4).
Promises the fruits of humility – Jesus teaches that the humble will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5; CCC 1716), will enjoy eternal salvation (Matt 18:1-3) and enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:6; CCC 1746, 2546).
Teaches Man to pray with humility – Jesus teaches Man to pray the humble “Our Father” (Matt 6:9-13), each section requiring humility: submitting to God as “Father”, “hallowing” His name, accepting God’s will, begging for “daily bread” and forgiveness (a sign of humility – CCC 2631) and protection from temptation and the Evil One. Man must embrace humility to draw closer to the Trinity in prayer (CCC 2713, CCC 2728).
Endows the Church with humility – The Apostles embrace humility: Peter: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5); James: “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you” (James 4:10); St. Paul “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). All the martyrs and saints have embraced humility.
Since the fall of Man in Eden, men have pursued power to fulfill selfish desires. “Power” comes from the Latin, potis, meaning, “to be able” and “strength, vigor and control”. Men seek power to in an attempt to control other men (political, economic), natural resources (land, resources) and even life itself (longevity, health). Through the acquisition and use of power, men hope to increase physical pleasure (wealth, possessions, sensual, sexual) and emotional/mental pleasure (enjoyment, pride, greed, lust).
Man’s pursuit of power is futile for it does not lead to lasting happiness due to Original Sin. Modern Man has gained some control over nature (agriculture, weather, nuclear science, manufacturing), human life (genetics, medical technology) and over the pursuit of happiness (psychology, philosophy, communications and media). But Man’s growing power through advancements in science/technology has not made Man happy. Man’s power is feeble, for it offers only the emptiness in possessions, the discomfort of conflict/war, the temporary indulgence of selfish desire and can not avoid the finality of death. Man’s futile grasping for power does not bring lasting peace and joy.
Awed by the Power of Jesus Christ
Virtues and Prudence
“Virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of Intellect and Will that govern our actions, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good” (CCC 1804). The four “cardinal virtues” are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance (CCC 1805). Prudence is the “charioteer of the virtues” for it guides the other virtues to make moral decisions to do the good (CCC 1806), consistent with God’s Will (CCC 1787). St. Thomas Aquinas sums up Prudence as “right reason in action”: the ultimate “right” must be aimed at the Truth of God; well-formed “reason” requires Man’s Intellect to have deep knowledge of the Word (i.e. the Logos, also meaning “reason”) who is Jesus Christ; for fallen Man’s Will to take the correct “action” requires the constant reliance on Grace of the Sacraments and the acceptance of the Holy Spirit.
The Terminal Imprudence of Man
Adam fails in Prudence (Gen 2:17, 3:1-24): he did not choose the “right” of doing God’s expressed Will; he did not embrace the “reason” of God; he relied on Satan (and Eve), instead of God in his “action.” Post-modern Man is terminally Imprudent. Rejecting the “right” Truth of God, today’s atheists reject God outright and Casual Catholics ignore God, settling for a lazy pluralism/relativism in which the clarity of good and evil is lost. Rejecting the “reason” of Jesus Christ, Tradition, Natural Law and the ages-old wisdom of how humans thrive in faith, family and community, Post-modern Man relies on “feelings”, emotion and indulgent urges, trying to find novel new “truths” in science, political messiahs, or post-modern philosophies. Confused, Man idolizes a narcissistic ability to have a “choice” rather than taking right “action”, embracing a flabby, effeminate way of living rather than manly responsibility. The rotten fruit of Post-modern Man’s Imprudence is the prevalent “Culture of Death.”
The Perfect Prudence of Jesus Christ
Think about this picture for a moment. Imagine that you are lost a the dark forest as night descends. All the trees are shadows and look alike, cold and offering no comfort. But in the darkness, you see a light, a light that beckons, offering protection and comfort. You’d welcome and go to the light.
Or would you?
It is fashionable among “post-Christian” pluralists (those who think all religions hold the same truth) to attempt to slyly denigrate Jesus Christ by false praise: “Sure, Jesus was a good prophet, a holy man, an excellent teacher…”
When a pluralist gives this faint praise, what they are really saying is this: “Jesus is not particularly special; he’s just another prophet…and he is not God.”
Once I was speaking with a sophisticated and very rich woman who proudly told me, “I am a Post-Christian”. At that point, I had never heard that term before, so I just nodded, seeking to be respectful. Since then it has occurred to me when some proudly states they are “Post-Christian”, my knowing response will be “Oh, you mean, “Pre-Hell”?”
It is a sad and pathetic thing to say that one is “Post-Christian”, for what underlies the statement is a profound and totally unjustified arrogance (no one who says such a thing has ever taken the time to really meet Jesus and diligently seek His counsel) and a life-ending ignorance. Those who knowingly and proudly reject Jesus Christ will get their wish in the world to come.
Some pluralists, afraid or unable to make a “call” on what is Truth, try to avoid conflict by giving faint praise, often with a smug arrogance that suggests that they have some kind of superior viewpoint that allows them to evaluate all religions and decree them all to be equal/the same. A pluralist’s pronouncement is breathtakingly insulting to all religions.
Ironically, there is no such thing as a pluralist (despite their claims), for even pluralists have the view that only they are right (Hey, all religions are the same…that’s my truth…and if you don’t believe that, you are wrong).
Pluralists are wrong, for not all prophets are equal and not all religions are the same or reveal the full Truth. Jesus is not a pluralist for He reveals that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me”(John 14:6).
Jesus is not a pluralist, He is an “exlusivist”, the One who claims to be the Only Son of God and the only One who can lead to God. There is no other way to God, except through Jesus Christ.
There is an old saying, that one who is confused “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Returning to the picture above, it might be said that in the confused mind of a pluralist, they “can’t see the light for the trees.”
Pray that each of us might come to know the Light of Christ and be given the Holy Spirit that we might proclaim the truth to the world. Especially to pluralists.
Freedom, Responsibility, Conscience and Consequences
God created Man as a rational being (CCC 1730) with free will, the ability to choose between good and evil (CCC 1732), responsibility for choices (CCC 1734), a conscience to guide choices (CCC 1777-1802) and consequences for those choices (CCC 1008). At Eden (Gen 3:1-24), Man abused his freedom by disobeying God’s commandment and experienced a guilty conscience (CCC 397). In this Original Sin, Man broke harmony with God (CCC 400, 416, 1707, 1739), was immediately held responsible for his choices, bearing the consequences (Gen 3:24). After Eden, God continues to grant Man freedom and holds Man responsible for choices Man makes (CCC 1745). Freedom, responsibility and consequences cannot be separated; this is how God designed Creation.
Man’s Attempt to Escape the Inescapable
Modern Man abuses freedom by avoiding responsibility, ignoring conscience and avoiding consequences for choices made. Man’s abuses of freedom are evident: the desire for sex with no responsibility, the clamoring for rights without responsibilities, exploiting legal loopholes to avoid consequences, aborting children to avoid parenthood, etc. Man’s conscience about inherent good and evil is being dulled through the totalitarian imposition of moral relativism by government and the courts, a politically correct culture and the increasingly immoral media. But, Man cannot escape the consequences of choices made: in this life, evil choices yield turmoil, sooner or later (e.g. broken relationships, the despair of guilty conscience, ill health, retribution, etc.); Man’s graver consequences are in the life to come. The Judgment of Jesus Christ is inescapable.
Jesus Christ – Divine Judge
Every man will stand in judgment before Jesus Christ, the Divine Judge. Jesus: (more…)
In Luke 13:31-35, Jesus responds to the warning by the Pharisees to run from Herod:
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
What exactly is a prophet? The Catechism defines a prophet as “One sent by God to form the people of the Old Covenant in the hope of salvation.” The Greek word prophetes means one who is “an interpreter, spokesman…and an inspired preacher or teacher.”
Is Jesus just another “prophet” or is He “THE Prophet”? Consider:
- When Jesus speaks, He is constantly referring to the fulfillment of the Old Testament: when He calls Herod a “fox”, it is both a reference to Herod’s slyness but also to a someone who is seeking to oppose God’s Kingdom on earth: “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (Song 2:15). A prophet reveals the truth.
- Jesus casts out demons and performs cures; Elijah in the Old Testament did this too.
- The prophets from the Old Testament were killed in Jerusalem (for example, Isaiah is thought to be sawn in half).
So, is Jesus just another prophet?
No, Jesus is the Son of God, who is all things Divine, including offering prophecy and Truth:
- Jesus speaks of three days in this passage, a reference to the three days between the Crucifixion and Resurrection. This comes true.
- He speaks of His own death and that He will “finish my course”, which is a reference to His Resurrection.
- Jesus uses the imagery of a hen protecting her chicks, a phrase that harkens back to various Old Testament imagery of God’s protection of those who come to Him (Psalm 17:8, 61:3-4).
- What is particularly poignant and amazing is that it is He, Jesus Christ who was with the Father from the beginning (John 1:1), who sent all the Old Testament prophets, who were killed, and who now is coming Himself, offering prophecy (both revelation of the future events and the Truth of God’s loving mercy and wish to draw all to Him).
- His comment, “Behold your house is forsaken” is perhaps a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Christ is offering a prophetic warning.
- Jesus’ last phrase is a bit enigmatic: “you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus is Lord and His own name means “Yahweh (God) saves.” This may be another prophecy of Christ’s second coming.
Prophets come and go. False prophets often find followers.
There is no “prophet” who can compare to THE Prophet, for Jesus Christ is God Himself. Only Jesus, THE Divine Prophet, can reveal the fullness of Truth.
Most Christians have heard Jesus speak of “The Narrow Gate”, or “The Narrow Door” at sometime in their lives. Jesus is a master at language and using metaphor (as we’d expect; He IS God, after all!). But what does Jesus mean by when He speaks of the “Narrow Door” or the “Narrow Gate”? And perhaps more important, what does all this talk about the “Narrow Gate or Door” mean to me?
As we’d expect with the only Son of God who is the “Truth” (John 14:6), Jesus is giving us the “straight scoop”. Jesus is a straight talker, who says what He means…and means what He says. Jesus is a straight talker, someone who speaks honestly, truthfully and sometimes painfully, when needed.
“The Narrow Gate” is painful talk, if we are prepared to hear it.
People are prone to “confirmation bias”, a desire to only hear or acknowledge those things that confirm our biases. Some want to think of Jesus as “All Merciful” and ignore the “Truth” part of Jesus. They desire a Jesus who has no standards, makes no demands, makes no judgment, accepts all behavior. The Narrow Gate or Door is painful talk and is often ignored. But we must accept all of what Jesus says and teaches and not make Jesus fit our “biases”; for when we do so, we put our souls at risk. Painful indeed.
Here are a couple of passages in which Jesus speaks of “The Narrow Door”. First, Luke 13:30:
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ 28 There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Now Jesus’ reference to “The Narrow Gate” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-14):
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Here are some key phrases and observations about the passages:
- Jesus is speaking in the context of “who will be saved”; He is talking about Salvation; our personal salvation.
- “Strive” is a powerful word, a “hard work” word which means to “struggle or fight vigorously”. Evidently, our salvation is “hard work”.
- “Many…will seek to enter and not be able.”
- Jesus (the householder), will say to you (Jesus is getting personal, using the word “you”. Question: Do you think Jesus means you?) who knock on the door “I do not know where you come from.”
- This is straight talk about the fact that many who claim to be Christian will not be saved. Salvation depends on God’s Grace but also on our cooperation and obedience (Eph 2:8-10; Phil 2:12-13). It’s not enough to be a “Casual Catholic”, for that simply won’t cut it.
- Jesus is saying that being a disciple is hard work. We must ask ourselves, “Am I really striving to know Jesus Christ?” “Am I living a life of prayer, a life of repentance and frequent engagement in the sacraments?”
- Jesus is emphasizing the word “know”; “I do not know where you come from” (He repeats this word two times). “Knowing” here refers to an intimate knowing, a real knowing. Jesus is not talking about casual acquaintances, or people who show up occasionally to hang out with Him. Jesus is saying that those who really know Him, who are close personal friends, will be allowed to enter into the Narrow Door.
- Many will make excuses, trying to make nice with Jesus at the Judgment: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” Is Jesus speaking of those who attend Mass (“ate and drank in you presence” sounds like a the Eucharist; “teaching” sounds the Liturgy of the Word) in reluctance or for selfish reasons, rarely seeking Jesus for His sake only?
- Jesus is talking damnation; the damned will experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth”; many don’t want to think there is any judgment or consequences. But Jesus is talking damnation here. See also Matt 8:12.
- The Good News is that many will will enter (from the north, south, east and west) into the banquet with Christ in the Kingdom of God. Will you be with Him?
Jesus offers straight talk about the Narrow Gate, painful talk. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is painful talk. He is warning us to repent, to turn our lives to Him, to know Him, really know Him, to strive to enter through the Narrow Gate.
We won’t be able to say we weren’t warned.
The Descent of the Prodigal Son
“Prodigal” comes from the Latin word, prodigus, meaning “wasteful.” Adam, immature and ungrateful, greedily sought a greater inheritance from the Father, eating of the fruit of the “knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 3). Fallen, afraid and ashamed, Adam wasted his inheritance of the peace and joy in the Garden for a lie by Satan. Disinherited by the Original Sin of Adam, Man became a race of prodigals, wandering alone in the world, alienated from God and at war with each other, tormented by Satan.
The Plague of Post-Modern Prodigals
Despite God the Father’s consistent call across the ages, legions of Prodigal Sons wander in post-modern despair. Post-Modern Man, full of self-conceit and rebellion, rejects the Father and fatherhood. Men, in growing numbers, prefer the effeminate comfort of perpetual adolescence, many ironically living in their father’s basements wasting their lives in trivial pursuits. Today’s Prodigals, many sired out of wedlock and abandoned by their “fathers”, reject or postpone the call to marriage, preferring promiscuity under the cover of contraception, abortion, pornography and self-indulgence. But the wastrel life has consequences: depression, suicide, addictions of all sorts and male loneliness are at epidemic levels. Post-modern Man is a spiritual bastard, intoxicated in Sin and utopian dreams, blindly living in a perpetually wasted state. Post-modern men are pathetic Prodigals.
The Call of the Son of God to the Prodigals
Jesus Christ is irrefutably identified as the only begotten Son of God. Jesus:
- Is embraced as the Father’s Son – “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God wills to prepare for it over centuries” (CCC 522) to battle the Devil (CCC 394) and save Man. God the Father sends the Son (CCC 422; Gal 4:4-5). In His Own Voice, the Father calls Jesus His Son at the Baptism (Matt 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and the Transfiguration (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35) allowing numerous witnesses to hear. The Father is “well-pleased” with the Son (Matt 3:15) and instructs Man to “listen to Him” (Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).
- Claims to be the Son of God – Even at the age of 12, Jesus goes to His Father’s house and says, “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). Jesus clearly proclaims that He is the Son (Matt 11:27; Mark 14:61-62; John 5:25, 10:36) who has been sent from Heaven (John 3:31). Jesus has a personal intimacy with the Father, calling Him “Abba”, meaning daddy or papa (Mark 14:36), speaking directly to the Father (John 12:49). He speaks of God as “My” and not “our”, claiming a special personal relationship (Matt 6:9; John 20:17) and hidden, exclusive knowledge (Matt 11:25-27; Luke 10:21-22). Jesus confesses before His enemies that He is the Son of God (Mark 16:61-62). After the Resurrection, Jesus says He is ascending to the Father at the Ascension (John 20:17).
- Is proclaimed to be the Son of God – At the Annunciation, Gabriel proclaims to Mary that Jesus is the Son of God through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:32-35). Many proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God: the Devil (Matt 4:1-11); Nathaniel (John 1:49); Peter (Matt 16:15-16); John (John 20:31); Paul (Rom 1:3; CCC 242); the Centurion who crucified Him (Matt 27:54) and even demons (Luke 4:41). The Church has always proclaimed that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (CCC 1; 441-445), a Divine Person (CCC 262).
Jesus Christ demonstrates perfection as the Son of the Father. Jesus:
- Demonstrates Divine Sonship in miracles – Jesus radiates Divine Power (Luke 6:19; 8:44), has dominion over nature (Matt 8:26, 17:2, 27:51; Mark 5:1-11, 6:48), heals all kinds of illnesses (Matt 9:27-31; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 9:37-42), raises the dead (Luke 8:40-56; John 11:44). He transfigures Himself (Matt 17:2),is resurrected (Mark 16:6) with supernatural powers (Luke 24:16; John 20:26) including the ability to ascend to Heaven (Mark 16:19).
- Is the Obedient Son – In the Incarnation, Jesus accepts the Father’s mission of Redeemer (Gal 4:4-5). All Christ does is for the Father, embracing the Father’s commands (John 14:31) and doing the Father’s will (John 6:38, 8:29), even unto death (Phil 2:8) out of love for Man (Eph 5:2). Even dying on the Cross, Jesus remains obedient to the Father (Luke 23:34, 46).
- Emphasizes the importance of the father-son relationship – God reveals His plan for the family, by the Incarnation of His own Son to Mother Mary and Father Joseph. Referred to as the Son of God in the NT 147 times, Jesus reinforces the importance of the father-son relationship in parables: Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-11) Two Sons (Matt 21:28-32).
Jesus Christ calls all Men to become adopted sons of God. Jesus:
- Is given to Man out of love by the Father – The only begotten Son is given to Man (John 3:16) in a sign of sacrificial Love (Rom 5:8; 1 John 3:16; CCC 219) in which the Father allows the Son to taste death (Heb 2:9; CCC 624). The Father instructs Man to “listen to Him” (Matt 17:5), fulfilling a promise to send a Messiah to teach Man (Deut 18:15).
- Must be believed to be the Son of God – Only Jesus is the mediator with the Father (CCC 480) who, in Glorified Flesh, sits at the right hand of the Father (CCC 663). Only Jesus has seen the Father (John 1:18) and only Jesus can reveal the Father (CCC 151): Jesus Christ is the “one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In Him, He has said everything; there will be no other word than this one” (CCC 65; Heb 1:1-2); only Jesus is the divinely reliable Truth (John 14:6). Christians must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 John 2:23) and invite Jesus into one’s life by invoking His Sacred Name (John 16:23; Phil 2:10; Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21, 3:16). Rejecting the Son of God leads to spiritual darkness, death and disinheritance (CCC 679). Without Jesus, all men remain Prodigals.
- Gives Man the ability to be adopted Sons of God – Jesus teaches the stunning Truth that Man, rather than remaining perpetual Prodigals, can become adopted Sons of the God of the Most High through Baptism (Gal 4:5; CCC 2798) and call God “Abba” (Rom 8:15, 29). For those who embrace the Cross, Jesus Christ gives Himself personally, living in each (Gal 2:20; CCC 521) and promises the inheritance of Heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4). In Christ, Prodigals can finally return to God’s home.
- Sends Man to Evangelize the whole world in His Name – Like the Father sent the Son, the Son sends Man to evangelize the world (John 20:21-23) by emphasizing the paramount nature of Fatherhood and Sonship (Matt 28:19-20). Man must evangelize in the Name of Jesus for Jesus to stand for Man in Heaven (Matt 10:32).
- Endows the Church with the Sacraments – As the Son of God, Jesus has the unique ability to forgive Sins (CCC 1441; Mark 2:5,10; Luke 7:48) that He gives to the Church (John 20:23). In the age of the Holy Spirit, Christ endows the Church with the Sacraments (CCC 1076).