HEAVEN, KANSAS, THE MOON, AND THE LONELY MOUNTAIN

My family and I drive from Pittsburgh, PA to Kansas no less than twice a year. My wife is from Kansas, and we like to visit her parents and hometown as much as possible. The trips are always a source of great excitement in our house, yet each one way trip totals 14 hours according to Google maps (and that’s not counting the stops). While the idea of a 14 hour drive is no longer daunting because we are seasoned veterans, we always are careful to choose the most direct route possible (this can vary trip to trip due to construction). There is little need to stay in our minivan any longer than we have to, especially for our three kids who are 6 and under. Any parent who has experienced a long trip with kids knows how trying those last couple hours of travel can be for all involved. Thus, the most direct route is the best route. 

In the Gospels, Jesus encourages us to do a similar thing in the spiritual life. He tells us: 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 (Matthew 7:13-14). There are many translations and interpretations of this passage that can lead us down different paths of theological musings. However, the simplest reading of this passage is that the journey to heaven is long, arduous, and you shouldn’t deviate from the most direct path to it. Like Bilbo and the dwarves traversing through Mirkwood to reclaim the Lonely Mountain by way of the Elven Road, we must stick to the path, for there are dangers lurking everywhere waiting to distract us away from the path to never find it again. 

This notion makes sense, especially in physics. A lot has been done recently to reclaim moon landings. Countless dollar amounts have been poured into projects to put another man on the moon. In order not to waste these resources, meticulous attention to detail has been given to the various mathematical formulas guiding the journey of spacecraft. A flight pattern even off just one degree, will miss the moon by miles. The same theological detail must be put into our spiritual journeys as well. Of this point, Jesus is very clear when he talks about a narrow road and the few who find it. 

How do we know the exact way? (Thomas asks Jesus this exact question) Jesus tells us that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Thus, the journey to heaven is in Him. He is the narrow path. That is why it is essential that we know Jesus, and that our conception of Him is correct. This is why the Catholic Church is so important. Since the Apostles, the Church has been concerned with handing Jesus on to others in the most truthful way possible. Why? Because even misunderstanding Jesus a little bit can send us way off course. A simple example could be comparing the sacramental worldview of the Catholic Church and the Once Saved, Always Saved notion of many of our Protestant brothers and sisters. The sacramental worldview instills in us that after we profess our faith in Jesus, we recognize that we are sinners constantly attempting to climb the Lord’s mountain, but we can only do so through Jesus’ grace distributed in the sacraments by His Body the Church. The road is long and arduous, but we rely on Him and make our triumphant entrance into heaven at the end of our life because He has raised the lowly to new heights. Whereas in the Once Saved, Always Saved notion, once you have professed your faith in Jesus, you are placed on the mountain top already. For the rest of your life, you are attempting not to fall off that mountain through sin. This does not coincide with how Jesus describes the journey in Matthew 7 (above) even though it sounds similar. These two notions of salvation are only off by a couple degrees. However, they result in lifestyles that look vastly different. It is important that we know Jesus and who He truly is if we want to make the straight and narrow journey to heaven. 

Going back to Bilbo and the dwarves, they do end up leaving the path. They fail to stay on the straight and narrow. They are captured by spiders and then unfriendly elves, but ultimately make their escape through the help and resourcefulness of Bilbo and eventually reach their destination because of their determination. The same can be said for our journey to heaven. Jesus’ statement about few reaching the small gate can be anxiety inducing. But we have to realize that like Bilbo and the dwarves, we will stray from the path. We will fail. And it is in those moments that we will need to stay determined in finding the narrow path again, but also we must humbly rely on the help of God through His Word and Sacraments, to bring us back to His Son, who is the straight and narrow. So whether you are going to Kansas, the Lonely Mountain, the Moon, or to Heaven, we must chart the course accurately and stick to the path. But if we fail, we can rest assured that if we persevere in hope that Jesus will lead us to Himself, the way that leads to eternal life.

MORE BY THIS AUTHOR

SPIRITUALITY & DEVOTION

At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

This will close in 32 seconds