Fr Richard's homily for the optional memorial of St Etheldreda
Homily: The narrow gate
“…it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it”
Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel show us that taking the easy option will not lead us to eternal life. Rather, the journey to our heavenly homeland has to include suffering and sacrifice. We see no greater reminder of this than when we look upon the Crucifix. St Etheldreda, the 7th century nun whom the Church honours today, united the pain she endured through illness with Christ’s on the Cross. We’re told she took this suffering as a blessing.
To ensure we stay on course for the narrow gate, we also have to grow in virtue. Those virtues will mean that we’ll resist temptation to sin and remain pure and spotless in the sight of God.
Amidst our growth in virtue, Our Lord’s will for the manner by which we stay on the path to the narrow gate will be different for each of us. For St Etheldreda (or Audrey), it was to live in virginity, even though she was forced into marriage twice. Virginity is that special virtue that St Thomas Aquinas calls the “excellence of chastity”. Living virginity will have no doubt come with its challenges – but Etheldreda called on the Lord’s help of grace and excelled in holiness.
Virgin saints of the Church remind us of the purity that must characterise our relationship with God and others, even if the majority of people aren’t called to live that way of life.
May the intercession of St Etheldreda, help us excel in chastity and all the other virtues – that we may resist the temptations of the world and stay on track for that narrow gate that leads to our heavenly homeland.