There's a Peanuts cartoon that shows Charlie Brown getting up one morning and looking out the window. It's a lovely winter day. Snow covers the ground. It's very cold, but perfect for skiing. So, Charlie bundles up with several layers of clothes. Then he puts on his big gloves and his skis. When he moves toward the door, he discovers that he's so bundled up that he can't get through the door. So, we see him in the last frame of the cartoon, standing there screaming at the top of his lungs in utter frustration.
That image of Charlie Brown standing in front of the door too bundled up to pass through it, I think captures for us the teaching that Jesus is setting before us today in the Gospel of Luke. I think it is safe to say that all of us in this Church want to follow Jesus. But at times, we find ourselves so bundled up with the worries and concerns of life, so bundled up with the possessions that can easily dominate our lives and hold us captive, that we end up like Charlie Brown - so bundled up that we can't get through the door - the door that opens to the way of the Gospel and eternal life in Christ.
Sometimes, though, it's not just our material possessions and concerns that keep us from passing through the door. Sometimes it's the fear of what others may say or think of us as we struggle to live out our Christian convictions.
One of the most famous photographs taken during World War II shows four marines planting the American flag on Mt. Surabachi on the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean. The famous photograph was taken just after the Marines had driven the enemy from this strategic location on the mountain.
The photographer who took the picture braved mine fields and machine-gun fire to record it. His name was Joe Rosenthal. Joe was not a stranger to courage. He was a Jew who became convinced that Jesus was not only the promised Messiah but also the very Son of God. He decided to become a Catholic. His family and friends fought his decision. They thought he was making a mistake. And so, to do what he thought was right, Joe had to go against their wishes. He loved his family deeply and so it was a wrenching and painful choice for him to make. But he had to follow his own conscience.
When the newspapers and magazines printed Joe's prize-winning photo, everyone wanted to know more about the man who took the photograph. In an interview, Joe told a journalist: "The day before we went ashore on Iwo Jima, I attended Mass and received Holy Communion." Then referring to his conversion to Catholicism, he said: If a man is genuinely convinced he has the truth, and still neglects it, he is a traitor, and that goes not only for my Jewish friends who fail to attend the synagogue each Saturday, but also for my Catholic friends whom miss Mass on Sunday."
Joe's comment reminds us all that in order for us walk through that narrow door of faith, we must be willing to live that faith out of conviction rather than mere convenience, no matter what others may think. The ultimate strength and vitality of our Catholic way of life will be gauged by our willingness to let the values that shape our belief make an impact on the society and culture in which we live. And that can only happen through us. Through our willingness to let the light of the Gospel influence our decisions as a family, as employers or employees, and as citizens whose collective voice can truly make a dramatic difference in our neighborhoods, cities, county and nation. I sometimes here the critique that the Church should stay out of politics. As men and women who are the Church, in a very real sense, it is our calling as Christians to be part of that great dialogue within our land that continues to move our nation in the way of liberty and justice for all. All of us are called to faithful citizenship in our land, now more than ever as we face critical life issues touching all aspects of what it means to form a more perfect union. As Catholic Christians, we would do well to realize that a nation without a conscience is one that has truly lost its soul.
Jesus continues to be the door of eternal truth for us all. It is wide enough to pass through - but only for those who value Jesus more than anything else, including our possessions and what other people think.