I’ll never forget when my husband was going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program with our church to convert to Catholicism (and marry me!) and I attended meetings with him as one of his sponsors, what the priest, Father (now Monsignor) John Hopkins, said in response to a question raised about “why become Catholic?” As in, what makes the Catholic church any different than any other church? And Fr. John answered, “I guess it’s because we raise the bar.” If you knew Fr. John (an extremely humble man) you’d know that he didn’t say it in any sort of arrogant way, but meant it’s because the Catholic Church calls believers to follow the teachings of Christ and the Word of God in the Bible to the utmost degree, not diverting in any way, nor leaving anything up to our own (or anyone else’s) interpretation. For example, the Church calls us to strive to be saints and to participate in the Sacraments including Confession, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Communion, in which we actually participate in the Last Supper and eat of Christ’s body, as He commanded us to do “in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) Much the same way, Jesus raised the bar for the Jews back in His day, and for us today, through His example and teachings. He told the people “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” To paraphrase, He tells the people that the Commandments are a good start, but we have to go further…not only to “not murder” but to not hold any anger in our heart, not only to “not commit adultery” but to get rid of any lustful thoughts, not only to “not bear false witness” but to not swear at all. (Matt 5:17-37) Often people refer to Jesus when they defend the secular world, saying He opened His arms to everyone including sinners. But that’s a convenient way to let ourselves off the hook I think. Better to keep striving to reach higher as a Christian and to keep striving to enter through the “narrow gate” than to take our chances of just getting by and possibly missing the ultimate reward of being with Him one day in paradise.