13 ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
15 ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
At twenty nine, Augustine decided to leave Carthage and travel to Rome. He believed that students in Rome were better behaved, more diligent, and more interested in the subjects of their studies than their Carthaginian counterparts. Of course, as the capital of the Roman Empire, Rome drew talented people with the prospects of higher pay and career opportunities. Augustine’s mother, the pious Monica, did not share her son’s conviction about his decision and to the very end hoped that he would remain in Carthage – or at least take her with him. Under the excuse of saying farewell to a friend at the harbour, Augustine secretly sailed away, leaving his mother praying at the nearby Chapel of St. Cyprian.
"It was you, my hope and my inheritance in the country of the living, who for my soul’s salvation prompted me to change my country, and to this end you provided both the goads at Carthage that dislodged me from there and the allurements at Rome that attracted me; and this you did through the lovers of a life that is no more than death, who on the one hand behaved insanely and on the other held out to me vain promises. To bring my steps back to the straight path you secretly made use of both their perversity and mine."
Our understanding of certain events, especially painful experiences, changes significantly over time. We look differently not only at the times of sickness or misfortune, but also on the attitudes of our parents, teachers, and superiors toward us. At the time we might have been convinced that they were wrong, that we surely knew ourselves better, yet as the years go by we reassess past events and discover a new meaning previously hidden from our sight. Furthermore, we realise that we actually grow through conflicts and reconciliations, through darkness and light, through the goodness of some and the obstacles set by others. Ancient Romans used to say per aspera ad astra—through hardships to the stars.
God, allow us those experiences which bring our steps back to the straight path, purify our hearts, help us grow in faith, and make our conduct more like that of your Son. Amen.