"Lord, will those who are saved be few?" "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Lk 13:24.)
"Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way." (CCC 2609) Jesus is the door. His Body on earth which is the Church gives access to him and to the way of salvation.
The disciples ask a question that continues to be of importance to many today. Every manner of person, Catholic or not, Christian or not, all want to know: Does life go on after this world?
If it does, is there a heaven and a hell? Some give up wondering and just say, like a famous actress once did, "I don't look forward to heaven, I don't look forward to hell, I just look forward to oblivion". Perhaps, by saying so, she wanted to sound sophisticated and condescending, as if to maintain the supercilious upper class hauteur for which she had become famous. Regardless, even for one who reacts thusly, the mystery is not resolved this side of the grave.
Only faith can assure us with the knowledge that the soul is eternal, and that it is a natural consequence of the gift of our free will that when we depart this life we will either go to heaven, perhaps by way of purgatory, or to hell, a traditional name for the state of eternal separation from God. God has revealed his desire that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth desire since the time of Adam and Eve.
This revelation was not broken off by our first parents' sin. After the fall, [God] buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing. Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death. . . Again and again you offered a covenant to man. (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) (CCC 55) The narrow door is the way of Christ Jesus. One enters the way of life in Christ, of the grace of the sacramental life, beginning with baptism. The fullness of the life of sanctifying grace in the universal Church enables man to fully live the law of God in love. Thus living the life of grace, man and woman look forward with confidence to their salvation in Christ.
Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation." (Faustus of Riez, De Spiritu Sancto) Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith. (CCC 169)
For those who die before the final judgment, depicted with such awesome grandeur by the artistic genius Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel, there comes first an individual judgment.
Then, at the last trumpet all will rise, both the living and the dead, to learn who will and who will not be saved. The final judgment is an article of faith which we proclaim each time we recite the Creed.
"The resurrection of all the dead, 'of both the just and the unjust,' will precede the Last Judgment. This will be 'the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.' Then Christ will come 'in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' " (Mt 25:31, 32, 46.) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1038)
Each of us prepare throughout our lives on earth for that great and final day when we meet Christ face to face, he who knows us perfectly, but also loves us perfectly. At the judgment we will learn whether we truly loved Him in return and thus can enter into the joy of the Lord. In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare. (Cf. Jn 12:49.) The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When "our God comes, he does not keep silence"...he will turn towards those at his left hand:..."I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father-- but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head.
Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I place them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence." (St. Augustine, Sermo 18, 4: PL 38, 130-131; cf. Ps 50:3.) (CCC 1039)
If we begin now to know and serve the Lord in the least of his brothers and sisters, to love Him in the poor, the outcast, the lonely and the sinner, then we will not be like those who "stand outside" and "knock at the door" when once the householder "has risen up and shut the door." (Lk 13:25.), we need not fear to hear him say: "I do not know where you come from." (Lk 13:25.)
(See also paragraph numbers 1040-1060 in the Catechism.)