Jesus is the One who holds the keys to Heaven, but there is one door He won’t unlock without permission: the door of our hearts. Christmas is close, and today the Church’s liturgy calls upon Christ as the Key of David: “O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!”
Jesus is the One who finally unlocked the promises that God made to David for a flourishing kingdom. He unlocked the chains of sin, broke through the bars of Hell, and opened the gates of Heaven. Jesus alone had the power and authority to do this, and the Church celebrates the coming of His majestic kingship.
Jesus did all of this in His first coming, and in His second coming He will complete His works of power. He announces in the book of Revelation, “Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.”
These are the keys that control eternal life and eternal death, and there is no soul who will escape His final judgment. But now, in the time between His two comings, Jesus waits for us to make our decision.
Even more graciously, Jesus does not leave us on our own to decide which set of eternal gates we will walk through. At the end of His letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2–3, He tells us that He is knocking at the door of our house. He has the key if He wanted to use it, but He doesn’t come in uninvited: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”
This is the mystery of Jesus’s coming now, between the Incarnation and the Last Judgment. He comes to us individually because He wants to live with us, love us, and receive our love in return. But in order to be love, it must be free. If we do not choose to open the door to Jesus’s knocking, He will not use His keys to force entry. We might not think that we would do this today, but our hearts are fickle and the future is unknown. Will the day come when we lock out Jesus? The Church teaches that final perseverance is a distinct grace from God, and that we cannot presume to know how our life will turn out.
Given our uncertain perseverance, it is a gift that at Christmas the Church directs us year by year to the manger in Bethlehem. As a baby, Jesus knocks softly at the door of our hearts, and He reassures us that we have nothing to fear from letting Him in. We can even say that the humble love He shows us at Bethlehem is the real key to our hearts. Our pride can lock us in our own way of doing things, unable to change for the sake of Jesus. His humility, willing to come from the heights of Heaven to be born in a manger, unlocks our stubborn hearts. Come, Lord Jesus!
Image: Giovanni Boldini, Door in Montmartre