Tuesday, February 1, 2011


My friend and colleague Fr. Paul Bresnahan preached a challenging sermon this past Sunday. To paraphrase Fr. Paul, "I won't go to heaven unless all of you are there as well." This is challenging to me because, to be as honest as I can, there are some folks with whom I would rather not spend eternity. But that's not my call, is it?  Perhaps, as my spiritual director once told me, I can only enter heaven arm in arm with my enemies.

Fr. Paul's sermon got me thinking once again about C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, a book that every serious Christian would do well to read. In it Lewis describes the arrival of a bus from hell at the outskirts of heaven. The bus's passengers are met by some of the citizens of heaven and given the opportunity to enter. Some, however, are unwilling to enter, unwilling to give that which keeps them from accepting God's grace. 

I believe that God's intention is that all shall be saved, all renewed, all transformed. I am also very much aware of how we resist God's love and seek to thwart God's purposes in our lives. Because the Church has so often proclaimed a very different message, i.e., that God only wants to save some of us, I have often turned to Robert Buchanan's "The Ballad of Judas Iscariot" to remind me that I can't put a limit on God's mercy. Here are the final stanzas:
'Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
    And beckon'd, smiling sweet;
'Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
    Stole in, and fell at his feet.
'The Holy Supper is spread within,
    And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
    Before I poured the wine!'
The supper wine is poured at last,
    The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom's feet,
    And dries them with his hair.


Porlock Junior said...

I wonder if Dorothy L. Sayers knew of this poem. There is a wrenching scene on the same subject in her play cycle The Man Born To Be King, in which Judas goes back to the Elders. We all know how that comes out.

But the way in which she fleshed out the too-familiar stories was unconventional at the time, and some of it still is. The vulgar language we can pass, and anyone who wonders if that's true needs to contemplate what was considered unseemly by the BBC in 1940. I'm not sure they'd have been comfortable with Captain Corcoran singing, "Why, damme, it's too bad!"

Which brings us to the full text of what Judas said in that encounter, as she envisions it. He is remorseful and reproachful, as we know; but in his discourse he starts thinking aloud more than addressing the Elders. He reflects at the end that he still could take himself to the foot of the cross and beg Jesus' forgiveness, and he would receive it. And he couldn't stand that!

And he went and hanged himself.

Porlock Junior said...

Forgot I was not in normal Blogville, but in a place where people sign their real names. An excellent practice, but one so odd to the Internet world that Google doesn't seem to recognize the idea by allowing one to sign without an official Google-listed ID. Rather than make one for the occasion, I have to apologize for the breach of good practice.

Dan Drake