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.