Sunday Week 24 Year C

Are you sitting comfortably? … Then I’ll begin. Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a large and prosperous country proud of its favour in the sight of God. And that country had a monarch, large and prosperous, proud of her favour in the sight of God—so proud in fact that it seemed to her that her life was charmed and her charm irresistible. Even so, she ruled her land with wisdom and equity, comfortable in her power to lubricate the machinery of state with her wit and eloquence.
It seemed that everyone loved her. Her people expressed their adoration in all the polls. Kings and queens of less fortunate lands hurried to her gates for the grace of her presence and returned home grateful, assured with sound bites for their hungry subjects. It seemed that even God favoured her since so many things worked out her way—even in those moments when her private vices became public folly. Which they often did for the Queen’s immoderate charm was always running away with one or another ample palace intern and though they would kiss and kiss sooner or later they all would tell.
But experience had taught her that even scandal could deepen her ratings if she played the prodigal, bringing her tearful repentance charmingly before her people who always saw in her the image of their own hidden failings and so adored her ever the more.
But, charmed though it was, like all lives the Queen’s eventually came to an end. Yes, once upon a time the Queen died and while her body lay in state surrounded by her grieving people her soul winged its way to heaven.
She rather liked the sensation of whooshing up into the sky and, though she never really doubted her destination, as she went she practised her charm for St. Peter. And indeed the Pearly Gates grew near and enormous and glorious till even she, accustomed to magnificence, was subdued and fell into almost humble silence. … There she stood, dwarfed by pillars of cloud, and waited to be waited upon. She made sure she looked her best. She rehearsed her acceptance speech. She waited. And she waited. And she waited. But no St. Peter.
Eventually she tired of waiting and squeezed through a gap in the clouds and began to wander around the empty streets of heaven looking for signs of life. She wandered for an un-timed time until she caught the merest hint of sound: music, perhaps? Yes. And laughter! A party in that hall up ahead. A surprise party for her, no doubt!
She hurried up to the great gilded door and, not wanting to appear in any way overawed, she quietly pushed the door open and looked in. Quite a party was under way and, though at first she recognised no one, one by one certain faces became clear to her in one shock after another. Oh no, that horrible prosecutor man who kept trying to make people hate her. And over there drinking with him, my God, Adolf Hitler. And more faces she remembered with horror. Jeffrey Dahmer and Genghis Khan and Charles Manson and Margaret Thatcher. She was ready to bolt—clearly she was in the wrong place—when Adolf spotted her and ran up to greet her bring her in. “Welcome to heaven!” he said. The Queen’s charm failed her: “How can it be heaven with you here?!” she cried, terrified. But Hitler just smiled and answered, “Yes, it does give people quite a nasty turn when they see me. I was surprised myself when I arrived.”
“But after all you’ve done! This must be hell!”
A sadness crossed his face: “yes, so much I regret but it seems I asked for forgiveness at that last minute and next thing I knew I was here with Jesus waiting for me. And though I was ready to be a janitor and work off my debt of horror, the band was ready to play and the wine already poured and the party begun. Just like now! Won’t you come in?”
“But where are all the good people? Where are they?”
More sadness in his face: “Ah, the good ones. This place is theirs you know. Always has been. Always will be. But not many of them come much further than where you are now. It’s the company I’m afraid. Won’t you come in and join us—dinner’s ready? And look there’s Jesus over there, with Kenneth, waving to you. Please …!”
“Let me think about it,” she said. And she went off in haste to that shadowy place where millions think about it in horror and sadness for eternity.