Print Version February 25th, 2005
Once upon a time … yep, this is one of those homilies … once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a great country full of pride in its past glories. And that country had a great monarch, proud and righteous, clever in his alliances and bold in waging war on his enemies.
But the life of even a King comes to an end. One day the King died and while his court squabbled for power his soul winged its way to heaven. He quite liked the sensation of whooshing up into the sky and, though he never really doubted his destination, as he went he practised his sincere and righteous smile for St. Peter. And indeed the Pearly Gates grew nearer and glorious till even he, accustomed to magnificence, was subdued and fell into almost humble silence. … There he stood, dwarfed by pillars of cloud, and waited to be received. He made sure he looked his best. He rehearsed his acceptance speech.
He waited. And he waited. And he waited. But no St. Peter. Eventually he got 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.
He wandered for hours until he caught the merest hint of sound: music, perhaps? Yes. And laughter! A party up ahead. A surprise party for him, no doubt!
Our ex-King hurried up to the great gilded door and, not wanting to appear in any way overawed, he quietly pushed the door open and looked in. Such a party was under way and, though at first he recognised no one, one by one certain faces became clear to him in one shock after another. Oh no, that awful newspaper man who kept trying to make people doubt him. And over there drinking with him, my God, Adolf Hitler. And more faces he remembered with horror. Harold Shipman and Genghis Khan and Saddam Hussein and Margaret Thatcher (hey it’s my story!). Our King was ready to bolt—clearly he was in the wrong place—when Hitler spotted him and ran up to bring him in. “Welcome to heaven!” he said. The King’s smile failed him: “How can it be heaven with you here?!” he cried, terrified. But Adolf just smiled and answered, “Yes, it does give people a nasty turn when they see me. I was surprised myself when I arrived.”
“But after all you did! This must be hell!”
A sadness crossed his face: “Yes, so much I regret but it seems I asked for forgiveness at that final hour and next thing I knew I was here with Jesus waiting for me. And though I was ready to be a servant and work off my debt of horror, the band was ready to play and the wine was poured and the party underway. 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 Gordon, waving to you. Please …!”
“Let me think about it,” he said. And he went off in haste to that shadowy place where millions think about it in horror and sadness for eternity.