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Surprises in Heaven!

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The great Anglican scholar, C.S. Lewis,  passed away in 1963. But when you go into any bookstore you will find many of his writings. His Chronicles of Narnia was a hit movie. C.S. Lewis once wrote a reflection on death and heaven. 

He said that there would be three big surprises in heaven. The first one was that we would be surprised at the people who we see that have made it to heaven. We will be shocked at the people we will find in heaven. “How did THEY get here?” The second surprise will be the shock at realizing that some of the people we were sure would be there, even canonized saints, are nowhere to be found. And the third surprise, of course, will be that somehow WE made it to heaven ourselves.

I find it most interesting how people in the major religions stake out their exclusive claim on who will or who won’t be in heaven. The Born-Again Christians say that unless you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you cannot get into heaven. Someday we will all see and know if this is true. 

I think the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matt 25:31-46) give us all much food for reflection. Jesus is talking about Judgement Day and how the sheep, the people who are saved, the chosen ones, are welcomed into heaven. And they ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, alone and in prison?” Neither the sheep or the goats, the unchosen ones, recognized Jesus. 

Only the arrogant have the chutzpah to draw up a Who’s Who for heaven. I hear Jesus saying that many people who will be saved by Christ did not even know him by that name. But they reached out to him in others who needed help. 

The reality of who is or is not in heaven or in the loving arms of Jesus is not ours to say. It will be up to Jesus who is our king and our judge. If there is anything our society dislikes more than talking about death, it is talking about Judgement Day. “Live and let live…Everyone has the right to do their own thing….Who am I to say?” We will be judged for what sins we have committed in our lives, but also for what we have failed to do for others in our lives. 

Our sins are very clear to us and to our judge. But our God is a God of Mercy, a God who sees that because of God’s grace, we have developed a lifestyle of reaching out to and helping others. God will see and certainly recognize that we reached out to him again and again without even knowing it was him. Our God is truly an awesome God, a Merciful and yet a Just God!

Jesus speaks to us of Judgement Day, when the sheep will be separated from the goats. None of us can “earn” heaven. God’s grace does that. But when Jesus looks at YOUR soul on Judgement Day, will God see a sheep or a goat? 

Thanks to Sam Carter for the photo. 


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