Who is getting into heaven: the narrow gate, the locked door and the banquet

Jess theses statement in LukeLet us first begin this discussion with the Shema, “Hear Israel, God is Almighty, God is One, Love God with all of your hearts/לְבָבְךָ, all of your animate being, and with all of your measure.” The Hebrew word for heart is לְבָ.   לְבָ is a plural form.  ךָ is a singular case ending meaning “Your.” “Your,” is singular, and hearts is plural. Tradition states that this is because we each have multiple hearts, propensities, desires. Some of these are good, and some are not so good. God calls us to love him with all of these. This means turning negatives into positives. It also means seeing the good and the not so good in everyone we meet, seeing God’s image in everyone we meet, our friends, and our enemies. נַפְשְׁךָ or soul, is our animate being. I asked a rabbi what the difference between soul and blood was. He pointed out they are the same thing. Blood is the only organ that touches every other organ,  and at the same time. It touches every cell at the same time. It permeates all of who we are. מְאֹדֶךָ at its root means measure. If we measure ourselves with our strength, it means strength. If we measure ourselves with our wealth, it means wealth. If it means out patriotism, our community, it means all the resources of our community in the service of God.

This brings us to our second step. How do we love God? What do we give someone who literally already has everything? This person is God. We respect what is his, in particular what is made in his image, each other.

Pro-lifeTo this comes the question of who will be saved. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

“.שני כתובים המכחישים זה את זה, עד שיבוא הכתוב השלישי ויכריע ביניהם”

“If two passages contradict each other, this contradiction must be reconciled by comparison with a third passage”

The third passage is Matthew 22:37-39. “You shall love the NAME, your God, with all your hearts, with all your anima, and with all your measure. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The second is like it. The second is like the first. We show our love for God by the way we treat each other. I show my love for God by looking for his image in every person I see. I assume, sometimes in spite of the evidence, we have evil inclinations too, that everyone, including my worst enemies, the Hitlers, Stalins, Reagans, Bushes, Nixons, and others in the world are getting into heaven.

I love them. Hebrew has two key words, “Abba, which we all know means father. The second is Ha Bah, or to welcome, to welcome into our lives and our hearts. The third is A Ha Bah, and this means love. We welcome even the worst monsters of history into heaven.

St. Francis and the leperThe Shema, above, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, begins with the love of God and seeing God’s image in everyone. We begin with love of God first. Surely, “Love of God,” means being like any lover and wanting to tell everyone about our lover, our Father, and wanting everyone on the planet to know about him.

Love of neighbor means seeing God in everyone and wishing everyone to know the father and to be with him in heaven. Who do we exclude? Those who are not in our club? Those who not in our political party? Those who are not in our religious club? Once we exclude, we reduce love, and once we reduce love, we restrict ourselves from the banquet. That is what Jesus tries to tell us.

So, what of those who are not in our religious club? What of them? I assume they are getting into heaven because I love them, welcome them to my religious club, and into heaven. What if I am wrong? God alone gets to choose who gets into heaven and I am not God. Even if I can cite a rule, like Mark 16:16 and John 16:6, I still presume to take God’s role and engage of idolatry of self, when I exclude others.

The same rule applies to immigration. If I exclude others from the nice things of this nation, in the next kingdom, I restrict not them, but myself. If I assume all are getting in, I am probably wrong, but God sees my love, my desire to include all, and sees himself in that. “In the measure in which you judge you will be judged.” Matthew 7. He makes a deal with us in this passage, and I take him up on that deal. In the measure in which I judge, love of all, welcoming all, I hope I will be judged, and welcomed into heaven. That is what Jesus tells us today.

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