In yet another hilarious and politically incorrect episode of “The Simpsons,” Bart and Homer decide to convert to Catholicism. Marge confides in their pastor, Rev. Lovejoy, and worries about ending up alone in Protestant Heaven, while the rest of her family will be in Catholic Heaven.
In her fantasy she sees the souls in Protestant Heaven playing boringly proper games of badminton and cricket, while those in Catholic Heaven enjoy a virtual fiesta, dancing, drinking, and even fighting. To her horror, Homer and Bart are among the predominantly Irish and Hispanic souls playing piñata and even joining them in a Riverdance production number. And just when she thinks she’s seen the worst, Marge asks about Jesus, only to be told that the Lord has gone over to Catholic Heaven, having a blast.
The rest of the episode–which, by the way, is called “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star”–shows how Marge and Rev. Lovejoy scheme to bring Homer and Bart back to “the one true faith.” Bart eventually tells the adults how stupid it is that the different groups of Christians are fighting over religion. Coming to their senses, the adults agree with Bart and stop fighting among themselves, but instead they decide to fight gays and stem cells instead!
This episode from “The Simpsons” may as well be a commentary on today’s readings. One line from our Lord strikes me as quite significant: “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” He’s obviously not referring to separate heavens for different kinds of people like the Protestant or Catholic Heavens depicted in Marge Simpson’s fantasy. In fact, he’s referring to the exact opposite: In God’s idea of heaven, there is room for everyone, and more importantly, there’s no separation among people. God’s heart is much too large to exclude anyone. And God’s embrace is much too wide for anyone to be out of his reach. So, in heaven, there is room enough for everyone–regardless of religion, race, or resources. Every single person will have a place at the table.
But how do we get to God’s heaven? In the gospel, Thomas asks the Lord this same question: “How can we know the way?” The Lord responds by saying, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” In other words, if we want to know the way, let’s look at the life and person of our Lord. One way of describing his Public Ministry is his preferential option for the marginalized: the poor, the sick, and the sinners. He reaches out to the very people that everyone else excluded and rejected. Wherever he goes, he breaks down the fences that separate people. The kingdom of God that he proclaims includes precisely everyone.
I think the gospel’s message for us today is: “Why wait for heaven?” The only way to heaven is to break down fences as our Lord did during his earthly life. To include all and exclude no one. If God’s heart is big enough for everyone and his embrace wide enough for everyone, then we can do no less. We too should stretch our hearts and open our arms wide enough to include everyone too.
Easier said than done, of course, but nobody said that it’s easy to get to heaven. Otherwise our Lord would not have compared it to a narrow door.
Here’s a Quick Question for you: Are there particular people in your life that you have, for one reason or another, excluded? Could God be inviting you to begin breaking down these fences?
(video: from “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star,” final episode of “The Simpsons” Season 16)