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Life, Love and Law

Life, Love and Law: Chapter 7


The Heaven Parables

The Synoptics provide us with a number of parables concerning Heaven understood as the Kingdom of God. They tell us what it is and what to do to be part of it.

Jesus often talks of rewards and punishments in the afterlife after some form of «judgement» as He uses familiar analogies to describe things in ways people can understand.

I believe that the Kingdom is where people are following God's Ways, acting as God acts. God is the One Who loves completely and equally everyone of His creatures, Who rejoices and hurts with each, the One Who, because He is Love, makes clear for all to see everyone's deeds and omissions.

Death brings us into His Presence. His Presence is a Loving Presence where all are equal whatever their lives have been. His Presence brings joy to those who love others and find happiness at being loved despite their failures and torment to those who cannot accept to be shown for what they are nor accept the faults and failures of others any more than God's love for the people they hate or despise.

I will analyse the parables about the Kingdom, examine every point Jesus is making in each one, and check to see if they are consistent with my interpretation of what comes after death. It only takes one inconsistency to force a rethinking of my interpretation as Jesus' sayings are the criteria by which all stands or falls.

1. The Parables about Judgment

The main parable on the criteria of entry in «life eternal» rather than «everlasting fire» is the parable of the Last Judgement, found only in Matthew's Gospel. It reads:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.1

This parable's points are:

1) the «Son of Man» comes «in glory» and sits «upon the throne of his glory» with a large retinue of angels

2) there is a separation of people according to the following criteria: if they have - or not - ministered to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner

3) and those who did, the «righteous», inherit the Kingdom while those who did not, the «cursed», are sent in the «everlasting fire »

4) because the One who separates (the «Son of Man», the «King») associates Himself totally with the needy

5) and makes deeds and omissions known to all («public judgement»).

The Greek word for «glory» is «doksa» (δοξα); its first meaning is «opinion», «what one expects», «what one thinks possible», «belief» and so «good or bad opinion », «reputation». It is easy to see how one goes from the meaning «reputation» to «glory» when applied to God. But here this term is not applied to God but to the «Son of Man». Could His reputation vary according to the people standing about His throne? Could He be Love for some and Implacable Vengeance for others?

In verse 40, it says: «as long as you did it to one of the least... you did it to me» while in verse 45 it says: «as long as you did not do it to one of the least... you did not do it to me». The King considers every act of kindness done to those in need as done to Him and every omission of kindness to those in need as an omission of kindness to Him.

While I have at times looked after people in need, I have avoided doing so at many others. I fit in the first category because I did acts of kindness at least once and in the second because I avoided doing acts of kindness at least once! I think it would be fair to say that this is so for everyone. Hence all fit in one and the other category; and nowhere in this parable is there question of scales to weight the acts versus the omissions. I have to conclude that everyone is at the same time blessed and cursed!

What comes of this dilemna within the scheme of my interpretation of Heaven and Hell? God loves each and every one of His creatures and so, each and every one of His humans. Because of His great love, He associates Himself completely with His creatures' sufferings: they are His. So each time we minister unto others, thus alleviating someone's sufferings, we alleviate God's; each time we do not alleviate a fellow human's, we do not alleviate God's.

After our death, all is revealed: the times we helped and the times we did not, the hurt we relieved and the hurt we ignored. We will be shown for what we are and did as well as did not become and did not do. God's love for all will make all known to all. What we did for others will make us feel joy as we will see its results in other's lives; what we did not do to help others will make us feel terrible as we will see the results of our inaction in other's lives. All that compounded by God's complete love and identification for all those we did and did not help.

Seeing that God identifies completely with our enemies will make us seethe with rage, burn with everlasting resentment and fury. He is not for us: He is against us as He identifies with them. How can He?

This, one could argue, holds only with the assumption that one cares about others. As the selfish do not, having not helped others will not make them feel bad.

The selfish get angry when others cause them pain. They want revenge and do so at the first opportunity. They also reason that those who could would act towards them as they do. God is the strongest, He is «the Almighty». Once the selfish find that their actions and omissions have hurt God, they will fear His revenge and any act of love from Him towards them will be construed by them as part of His torture for them. They will constantly expect that this «love» will savage them and that He will make them pay for eternity. He has to as He is like them: this is His reputation with them.

This seems to fit the parable rather well. All the important ingredients are there: the happiness for the service of those in need, the burning feeling for the lack of service to those in need; all that because God makes everything known, including His love for all.

The parable of the Wheat and the Tares, for which we have Jesus' interpretation, is also about judgment. It is found only in Matthew (Jesus' interpretation follows the parable):

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.2

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.3

The following points make this interpreted parable:

1) Originally only the «children of the Kingdom» are «planted» in the «world» to grow and «shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father»: this is God's plan.

2) But the «world» does not contain only the «children of the Kingdom» but also those of the «evil one». Those are there because of the Devil, God's enemy.

3) It is impossible to root out the children of the evil one from the world without rooting out those of the Kingdom: both are to grow up together, in close contact in the same physical and social world.

4) At the «end of the world», «they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth» while «shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father».

Again we see separation of those who lived in the world into two groups: those who are children of the Kingdom and those who «offend» and «do iniquity». The Greek word «skandala» (σκανδαλα) translated as «all things that offend» means «trap», «pit placed on the way», «obstacle meant to trip someone». The Greek word «anomian» (ανομιαν) translated as «iniquity» means «violation of the law», «illegal» and the Greek word «dikaioi» (δικαιοι) translated as «righteous» means «who follows his duties to gods and humans», «honest», «just».

But what about this «gnashing of teeth»? What does this refer to? This expression is found three times in the Book of Psalms:

But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth. Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.4

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.5

The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.6

In every case, someone is trying to crush another with his teeth like a lion would do. «Gnashing of teeth» shows anger, murderous intent and confrontation. The people in the furnace of fire are not only in pain and thus wailing, they are angry and want revenge.

This again seems to fit rather well in my scheme: the division of the people in two groups is such that those who hate are on one side and those who share the values of the Kingdom are on the other. The first group does not produce any fruit of value; only the second can bring something to the Kingdom: their grain. They have something to give in the Kingdom of God's love while the others only tried to stifle the wheat.

What happens at the end of this life is a division between people. The tares are not be able to continue suffocating the wheat. They are not able to trip the «just», the ones who follow God's ways of love and service, the ones who feed others with the grain they have grown. The just do not have to suffer anymore from the injustice visited upon them by the life haters, those who use others as if they were their things.

The same idea is found in the Parable of the net found in Matthew:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.7

Again, we find the division at the end of this life of the good fish and the bad; the good are kept together while the bad are thrown away, where there will «be wailing and gnashing of teeth», as was said in the previous Parable. The haters, the ones who want to use, hurt others, have revenge on them, the ones who do not belong to the ways of love, are discarded by the angels, God's messengers, the ones who tell it as it is, show God's love and the ways of the Kingdom, ways that are intolerable to those who hate.

2. The Parables of the Sower

The parable of the Sower whose seed falls in different grounds to different results does not seem to be so much related to the last judgment as to how people react to Jesus' words according to their «situation» in this life. It is found in the gospels of Matthew8 and Luke9 as well as Mark's,10 where it is in three sections. The first section is the parable proper; the second is why Jesus talks in parables and the third, His interpretation. The middle section is not relevant here.11 The first and third sections are:

Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.12

The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.13

We have the following points in Jesus' interpretation:

1) The word of God is spoken and so is sown in everyone's heart. All who are mentioned after are aware of the same message.

2) The first group is composed of people who are just outside the field itself. They basically do not have any earth where the word can grow; they are a stony ground, a place where growth is impossible. They thus loose the word immediately: Satan, the Prince of this World's order, removes it from their mind. These are the people who live purely and simply according to the rules of this world's order, a hard world where «man eats man». They cannot even give the message a second thought as it is so opposed to all their beliefs and aspirations.

3) The second group shows interest in God's word: it is composed of people who have some earth but only very little. They receive the message as it sounds right to them. On the other hand, they are not ready to sacrifice anything much for it. They lack «staying power»: as soon as troubles turn up, they are discouraged and give up. To love one's neighbour is easy when she is nice but intolerable as soon as problems arise.

4) The third group has some depth. The message takes root and starts to grow but thorns share the ground with the good wheat. God's message is not the only one growing in their hearts: the world's messages (in the form of commercials?) are also growing and finally choke God's. These messages are «the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things». For God's message to thrive, it must be in first place. She does not have much time for God's message if worried about food, clothing, lodging, the price of things, war and peace, the environment. She does not have much time for God's message when checking for good retirement funds, studying the stock market, looking for a bigger house, a better car, remodeling the lounge, renovating the kitchen. If she wants smart clothes, beautiful friends, a well decorated house, some wonderful vacations, great sex, good boose and lots of parties, she does not have much time left for God's message. Indeed, she should have forgotten it!

5) Then there is the last group: the group of people where the earth is deep and where the wheat grows alone. These are committed to God's word, are ready to sacrifice everything for it. These are the one's in which this message grows to fruition because it is not at the mercy of the world. This ground refuses this world's «commercials». The way Jesus puts it in Luke is worth quoting: «But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.»14 Patience is needed as this growth is slow.

It should be quite obvious that only the last group has put into practice God's ways. So if it is essential to have lived this message to join the Kingdom, only they will be able to face God in a way that will permit them to find the experience a joyful rather than a terrible one. This being said, this conclusion does not come out of the above parable per se.

The idea of the seed planted in the good earth growing to fruition is taken in another parable about sowing:

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.15

To harvest a plant, a human does not have to know how the seed germinates and grows. It happens as long as she does not interfere with the process. It is the same with us: if we let God do His job, we grow to be what He means us to be. Trusting in God's work and not interfering with it are paramount.

What we are meant to be is not necessarily small. We might grow into something quite big:

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.16

God 's work in us can produce something quite stupendous out of very small beginnings. Mother Theresa of Calcutta is an example of a small seed (her own calling in Albania) turning into a big tree (the development of an institute present on all the continents and composed of thousands of nuns doing the work she started).

This idea of growth, this time from an apparently hidden source, is found in the parable of the leaven: «Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.»17

We find that accepting God's work in us acts in our lives like leaven on the meal: the leaven is invisible, well hidden in the meal. But it will make it rise, grow into something bigger. Though «invisible», God's work is real and effective.

We noticed in the first Parable of the Sower that the only soil which permitted proper growth was the one where no weed was present to stifle it. Nothing else must be in its way. Jesus compares the Kingdom to a buried treasure found in a field that is so valuable that she is ready to give up everything for it: « Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.»18 The Kingdom of God is so precious that she is joyfully ready to give up everything to get possession of it. God's ways are her delight. Jesus also compares the Kingdom to a precious pearl that a merchant bought after selling all he had.19

3. The «Be Prepared» Parables

The Kingdom is God's way of life. At the hour of our death, we go from this life to the next, a life where God is no more hidden, a life where God's ways are the only ones that bring joy. What is in accordance with this world order will then bring grief as it is opposed to God's ways. It is thus paramount to be prepared for this new state of affairs.

There are a few parables about being ready. One is about virgins waiting in the night for their bridegroom:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.20

The following points can be found in this parable:

1) Ten virgins with lamps are ready to meet their bridegroom. Ten virgins for one bridegroom! That is an awful lot of virgins for just one man, isn't it? This is how the Kingdom of Heaven is!

2) Five are well prepared as they carry spare oil with their lamp while the others are ill prepared as they are without spare oil. Only some are ready for the long haul.

3) Their bridegroom is very late (obviously Jesus does not believe in the stereotype about women being late!) and so the girls all fall asleep. As time goes by, the oil of their lamps runs dry and the lamps go off.

4) At midnight the girls are told to go and meet their bridegroom who is finally arriving. Only the wise ones are able to light their lamps after filling them with oil; the others have to go away and buy some.

5) The wise ones meet their bridegroom and are taken by him to their marriage feast and the door is shut.

6) The others find their way after filling their lamps with oil but are refused entry at the hall as they were not ready when their bridegroom came.

7) The conclusion is to watch for the time when the Son of Man comes.

This parable states that we have only one chance at getting married to our bridegroom. The marriage is off if we are not ready then. The only event in our lives that happens only once is our death. So the moral of the tale is that we have to be ready for it. We do not know when it will come but must be ready. We need enough oil for the journey. We absolutely need our own oil for our lamp as we all do this «journey», this dying, alone.

Some are eager for this mariage at some point in their lives and are then well prepared. But for all kind of reasons, they do not stay ready. They end up unready when death comes and so are left out. Jesus comes to find that they are unable to join Him, to become one with Him, to be filled by Him; so they are left out in the dark as their mindset is incompatible with God's Kingdom.

The parable of the ten virgins is not the only one on the necessity to be ready. In the following back-to-back parables followed by a punch line, Jesus compares every human life to that of servants who wait for the coming of their lord and to a owner protecting his property against a thief:

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.21

And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.22

The punch line is «Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.» We have the same message as in the previous parable: the need to be ready at all times as we do not know the hour of our death, this time when «the Son of Man» comes to us.

In the second parable of the set, Jesus says that if a houseowner knew when the burglar would come, he would be there ready to stop him. As the former does not know when the later comes, the only way not to be robbed is to be constantly on guard.

The first parable is richer. Some servants, dressed and awake, are ready to spring into action as soon as their master returns, ready to open the door to him and do their job. They are eager to welcome him back and be of service to him and they sacrifice their sleep to be promptly there for him.

So far this parable is similar to the other one. But Jesus adds that their lord is so pleased with them that he is the one who starts serving them! Put in different terms, their lord is just as eager to serve them as they are to serve him. In the afterlife, says Jesus, He, the Son of Man, serves gladly those who are waiting to serve Him. What they are ready to give to Him, He gives to them. Again we have this reciprocity between God and His humans as He seems to react as they act.

4. The Parable of the King's son wedding: our reaction to our calling

We have so far examined parables on the selection process that takes place after death. Let us now look at some reactions to the invitation, the parable of the King's son Wedding, which I have cut in two parts :

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.23

Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.24

This rich parable has a great many points.

1) The original guests all declined twice;

2) some gave business as their excuse and let the servants go back

3) some had the servants mistreated and killed.

4) The murderers were destroyed as their city.

5) As the original guests are now deemed unworthy, all are invited, «both bad and good».

6) The King finds a guest without «a wedding garment» who cannot explain how he got in without;

7) that man is cast «into outer darkness» where «there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.»

8) The moral of the story is: «For many are called, but few are chosen.»

The first part of this parable is a retelling of the history of the Jewish people as found in the Septuagint. The Jews are the original people invited. The invitation is first to them alone. The servants are the prophets. History tells that some were mistreated and others, murdered, that Jerusalem and other Jewish cities were destroyed. Some of the prophets were ignored as the people had more pressing business, like looking after their material needs. So the King decides to invite others; more precisely, all and sundry, all that can be found anywhere, whatever their lineage or morals depending on how one reads the descriptors of these people. This story is standard Septuagint fare. The ideas that the Jewish people is deemed unworthy and that God turns to the goyim are found in the Prophets.

This interpretation has the following advantage: this is not a threat by Jesus. The first part of the text applies to the past and to the way the Jewish leaders rebelled against the sound advice given by God through His prophets. In the Septuagint, it is not always God who is seen as having the people killed for killing the prophets: often the disasters that befall the Jewish people are seen for what they really are: the results of their refusal to heed the ways of God. Put differently, they insist on backing the wrong horse in global politics, fighting among themselves instead of being of service one to the other. They want to be important players in global politics without the army to back such a claim, or again they seek the help of a country too weak to help them, and the list goes on and on.

Of course, the text per se suggests that God is vengeful. But this text cannot be read coherently that way: after all, it does state that God again and again invites His people to His feast. He wants them to join Him so much that He is very insistent. It is just that they are either too busy or feel threatened by His invitation. After all, you do not kill a messenger without good reason! And this reason is that God's invitation does violence to this world order. Jesus does not really believe that God His Father is vengeful, even if this text seems to imply it. He is retelling the people a tale they have already heard many times.

The second part of the parable is new. All are invited to the Kingdom (the wedding feast). One of the guests there does not wear the wedding garment. He is questioned and remains speechless and so is thrown out in the dark, outside. This is followed by the famous: the many are invited; the few are chosen, and so become guests to the wedding feast, take part in the celebrations, the dance, the food, the merriment.

The others are all outside, in the dark, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Weeping is the expression of sadness and distress due to a loss now understood, rage for having missed something precious, for seeing one's enemies success, for jealousy, for perceived injustice, etc. The gnashing of teeth refers to people trying to crush another with their teeth like a lion would do. It shows anger, murderous intent and confrontation. The people in the darkness are not only in pain and thus weeping, they are angry and want revenge. They do not belong to the feast because they are murderers.

To belong to the feast, you have to «fit in», be in the right disposition, be ready to rejoice with the bride and groom, be happy for others and with others, to wish them well. In a word, you have to love them. Wearing a wedding garment signals that you are sharing in this happy occasion in the lives of others. This you cannot do if you think only about yourself or hate these people. That throws you out in darkness, where you scream blue murder and weep from rage. The simple fact of seeing the King expressing His love for the happy couple makes you mad with envy and throws you out in the darkness. This parable's interpretation is consistent with my scheme.

5. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man

The parable of Lazarus, found only in Luke, has a rather interesting «view» of the afterlife. It is in three sections. The first is about the life of two men before their deaths:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.25

We see

1) a rich man well dressed whose belly is full every day

2) while there is a beggar at his door whom he totally ignores.

There is in this life a total separation between the rich man and the poor. The rich does not even see the beggar at his door: he is not part of his world of beautiful clothes and good food.

In the second section, each situation changes completely with death as the rôles are reversed:

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.26

We can note that:

1) The beggar is carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham

2) while the rich man is in torments.

3) The rich man pleads with Abraham to let the beggar relieve him in his torments.

4) Abraham answers him that the roles are now reversed.

5) Though people in Hell can see the people in Heaven and vice versa, the people in Hell cannot cross to Heaven and vice versa.

The Greek word «chasma» (χασμα) translated by «great gulf» is «an obstacle that cannot be crossed», a «chasm». The «geographic» locations of Heaven and Hell found here are very different from the traditional ones illustrated by Dante. Here, Heaven and Hell are on the save level and close by. All that separates them is this canyon wide enough to prevent going from one «location» to the other and narrow enough to exchange words from one location to the other. Those in Heaven see and hear those in Hell and vice-versa but they cannot mix.

It is not the King or the Son of Man who talks to the rich man in this Parable but Abraham. Abraham is not the representative of Jesus' God but of the God of Justice, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In this parable, the rich man who did not take care of the poor goes to Hell while the poor goes to Heaven (Abraham's bosom). Why does the rich man go to Hell? Or, put differently, what is the rich man's Hell? He sees the poor man he did nothing for in the bosom of Abraham. He sees clearly that God is on the side of this poor man. He knows he did not lift a little finger to help him. If God loves this poor so much, can He be anything but exceedingly angry with him? How can God love him as well, he who did nothing for the poor? How can he be anything but terrorised by what God in His Justice will do to him?

He pleads to Abraham to no avail. Abraham's God said «Eye for eye, tooth for tooth».27 This God cannot forgive him. As he did nothing for the poor man while he could, this poor man can do nothing for him. He is paying the price of not following Moses' Law about looking after the poor. He is facing the Just God he knows, not the God of Love Lazarus knows. He can see God's love in action but cannot comprehend that God loves him as much as He loves Lazarus: this, for him, is impossible. He does not know the real God, and so, languishes in torments, excluding himself from God's love.

1 Matthew 25:31-46

2 Matthew 13:24-30

3 Matthew 13:36-43

4 Psalm 35:15-7

5 Psalm 37:12

6 Psalm 112:10

7 Matthew 13:47-50

8 Matthew 13:14-23

9 Luke 8:5-15

10 Mark 4:3-20

11 It will be analyzed later.

12 Mark 4:3-8

13 Mark 4:14-20

14 Luke 8:15

15 Mark 4:26-29

16 Mark 4:30-32 (also Matthew 13:31-32)

17 Matthew 13:33

18 Matthew 13:44

19 «Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.» (Matthew 13:45-46)

20 Matthew 25:1-13

21 Luke 12:35-38

22 Luke 12:39-40

23 Matthew 22:2-7

24 Matthew 22:8-14

25 Luke 16:19-21

26 Luke 16:22-26

27 Exodus 21:24

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004

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