Dwelling Places in My Father’s House

I’ve heard many variations of a joke about a man who arrives at the gates of Heaven (each one with a different religion as the punch line).

St. Peter asks his religion and the man replies that he is a Methodist. St. Peter looked down his list and said,” Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.” Another man arrived at the gates of Heaven. When asked his religion, he replies Catholic. St. Peter says, “Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.” A third man arrived at the gates and when asked his religion, replied Jewish. St. Peter tells him, “Go to Room 11 but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.” The man tells St. Peter he understands putting people of different religions in different rooms, but asks why he should be quiet when passing Room 8. St. Peter told him, “Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think they’re the only ones here.”

In today’s Gospel from St. John, Jesus tells his disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

Jesus’ statement that there are many dwellings in His Father’s house promises room for everyone; and not just room for everyone, but room for everyone. For me, the statement is a reminder not just that there is plenty of space, but that those welcomed will not all look the same. Not everyone for whom there is room necessarily fits someone else’s picture of who deserves to be in heaven.

There are some (perhaps) many people who think only they and their kind will be in heaven. I decided a long time ago that the question of who is in heaven is one that is way above my pay grade. But I do take seriously – and take solace in – what Jesus told his disciples: there are many dwellings in his Father’s house, and there is room for many different sorts of people.