Johnny said to Father Ignatius, “Father, I had a funny dream the other day!”
“I could do with a good laugh,” replied the priest, “tell me about it.”
“Father, I dreamt I was in Heaven and Graham, my worst enemy, was there too!”
“What’s so funny about that?” asked the priest.
“Father, you don’t understand,” continued Johnny, “Graham is an evil conniving cheat who’d sell his own mother if he could make a fast buck! He’s the last person I’d expect to see in Heaven.”
“Well, let’s assume this is not a dream,” continued Father Ignatius as the two men walked round the church grounds, “Let’s say it’s for real.
“You died and went to Heaven, and there, sitting on a cloud playing the harp is your old nemesis, Graham.
“What do you feel about it?”
“As I said,” protested Johnny, “the man is evil. I’d probably warn St Peter in case Graham cheats him out of his catch of fish!”
Father Ignatius smiled. “Would you think that God made a mistake in letting him in?” he asked.
Johnny hesitated and did not answer.
“Do you remember the parable about the rich man who had a vineyard?” asked the priest. “The rich man hired some people early in the day to work in the field. Then again he hired more people a bit later on. And again in the afternoon, and also one hour before the end of the working day.
“The rich man in this parable represents God and the vineyard is Heaven. God is the only one who decides who is to enter Heaven.
“We have no say in the matter. Although we often pretend to know more than we actually do. You’d be surprised how many people there are ready to serve God in an advisory capacity.
“The different times of the day represent when certain people get to know God and to follow His word.
“Some people do so early in their lives and get to love Him and obey Him throughout their lives. Others get to know God later in their lives; and some only get to know God at the end of their lives just before dying.
“Of course, the temptation is there to ask why should I be good all my life when I can suddenly say sorry and accept God at the end. But there is no guarantee that this will happen is there? And God knows whether a final acceptance and repentance is genuine or not. Or just an insurance policy cashed in at the last minute to avoid the other place.”
“Does it matter?” interrupted Johnny, “Does it matter if the final repentance is genuine and the individual is truly sorry for what he has done, or whether it is a final act of despair to avoid going to hell?”
“Good point,” replied the priest wisely, “but one best left for God to decide since He owns the vineyard and we have no say in the matter.
“The fact remains, that when you see Graham in Heaven you should rejoice that at some stage in his life he found God and was deemed worthy by the Almighty to enter Paradise.
“As for you, who has been called to work in the vineyard early in your life, your job here on earth is to be an example to others so that they may see in you something worth following, worth knowing and worth loving. As a good Christian, you should be the recruitment officer for God and lead others to Him”.