Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, July 17, 2011, Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, "Embracing the Kingdom", Fr. Macias

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Himself the Kingdom


Summer is a time when a young man's fancy often turns to love. I heard about a guy who said to his girl, "Oh, I love you so much."

She said, "Well, you can have me for a song."

Trembling, the young man asked, "Which song?"

She replied, "The Wedding March."

We see something similar in our Scripture readings. This Sunday and next Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God. To obtain the Kingdom, Jesus makes clear, requires a total commitment. It is not a game. It demands everything like the bride of our story.

There is a reason why the Kingdom requires a total commitment. Archbishop Sartain expressed it powerfully when he spoke to the Seattle priests' gathering. He spoke about the relationship between a priest's life and the Kingdom of God. To explain the Kingdom of God, he used a phrase from early Christian writer: they said that Jesus "auto-basileia."* "Auto" means "self" and "basileia" means "kingdom." Jesus himself is the Kingdom. In his person he embodies the Kingdom of God.

To embrace the Kingdom of God is to embrace a relationship with Jesus. We cannot divide that relationship. For sure we have different moments for work, family, friends, relaxation, exercise, sleep and so on. But our relationship with Jesus is not something we squeeze in. He wants to be in every aspect of our lives. He is the kingdom of God - the rule of God that orders our lives.

 

For some people, be a part of the kingdom of God is a kind of club membership. For example, many Catholics think that they are part of Jesus team because their names are in a baptismal record of a parish and also because they participated in rituals like first communion and Confirmation. On the other hand, some Christian Protestants focus their participation of the kingdom in the public acceptation of faith and their participation in services of prayer.

What exactly makes a Christian (Catholic or Protestant) part of the Kingdom of Christ? I think is the conviction and commitment with the person of Christ. Belong to the kingdom means be like Jesus inside and outside. We all know the story of Francis of Assisi. When he discovered his life was empty of the love of God began a transformation that finished in the perfect assimilation of the life of Jesus in his life. God awarded the effort of Francis with the gift of stigmas. They confirmed the internal conviction of Francis to the Kingdom of Christ. On the other hand, the story of another man assimilated by evil and corruption is depicted masterly in Oscar Wilde’s novel the picture of Dorian Gray. In this story of fiction this young man is seduced by the temptation of indecent pleasure forever.

 

The central question here is that are we either with him or not? Have we a relationship with him - or we do not? Do we aspire of heaven or not? As strange as it sounds, heaven is not a reward for doing good.** Heaven is a relationship with Jesus - nothing more and nothing less. In similar vein, hell is not a punishment for doing bad. Hell is the absence of a relationship with Jesus - a turning away from him. Jesus uses the strongest possible language to help us understand that nothing, nothing at all, could be worse than losing that relationship.

Jesus himself is the kingdom. He is what heaven, eternal life, is all about. A fifth century saint, Nicetas of Remesiana expresses this beautifully. He writes this about Jesus:

"If you would learn of the Father, listen to the Word.

If you would be wise, ask him who is Wisdom.

Are you sick? Have recourse to him who is both doctor and health...

Are you afraid of this or that? Remember that on all occasions he will stand by your side like an angel.

If you do not know the way to salvation, look for Christ, for he is the road for souls.

Do the pleasures of the world seduce you? Turn all the more to the Cross of Christ to find solace in the sweetness of that vine clustered there.

Are you a lost sinner? Then you must hunger for justice and thirst for the Redeemer, for that is what Christ is. Because he is bread, he takes away all hunger.

And if anger is tormenting you...appeal to Christ, who is peace.

Then you will be reconciled to the Father and will love everyone as you would like to be loved yourself."***

Brother and Sisters, as we celebrate this Eucharist that is the presence of Jesus, we ask him to increase our faith and we can recognize his presence in the sacrament and in the community. May he strengthen us in the commitment with the kingdom of Christ. A Kingdom that has no end. To him the glory and power for ever and ever.

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