In the last few days, we have been hearing very disturbing stories of the Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The city has been captured by the Islamic militant group, ISIS, who are bent on establishing a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The Christians in Mosul were giving three options: open conversion to Islam, or payment of taxes to the caliphate while meeting certain conditions, or leave the city with nothing but their clothes. The Christians chose to leave the city and their homes. They are ready to leave their beloved city and homes rather than convert to Islam or pay the taxes under unbearable conditions.
Our Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ remind us of something about the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not so much something that we possess but something that possesses us completely. The Iraqi Christians can make this choice because they have been possessed by the Kingdom. Life in the Kingdom of God cannot be business as usual because in this kingdom we come into life giving communion with a God who is not too limp to take complete control of our lives and direct them sweetly to His purpose.
Being possessed by this kingdom, knowing the merciful love of God offered to us in Christ Jesus, being transformed into God’s own children by the gift of the Spirit, and seeing the heavenly kingdom as our true home, the Kingdom of God instills in us new set of values and a new way of acting that flows from our new way of being. Entering into the reality of the Kingdom and experiencing the love of God offered to us in Christ Jesus, we become willing and ready to surrender what is our own in an act of loving obedience to God that mirrors the counsel of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” (1Cor 6:19)
The parables about the Kingdom show that the treasure that is the Kingdom of God is not so much possessed as it possesses the ones who find it. The person who finds this treasure buried in a field is so seized by joy of this treasure that “he sells all that he has and buys that field.” Likewise the fortunate merchant is so possessed by the fine pearls that he too “sells all that he has and buys it.” They are willing and ready to give up what is theirs to hold on to the amazing gift of this kingdom.
How do we know that we have truly been possessed by this Kingdom of God? We are so possessed by the Kingdom when we truly believe St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome, “All things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” God’s love possesses us completely for one single purpose – to make us “conformed to the image of His Son.” Our life in the kingdom is a journey to complete conformity with Christ. Jesus Christ did not hold on to what was His own: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”(2Cor 8:9) This is our one and only model.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are indeed children of the Kingdom now. This Kingdom has marked us indelibly. All things work together for our good no matter how painful or difficult that they may be because we are constantly being shaped and molded into the image of Christ Jesus by our loving Father. Jesus paints this picture in these words, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser… Every branch of mine that does bear fruit He prunes so that it bears more fruit.”(Jn 15:1-2) This means that we are on journey of completely letting go of what is ours so that we can receive what God alone can give us – the eternal life of the Kingdom.
I received a phone call last week from my mother in Nigeria. She said to me, “I simply called to let you know that we are alive.” It so happened that the dreaded Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, had some hours earlier detonated bombs in the northern city of Kaduna and killed scores of people. My mother concluded by saying, “Continue to pray for us.” So many questions ran through my mind as I prayed for the safety of my loved ones and the innocent, for peace, for the repose of those who had been killed, for conversion of the murderers, and for those who lost loved ones. It only occurred to me after praying that this painful and scary incident was a call for me to more conformed to Jesus Christ. It was a chance to pray like Christ for those who took innocent life, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” It was a chance to surrender my family and loved ones to God’s protection as Jesus surrendered our Blessed Mother to the beloved disciple on the Cross. It was a chance to say like Jesus, “Lord, your will be done.” It was a chance to persevere in my vocation despite the evils present in the world just as Jesus went to the Cross while amidst rejection and condemnation.
There are two things that conform us to Christ. The first one is the grace of God. Every grace is giving to us to mold and shape us like Christ who merited every grace for us by His life, passion, death and resurrection. The second thing that conforms us to Christ is the Christ-like actions that we freely perform under the action of grace. God will provide for us abundantly the graces that we need and the opportunities to act like His Son because we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This is the only reason why we can say that all things work for our good because, depending on our response, all things can shape and mold us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
If we are not sure how to act like Christ in a given situation, let us follow the example of King Solomon in the First Reading. When God asked him to make any request and He will grant it, the king begged for an understanding heart because he “did not know at all how to act.” He wanted above all things to act wisely. God was pleased with his request and gave him an exceptionally wise and understanding heart.
In this Eucharist, we encounter the Incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ. May we never see our sacramental communion as merely possessing Christ; but may we see it as being possessed by Him in His Kingdom. We are not our own anymore! As we are possessed by Him, we have complete access to every grace and every virtue of Christ so that we continue in our journey to complete conformity with Christ. Like our Christian brethren in Mosul, we will never lack for opportunities to be and to act like Christ, ready and willing to let go of what is ours to hold on to what God alone can give us – the fullness of life in His heavenly Kingdom. Indeed, all things work for the good of those who love God!!!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!