HOMILY WEEK 24 05 – Year I
Birthing the Kingdom
(1 Tim 6:2-12; Ps 49; Lk 8:1-3)
Have you ever had the experience of a line of scripture you have read many times before, suddenly take on a whole new meaning?
That was my experience with today’s readings and the following words: “Take hold of eternal life” and “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
These two striking sentences encapsulate for me in a new way, what we are about as disciples of Jesus – collaborating with him as the crucified-risen Lord in building up the reign of God here on earth.
St. Paul starts us off on exploring this mystical reality in his words to Timothy, who is to shun any kind of sin and sinfulness, and be single-minded in his following of Jesus, pursuing only “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Then St. Paul encourages Timothy to an extraordinary, awesome task – to “take hold of eternal life!” Now that deserves a second look, along with the gospel.
What we see in the gospel is a phrase that for some reason has never jumped out at me before – Jesus was going around the countryside not just proclaiming the good news, but “bringing” the good news of the kingdom of God! He was “bringing’ it, making it happen, actualizing it, in his person, through his teaching and by his ministry. This truly underlines the present reality of the kingdom, that it is a “here and now” reality, what we call in theology, “realized eschatology.”
This is where St. Paul and Jesus connect – to “take hold of the kingdom of God” is also to “bring the kingdom of God” into reality. But how do we do that?
There are hints in the readings. Certainly, Paul’s advice to Timothy is all about bringing the reign of God into being. Letting go of envy, gossip, maliciousness and resisting the temptation to abuse wealth, fame and power is part of that mandate, as is focusing on what Timothy was told to pursue.
In the gospel, we see being open to receiving not just forgiveness from Jesus, but also healing and deliverance of our “demons” or painful emotions, negative attitudes like false pride and stubborn self-sufficiency, defects of character like impatience and fear, and even our addictions, will hasten the arrival of the kingdom within us. Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven demons had gone out,” is a model for us.
I recall while presenting a session on addictions awareness at Hopeview, a halfway house for addicts in North Battleford, meeting a client who shared with me she was addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling and was a compulsive liar. It struck me that I had just met Mary Magdalene, a young lady who was healing of her “demons.” Perhaps these were the same demons that were controlling Mary Magdalene, and wondered what the other two might have been – gossiping perhaps, and maybe the very prevalent addiction to “being right!”
I think the most powerful way Jesus brought about the reign of God here on earth was his forgiveness on the Cross, of the thief next to him, and even the people who were crucifying him. If there is anything at all that truly makes happen the reign of God in us and among us, it would have to be when we forgive those who have hurt us, as Jesus did.
The other way we can, like Jesus, help bring about the reign of God is by accepting some inconvenience or suffering in our lives without bitterness or resentment. That is actually the key to the kingdom. The grand mysterious plan of God was to bring about a new Israel that would be holy and God-like, willing to be a victim of injustice as Jesus was, to show the true nature of God as mercy, compassion, unconditional love, inclusiveness, forgiveness and total non-violence.
WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, portrayed in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, gives us a glimpse into the nature of that kingdom. Wanting to defend his country but in conscience refusing to bear arms, he suffered much ridicule and even physical abuse because of his stance. However, on the front lines during a horrific battle, he ended up saving the lives of 75 soldiers by his bravery, creativity and quick thinking. That is truly emulating Jesus and a harbinger of the kingdom that he has come to inaugurate among us.
The Eucharist is our participation in the new Passover through which Jesus gives us the meaning of his whole life and ministry – the revelation of the true nature of our loving Creator God.
May our celebration empower us to take hold of eternal life with St. Paul, and help bring about the good news of the Kingdom of God like Jesus.