When my mom was four years old, she was taken from her family and placed into the home of foster parents. Ten years later, the couple finally adopted her. In-between, she didn’t know to which family she truly belonged. This made a life-long impact on her. Do you feel this way about God’s Fatherhood? Are you aware of the benefits of being been fully adopted by the Father in all of his royal majesty? Or are you just in foster care?
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4- NIV)
God the Father is the King of All Creation. He is King of the Universe. He is robed in splendor and majesty (see Psalm 104:1). Therefore, life with him is filled with his splendor and majesty, strength and joy (see 1 Chronicles 16:27).
In the many ways in which he differs from your human father and the other human models of fatherhood, his kingship completes the picture. We benefit greatly from taking time to contemplate his majesty. This is where he most easily (in our thoughts) rises far above everything we’ve experienced from human interactions. As king, he is like no other; he is far more wonderful than even the best of earthly kings.
When the ancient nation of Israel began to build their kingdom, God was their king. As long as they remained subservient to his kingship and obeyed his instructions as revealed through prophets, they won every battle. They thrived. They grew larger. And then came the fateful day when they looked at other nations and began to covet the leadership of human kings. God warned them repeatedly that human kings would disappoint them and even endanger them. But they insisted, and God gave them what they asked for so that they could learn from their mistakes.
Their first human king, Saul, rebelled against God and caused all sorts of problems. So God replaced him with King David, a good model (most of the time) of what God’s kingship was like. From David’s line would eventually come the perfect model: Jesus the Son of God. (Note: Jesus is also called a king — the messianic king — because Jesus and the Father are one.)
Let’s consider the traits of a good king and how Abba-Father is the perfection of kingship:
- He is the center of the universe. Ancient civilizations usually laid out their cities and kingdoms around a central dwelling place for the king. When we keep God in the center of our lives, we benefit from his kingship and all that this offers.
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. (1 Chronicles 29:11 ESV)
- He is never voted into power. Human kings inherit their positions of leadership from their bloodlines. God the Father voted for us to become citizens of his kingdom. And he gave us the Blood of Jesus to open the gates of his kingdom so we can enter. By the Blood of Jesus, we are brought into the bloodline of the king of the universe.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:8-9 ESV)
- A king cannot be voted out of power. A king is the king for the rest of his life. God is eternal, and no matter what happens, no matter who fights against his kingship, no matter who tries to take the throne for himself, God remains king. We can find great comfort in this when evil seems to be taking over.
Praise the Lord! / I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, / in the company of the upright, in the congregation. / Great are the works of the Lord, / studied by all who delight in them. / Full of splendor and majesty is his work, / and his righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 111:1-3 ESV)
- A king’s authority is absolute. He is the top administrator in charge of making decisions. A good king makes decisions based on what is best for his people. During crises his decisions stand firm, giving stability; he has already determined the outcome and the course to reach it. Likewise, God makes decisions that are based on firm and unchanging principles — and on deep, deep love. We can trust his plan. We can rest assured that all good prayer requests, as they meet with his approval, will be successful.
“My word that goes out from my mouth will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (See Isaiah 55:10-11.)
- His word is law. A good king doesn’t create rules in order to control his people. Nor does he make laws for the sake of enjoying his authority. Rather, he enacts laws that help his kingdom to prosper and his people to flourish. The kingdom of God is ruled by the Father of love. Obedience is required for living in his wonderful and holy kingdom. And we gladly obey because the purpose for every rule is love. Even the Church’s rules that we might disagree with (such as those pertaining to fertility and contraception) are for the purpose of love — a higher love. If this is not obvious, then we need to dig deeper, reading the Church’s documents on a search for the love that at first was hidden.
Keep listening to the thunder of his voice / and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. / Under the whole heaven he lets it go, / and his lightning to the corners of the earth. / After it his voice roars; / he thunders with his majestic voice, / and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. / God thunders wondrously with his voice; / he does great things that we cannot comprehend. (Job 37:2-5 ESV)
- His presence is the manifestation of his authority. When a king attends a meeting or shows up on the battlefield, or when a citizen gets an audience with him, his full authority is present. When we pray to God Our King, his Divine Will is with us. If our prayer requests don’t contradict his Divine Will, the full measure of his authority responds. And as citizens of his kingdom, when we pray for others, we have the right to exercise his kingly authority because the king is always with us. This is especially important to remember when we are battling forces of evil and when we are praying for healing.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)
- He protects his realm. Since ancient times, when an enemy invaded, kings would act with wrathful aggressiveness. God is protective too. Though he is slow to anger, he is great in power and will not leave the guilty unpunished (see Nahum 1:3). The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (see Psalm 145:8), setting prisoners free from the Devil’s strongholds when they turn to him for help. He is all-powerful and therefore cannot be defeated.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright / and is a shield to those who walk in integrity– / guarding the paths of the just / and protecting the way of his faithful ones. (Proverbs 2:7-8 ISV)
What does it mean to be adopted into the King’s family?
Saint Paul tells us that through Christ Jesus we are Father God’s adopted children. This is his will and pleasure! He gets excited about it. His heart swells with joy thinking about you as one of his adopted kids. In fact, he wanted to father you since before he created the Earth!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:3-5 NIV).
Abba-Father gave life to each of us, but our tendency to sin keeps us from fully living as royal children of the King of the Universe. Jesus came to Earth to teach us how to be true children, first by his words and by his example, and then he took our sins upon himself and died with them on the Cross. This cleared the way for us to become children who are adopted into the great majesty of God.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV)
Jesus shares with us his Holy Spirit, who empowers us to be holy, and the majesty of the Father, by which we are victorious over sin. We have the power of the King’s authority to drive away our tempters. This is why Saint Paul could state that Christians are saints, no longer sinners. In Romans 6:3-14 (NIV) he tells us:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– because anyone who has died has been set free from sin…. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
And look at how he addressed the people in church communities:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae (see Colossians 1:2)
To the saints who are in Ephesus (see Ephesians 1:1)
I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (see Jude 1:3)
Now about the service to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you (see 2 Corinthians 9:1)
The point is: In our natural births, we came into the world as sinners. In the supernatural rebirths of our baptisms, we came into the Kingdom of God — as saints. We spend the rest of our earthly lives improving how well we live out our true identity. (Well anyway, that’s the King’s plan.) Through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Holy Eucharist, we die to our old sinful ways and grow in sainthood by the grace of God. Only saints can live in the Kingdom of God.
The King has decreed that we are his holy people. He adopted us and now we are royal children. We are princes and princesses of his Divine Kingdom.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
You are a CHOSEN one: The Creator of the universe has chosen you and given you life. You are a masterpiece of creation!
You are ROYAL: Your Father is the king of the universe; you are his prince or princess!
You are a PRIEST: Whether a ministerial priest or a member of the “common priesthood” of all baptized Christians, you offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. How? Every sacrifice of love, every sacrifice of money or time, every giving of your talents, every offering up of your sufferings, every prayer that you lift up to Heaven: These are your gifts to God, offered for the sake of others.
You are CONSECRATED: Yes, you are holy! Jesus has consecrated you to the heart of his Father’s love and to his Holy Spirit’s holiness. The word “consecrated” means that you have been “dedicated to a sacred purpose.” Wow! Have you discovered your sacred purpose? It’s the holy reason why you are still here on Earth.
What it means to be an heir of God’s Majesty
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty– / and I will meditate on your wonderful works. / They tell of the power of your awesome works– / and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness / and joyfully sing of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:5-7 NIV)
Sinning is a sign that we don’t really know who we are. We don’t truly know (at the moment of temptation) that we have inherited from our Father the King everything we need, including a holy alternative to what the Tempter is pushing us into. We don’t stop to think about what it means to be a beloved prince or princess. In other words, we underestimate the advantages of being a child of the king. We undervalue what it means to be an heir of his authority. We don’t realize how much God loves us and how much goodness he is longing to shower upon us.
Consider what often happens to children who are rescued from abusive homes and are then adopted by loving parents. Because these children did not experience unconditional, safe love during their formative years, they have a hard time believing that they are truly loved by the adoptive family. They instinctively long to go back to the family of origin. They sometimes even sabotage their new family relationships.
It’s basic human nature. We prefer the familiar over the unknown even when it’s harmful. Are you still longing to go back to old, familiar, sinful patterns? Are you still rationalizing that they are not really sins? The goal is to fully embrace your new life in the family of God. Your Almighty King will help you do it. (He brought you to this book, right?)
When do you doubt God’s love for you? Our Father is inviting you to discover that he has set no conditions on loving you — he has only UNconditional love for you. You can trust him completely. You can believe that, as your Good King, he will always take good care of you, even while life’s circumstances seem to indicate otherwise. This is life as an adopted child. This is life in the majesty of Abba-Father’s love. He is always working in the circumstances to eventually produce many blessings for you.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery [to sin] to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17 ESV)
What does it mean that we received a “Spirit of adoption”? This scripture explains that the Holy Spirit of God bears witness (testifies) that we are God’s children. We are his heirs, a favored position that comes with a wonderful inheritance. We were born as mere humans, totally lacking God’s supernatural nature, but we have been adopted into his royal family with all the riches of our Father’s kingdom — the gifts and talents, wealth of love, abundance of goodness, and everything else that belongs to our Father.
In the Creed, we say that we believe in one God and that he is the Father of all. He was our Father since the moment he created us in our human mother’s womb. We were made in his image. He’s the only true (i.e., perfectly loving) Father that we’ve ever had. So — why do we need a Spirit of adoption? It’s because we inherited the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. When we were born, we became heirs of their fallen kingdom.
Our baptismal certificate is our adoption paper. The legal validity of it is endorsed by the Holy Spirit and signed with the Blood of Christ.
Every sin breaks the spiritual connection between us and our Divine Creator. It’s like the rebellious son who rejects the teachings of his parents and adopts a contrary lifestyle. He cannot break the birth bond. He cannot put an end to his blood connection with his parents, not even if he changes his name. However, the family’s spiritual connection has been broken. When the son finally reconciles with his parents, the spiritual bond must be restored: Trust has to be rebuilt and hearts need to be healed.
When we reconcile with God, how can we rebuild trust? He knows that we’ll sin again. Although we sincerely want to be good children, he knows he cannot trust us to remain sinless. So he gave us the Spirit of adoption: The Holy Spirit we received from Jesus brings about our adoption into the royal family. By the Holy Spirit we are empowered to become holy, making us princes and princesses.
This is a gift from the Father’s majesty, his tremendous, unconditional love for us. Because of his Spirit of adoption, it doesn’t matter that we cannot be trusted. The Father trusts his own Holy Spirit, and “the Spirit bears witness that we are God’s children” (see Romans 8:16).
Our Father does not hold our past sins against us. He does not base our future on how we treated him in the past nor on what we’re capable of doing again. The past has nothing to do with his acceptance of us. Rather, our Father bases everything on the Spirit of adoption.
Are we sincere in wanting to become holier? That’s all that matters.
If we stay connected to him through the Spirit of adoption, as true children of our Daddy-God, we treat others with the same mercy. Like our Daddy-God, when we suffer in a relationship where the bond has been broken and trust has not yet been rebuilt, if that person sincerely wants to reconcile with us, we have to place our trust in the Spirit of adoption — not on human flesh, but on God’s own Spirit. It’s the only way we can be healthy and holy in our dealings with those who have hurt us but now want to restore a good relationship with us.
What it means to be a citizen of Heaven
You know you’re going to heaven, right? It’s guaranteed as long as you desire to be a saint, a royal member of God’s family, accepting the great sacrifice that Jesus made for you.
Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God…. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth…. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:4-13 NIV)
There are three ways in which the Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus is giving Heaven to us: First, the Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary to conceive Jesus miraculously. Second, when Jesus arose from the waters of his own baptism (the “initiation rite” of his public ministry) the Spirit descended upon him. Third, when Jesus shed his blood for us, he commended his Spirit to the Father. When the Father raised Jesus from death, he gave his Spirit to everyone who follows Jesus, and thus the Spirit carries you and me into eternal life.
These three proofs are of one accord. They work together to speak the same message. And now that we’ve been given the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself, we are the proof that Heaven is real.
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ….
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:12-13,19-22 NIV)
With citizenship come responsibilities. Do you ever feel like you don’t have much value? God’s Spirit in you gives testimony that you have tremendous value! Extremely important value! First, when you were conceived in your mothers’ womb, you were made in the image and likeness of God. By being who God created you to be, you, whom others can see, reveal to the world what God is like, whom they cannot see.
Second, in the Sacrament of your Baptism, the Spirit descended upon you and the Father said of you, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am very pleased!” Thus you were initiated into the ministry of Christ and you have been sent forth to give his love and healing and salvation to the world in which you live, work, and serve.
Third, when you allow your sufferings to be an offering of love for others, your sacrifice is visible evidence of Christ’s sacrifice. This sacrifice will not destroy your spirit but will purify it and strengthen it. Your continued life in the Holy Spirit will help carry others into eternal life, because your faith will strengthen their faith. Your testimony of suffering and endurance is evidence that God can resurrect goodness from every bad situation.
How well are you translating this testimony into a language that others can understand? More specifically, in what ways are you giving yourself to others, allowing them to experience what is valuable in you? For example, if you’re in a ministry that, in some way, changes the world because you’re sharing with others the gifts that God has given to you, then you are the true presence of Christ. And this is how you can be assured that you’re going to Heaven. And this is how you take others with you into eternal life.
You know the old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We could extend that to: “While living in the world, do as the worldly people do.” But God says, “You’re a citizen of MY kingdom now, so do as the saints do. Be a saint in every worldly place that you visit.”
Think of what happens when you visit old friends or family who live in sinful or unhealthy lifestyles, or when you spend hours each day working side by side with worldly people. Maybe you were just like them before deciding to become more like Christ.
Now that you’ve journeyed through spiritual conversion and emotional healing, how easy is it to revert back to worldly and unhealthy ways when you’re around them? Do you allow yourself to be infected by their attitudes and bad habits (foul language, for example, or gossiping and bad-mouthing others)? Or do you, instead, behave like the saint that God in his kingly majesty ordained you to be?
Sometimes, we think we have to blend in so that we’ll be accepted or to make the visit peaceful or to avoid trouble in the workplace. But Jesus the Prince of Peace is the only true source of peace. And it is his desire to make the Kingdom of God known to the people around you.
However, there’s a wall of enmity that divides us from those who don’t know Jesus (or don’t know him well enough to behave like him). Jesus wants to tear down that wall.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-18 NIV)
Tearing down the wall can be a long process when those on the other side of it enjoy being their own kings. But never give up. Jesus won’t! Not until the last breath is gone.
My dad and I were often on opposite sides of that wall. He didn’t understand why I became Catholic, nor did he try to understand. He had spent seventy years rebelling against Catholicism and some of the moral values it represents, and he was proud of his rebellion. We disagreed on many things, but I had learned early on that there was no point in trying to open up a dialog about any of it. When Ralph and I brought my parents into our home to care for them, we sadly discovered that my dad was still unwilling to consider our point of view.
Such closed-mindedness carried over into refusing our advice (and that of his doctors) about how to safely navigate his declining health. This is why he disregarded our warnings and decided to take a walk down our long driveway on that fateful day when he broke his neck.
My dad treasured being in control. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 NIV). He also hoarded vast collections of books, vinyl records, and other possessions. One day he showed me row after row of bookshelves (all of them very full) stored in his brother’s basement. He invited me to choose books that my daughter Tammy might enjoy. But he wanted them all back. He had no use for them anymore, but he did not want to let go of them. I silently said to Jesus, “I guess he’s going to have a very long Purgatory learning to let go of everything that he can’t take with him to Heaven, huh?”
After he broke his neck, we watched how God prepared him for Heaven. Because of his rapidly weakening condition due to the accident, my dad lost control of more and more of his life, his health, his possessions, and his decisions. He needed round-the-clock nursing care and facilities that we could not provide in our home, so he also lost the ability to live with his beloved wife. He repeatedly tried to bargain his way to her: “Come live with me and I’ll take care of you.”
And then, in March 2020, Covid-19 locked him into his small half of the room that he shared with a roommate whom he hated. That’s when I saw the first miracle: He peacefully let go of control. He willingly accepted that talking to my mom on the phone every day, instead of seeing her in person, would have to be good enough. To my astonishment, this previously rebellious man was at peace with the lockdown. (More at peace than I was!).
In November the bones of his fingers became infected. He lost the ability to do his only activity: type on his computer. One finger was amputated; he lost a part of his body. While still recovering from surgery, he had congestive heart failure. His heart could no longer pump enough to give him the energy to sit up. He stopped eating. He lay in bed, curling up into the smallest version of my dad that I had ever seen.
The nursing home allowed Mom and I to visit him because he was nearing the end. He was letting go. Unlike his behavior during pre-covid visits, he was happy to see his wife but not unhappy when she left.
The most beautiful moment of watching my dad journey towards death was when Mom and I got him to sing with us. His favorite song for all of his life had been the funny 1943 jingle: “Oh, mairzy doats and dozy doats and little lambsy divey. A kiddle divey, too. Wouldn’t you?” (It means: “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid will eat ivy too. Wouldn’t you?”) So Mom and I started singing this and he perked up enough to join in. But (and here’s the beautiful part) as soon as the song ended, he said, “Let’s sing the Lord’s Prayer.” And so we did.
A few days later, this was the closing hymn of his memorial service.
But I’ve jumped ahead in the story. My dad continued to linger in his state of letting go. The day he finally passed away was December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. That was also the day that Pope Francis announced the start of the Year of Saint Joseph. My dad had never been open to learning why or how Ralph and I could have a real relationship with Mary and Joseph, but now the Good King, Abba-Father, whose timing is always perfect and powerful, was showing me that our prayers for my dad had been answered.
Undoubtedly, Mary and Joseph introduced themselves to my dad and they escorted him to Jesus in the hour of his death.
There’s one more miracle to tell you. I chose for the opening song of my dad’s memorial service my favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. My uncle, who lives where my dad grew up, held a second memorial service, and a friend videoed it. Uncle Merlin also chose “How Great Thou Art” for the opening song. When Mom and I watched the video afterward, we both heard my dad’s voice, loud and clear, singing with great enthusiasm and joyful reverence to the great majesty of God:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
(© 1948 by The Stuart K. Hine Trust CIO)
Every time I replay that video, I hear him again. Jesus had thoroughly broken down the wall of enmity.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-18 NIV)
Today’s Exercise: Enjoy your royalty
God says, “You’re a citizen of MY kingdom now!” Imagine Abba-Father sitting on a throne. (Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint your imagination.)
How big is the throne?
What color is it?
What color is the kingly robe that he’s wearing?
Is he wearing a crown? What does it look like?
He is smiling at you. What is he telling you about adopting you and giving you a royal inheritance?
Look back at the seven traits of a good king and recall how each of them has been revealed in your life.
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© 2021 by Terry A. Modica
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