*Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with being possessed by demons or people who seem to be possessed in an unholy way.*
Our God is a God shrouded in mystery and things that seem to make no sense. How is it that by surrendering we are free? Or by dying to ourselves that we find life? He, I have no doubt, loves taking what the world thinks and turning it on its head. How many time did Jesus say, “You have heard it said…but I tell you…”? Plenty! This same notion of God turning things upside down also applies to how we love Him. When we seek to possess Him, to somehow grasp Him, His goodness and love, we fail. But, when we stop trying to possess Him and instead allow Him to possess us we find beauty, love, and peace.
Do you know that prayer that is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (even though no one can prove he actually wrote it)?
It is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Why not also “it is in dispossessing ourselves of God that we are possessed by Him”? That is probably a bit wordy for a church hymn, but you get my point. It is when stop trying so feverishly to possess Him that He is free to possess us. When we spend our prayer time doing everything we can to possess Him, to search after Him (or perhaps more accurately, our ideas about Him), we miss the boat entirely. Certainly we can come to know things about God, but when we try to possess Him, He becomes all the more shrouded in mystery. The more we seek Him through our own efforts, merits, and cleverness, the more He finds refuge beyond the veil of the Holy of Holies. He never truly withdraws from us, but when we try to seek Him based on what we desire, we will not find Him. Rather, “when you seek the LORD, your God, from there, you shall indeed find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul” (Dt. 4:29). If we seek Him because He is good, because He is the one who first loved us, then He will possess us. Our intention matters.
Throughout Scripture we see stories of those who were deeply loved by God, those who walked with Him, and they all have one thing in common: humility. They rested in the knowledge that He is good and He is love and they were richly rewarded for it. Not once in Scripture do we see someone busying about trying to possess God and succeeding. We read stories of the Scribes and the Pharisees who desperately tried to follow the Law, but missed the Word, the Law Made Flesh. At the same time we read about Mary and Martha – Martha was busy about the work and was frustrated that Mary wasn’t helping her. When she brought her plight to Jesus as Mary sat at His feet, His response to her was simple, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” There is need of only one thing. Mary chose to rest in Jesus’ presence, to allow His words to captivate her mind and heart, and that will not be taken from her, nor will it be taken from us.
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we should be reminded that the Word was made flesh in order to possess us. When it comes time for communion, we receive Him, He takes hold of us in the Eucharist, not the other way around. Imagine if the Eucharist took on our properties, our fallen, sinful ways, rather than purifying us. Thanks be to God, then, that we, by receiving Him in the Eucharist, become like Him. Saint Athanasius reminds us, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” In order to enter into Heaven, we must become like Him and the only way to do that is to allow Him to possess us, wholly and completely.
It is in rest, not seeking, that we can be taken hold of by the God who loves us, the God who takes on our humanity, and frees us from sin and death.