"You Are My Inheritance, Oh Lord"
When we first picked our theme for June, I thought of the line above. It’s not technically a Bible verse. When Psalm 16 is featured in the liturgy, this is the response line we sing to God. What is Psalm 16, you ask? It has nothing immediately to do with inheriting anything. If anything, the Psalmist is having a pretty rough time, at least at first:
Keep me safe, O God;
In You I take refuge.
I say to the LORD,
You are my Lord,
You are my only good….
They multiply their sorrows
who court other gods…
LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
You have made my destiny secure.
Pleasant places were measured out for me;
fair to me indeed is my inheritance…
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
nor let Your devout one see the pit.
You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in Your presence,
the delights at Your right hand forever.
I’m not sure same sex attracted or gender discordant people always feel safe with God. His demands seem high, with a payoff abstract and set beyond the grave. Not to mention the convoluted messages about how we ought to process our experiences, share them, or channel them towards virtue. Yet somehow, in the midst of this, GOD is called our “inheritance.”
Our inheritance from God is simpler than it may appear. Thanks to Jesus Christ, our inheritance is wild, gratuitous, undeserved grace. Our inheritance is the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven, a final destination and yet, somehow, revealed in the here and now. And you aren’t disinherited if you’re queer.
Let me say that again. Your sexual orientation cannot separate you from the love of Christ. The degree to which you feel at home in your biological sex cannot separate you from the love of Christ. Whether or not you experience sexual desire at all cannot separate you from the love of Christ. No matter your experiences of desire or gender—or any quality that makes you feel out of place—God has space for you in His Heart.
If you’re reading this and you were raised Christian, we know that isn’t always easy to believe. We’ll cover our inheritance from our communities around us next week (hint: it’s a mixed bag). For now, for this week, we’re going to look at a few things Scripture and Tradition have to say about our inheritance received from God.
This inheritance is CONTINUATION OF A LONG STORY
“When we say, ‘Our Father’ we recognize first that all his promises of love announced by the prophets are fulfilled in the new and eternal covenant in his Christ: we have become ‘his’ people and he is henceforth ‘our’ God. This new relationship is the purely gratuitous gift of belonging to each other.” | CCC 2787
The “original design” of God is a complex one, including being made in God’s image, as well as the Fall that effects us and the redemption at work within us. This back-and-forth dynamic between God and His people is evident throughout a series of covenants with the Hebrew people. These covenants were promises of mutual fidelity, often ritualized with symbols. The covenant with Noah, for example, included God’s promise that—no matter what happened here on earth—there would be no wrathful flood, no storm of destruction. He symbolized that covenant in a wild display of prismatic light across the sky: a rainbow.
In the fullness of time, God sends his Son. Through his sacrifice and our baptism, we’re adopted into the family. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 John 3:1). I can’t stress this enough! God chooses kinship with us. This is His will and plan throughout human history, to bring us all into diverse, complementary community with one another and with Him.
Every family has its prodigals. God has seen it all. Throughout history, He’s seen His children lie, cheat, steal, and sleep around. His children have committed war crimes. His children have broken their own laws, their ranks riddled with intentional and accidental hypocrites. And yet it’s never the end of the story. God keeps showing up in sunrises and sacraments, always available and always inviting. Your inheritance and mine is worked out in trembling hands and earthen vessels (c.f. Philippians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 4:7). Our inheritance has been ages in the making, and God isn’t stopping now!
This inheritance is SHARED
“The ‘our’ at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, like the ‘us’ of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome…the baptized cannot pray to ‘our’ Father without bringing before him all those for whom he gave his beloved Son. God’s love knows no bounds, and neither should our prayer. Praying ‘our’ Father…should extend our prayer to the full breadth of love whenever we dare to say ‘our’ Father” (CCC 2792, 2793).
Human beings have organized themselves into tribes for a long, long time. It was a practical thing, really. What started off as resource allocation eventually becomes opposing kingdoms. Here’s the brilliant, wonderful thing: there are no resources to manage. God’s love and grace is infinite. He has room in His Heart for every human being, for every atom and bit of dark matter constituting His creation. In other words, the eldest son doesn’t inherit the Kingdom alone. God chooses to save us in relationship, with Himself and with one another. God Himself is triune love. He invites us to participate in communion with other persons.
This inheritance is NOT GOING ANYWHERE
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.” | 1 Peter 1:3-5
Anybody else backslide and feel horrible? We forget it sometimes, but spiritual despair can be a type of sinful pride. It’s an over-estimation of our own powers. In this case, the power to save ourselves. God’s promises aren’t going anywhere. Beyond that, God’s promise of His promises isn’t going anywhere. When a Christian is baptized, we're sealed “with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation” (CCC 1272).
The point I’m making here isn’t one of predestination (“you’ve been baptized, sin as you will”). The point I’m making is one of promised fidelity. We all struggle with shame. We all struggle with doubt and failure. We all wonder, from time to time, if God really means all that “unconditional love” stuff. We know, of course, that we can go places—spiritually, emotionally, intellectually—where we attempt to shut the door against our inheritance. Though, if we want to get Scriptural, Jesus is pretty good at getting through those. No matter how far we go or what doors we shut, Christ’s love is ready to meet us.
This inheritance is STEWARDED
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, their heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him.” | Romans 8:14-17
As children of God, we have been entrusted with a multifaceted inheritance. The life of grace isn’t simply an “energy booster” or belonging vibes. It is very real power to become more and more conformed to Christ, and to share his mission in the world. We’re in the “family business” of salvation, so to speak. Our inheritance is a gift to be stewarded. Here’s another bit from the Catechism I think is worth quoting in full:
The free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion and new life. Praying to our Father should develop in us two fundamental dispositions: First, the desire to become like him: though created in his image, we are restored to his likeness by grace, and we must respond to this grace. “You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father's kindness.” [St. John Chrysostom] Second, a humble and trusting heart that enables us “to turn and become like children.”
| CCC 2784-2785
Continual conversion is growth in virtue—living prudently, temperately, chastely, justly, courageously. These aren’t always easy! Conforming our hearts to the Heart of God often means expanding our love. We love our enemies and our allies. We see a person as other, not as an object for personal gratification or a stepping stone to another priority. A trusting and humble heart is at least, for now, open to the vision for sex and gender revealed by God.
YOU are our inheritance, O Lord
Our inheritance as children of God really is quite startling. God prepares us for it through quite a long, convoluted story of salvation; a story we share with our fellow sinners. God establishes that inheritance firmly. It isn’t going anywhere! But to fully live into its blessing, our inheritance needs to be stewarded in our own lives.
You are our inheritance, O Lord!
Keep us safe, O God.
In You we take refuge from the storms outside and within.
You are our God and our highest good.
We pray for those chasing happiness and fulfillment,
May they encounter your joy!
Lord, You are our portion and our delight.
Beautiful indeed is our inheritance in You!
Our hearts are glad and our souls rejoice,
knowing You offer abounding joy in Your presence,
and the invitation to delight in You forever.
Questions for Prayer & Discussion
Open up your Bible to Psalm 16 and pray with it. Where is God speaking? Do you relate to the psalmist? How have you seen God’s inheritance bless your life?
Do you feel like your personal story “fits” within the story of salvation? Why or why not? How does your experience of sexuality or gender impact how you relate to Scripture stories or Church history?
How do you sense a shared inheritance with other Christians? How about with LGBTQ persons of varying backgrounds? Does "shared inheritance" impact the way you treat others? Why or why not?
Do you believe God has an inheritance in Heaven for you? What has made this easy or difficult to believe in different seasons of your life? If you believed it deeply today, how would you live?
How well have you stewarded your inheritance recently? How is God calling you to continual conversion?
This blog made possible by: Section Two, Article Two of the Prayer Section of the Catholic Catechism; “Reckless Love” by Bethel; “Communion” by Maverick City; Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation;” and strawberry lemonade kombucha.