The “Second Week”: Week Fifteen/Session One.
Theme: The Call of Christ, Our King.
Our reading for today: Mark 1: 1-15.
The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here…John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins….As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a Kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.” After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s Kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” (Mark 1: 1, 4, 7-8, 14-15 MsgB)
As I see it, St. Ignatius got it right.
In reading from his Spiritual Exercises, it’s apparent that Ignatius didn’t just say ‘yes’ to Jesus without also saying a hearty ‘amen’ to His in-breaking Kingdom as well. In other words, Ignatius and his band of Jesuits not only viewed themselves as humble servants to Jesus, they also embraced lives of obedient service to God’s advancing Kingdom, becoming pro-active soldiers for the cause of Christ wherever the Master asked them to go. Let me share just a few Ignatian “Kingdom” quotes with you here:
First, I will place before my mind a human king, chosen by God our Lord Himself, whom all Christian princes and all Christian persons reverence and obey. (SE92)
Second, I will observe how this King speaks to all His people…“Whoever wishes to come with Me has to be content with the same food I eat, and the drink, and the clothing which I wear, and so forth. So too each one must labor with Me during the day, and keep watch in the night, and so on, so that later each may have a part with Me in the victory, just as each has shared in the toil.” (SE93)
Third, I will consider what good subjects ought to respond to a King so generous and kind; and how, consequently, if someone did not answer His call, he would be scorned and upbraided by everyone and accounted as an unworthy knight. (SE94)
So as we begin this week’s journey in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, let’s start first with a biblical definition of the phrase: the Kingdom of God. The Greek word for ‘kingdom’ is basilea. It is the word most commonly found in the New Testament when quoting John the Baptist, Jesus, or Paul as saying, “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven”. The basilea of God is best defined as ‘the rule or reign of God’ or ‘God’s right to rule and reign.’ It’s the same word Jesus uses in His well-known “Lord’s Prayer,” when He states, “Your Kingdom (basilea) come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
If we look a bit deeper into the Scriptures, it’s clear that God, the Creator-King of the cosmos, is (and always will be!) the ultimate authority in this universe (and beyond!) and that He alone will have the final say on what happens to this world that He originally created. In Genesis, we find not only the story of this creation, but also the sad tale of how we human beings, with the help of some rebellious angels, walked away from that loving Creator-King, believing we could steward our lives without His help. Thus, we now have a fallen, less-than-perfect state of existence, where the will of our flesh and the work of Satan can work together to temporarily override the desires of a Loving Father who gives His creation the freedoms of self-government. This sad and sinful condition must be addressed by God, and throughout the Old Testament, we see glimmers of hope on how God plans to do just that by sending His Messiah (His Savior). The Book of Revelation ends the biblical story by telling us that ultimately, God and His Messiah will win the final battle, setting up a whole new world where His Kingdom, His power, and His glory will rule forever and ever! Amen!
So when we find both John and Jesus, in our Mark 1 passage today, exhorting their listeners to a “changed life;” one of dramatic consequences, it’s because both men fully understand the significance of the ‘in-breaking’ basilea (Kingdom) of God that is occurring in this unique time they live in. In truth, in 30 AD, the world as you and I know it, in its fallen and broken condition, is being invaded by a conquering King. The Owner-Operator of the Universe is stepping into time and is about to begin Operation Salvation, a Kingdom-driven work that will ultimately change everything on our planet.
A careful look at this operation tells us that this work of transformation (which commences with the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, is validated with a death on a cross in Jerusalem, and consummates with a resurrection from a lonely grave) is one that even God’s angels of heaven don’t quite understand! Eugene Peterson, in his Message Bible, translates this sudden ‘in-breaking’ of God’s Kingdom (basilea) by telling us that Jesus proclaimed this message to His listeners…“God’s Kingdom is right on your doorstep!” (see Luke 10: 8-9) In other words; watch out folks, hold onto your seats! God’s on the move and He’s breaking in while the world is slumbering! Pay attention now, lest we miss the best part of the Story!
Now that should wake us up. Is anybody listening? Apparently Ignatius and his friends were doing just that!
My prayer: Jesus, I get it! It’s time to awaken to the Big Picture both You and Your cousin John spoke of so long ago. The world is changing. You have broken in with the advancing rule and reign of God and now everything is different because of that in-breaking basilea! I awaken myself to that truth and I welcome the changed life available to me because of that in-breaking of God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Am I fully aware of the consequences of the in-breaking basilea of God? Am I slumbering through life, or like Ignatius and his friends, am I fully aware of the call of God’s Kingdom on my life and the life of others around me? What might it look like in my generation to become soldiers of God’s advancing Kingdom of Love?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.
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