The “Second Week”: Week Twenty-One/Session One.
Theme: The Kingdom of God.
Our reading for today: Matthew 4: 12-17.
When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, He returned to Galilee. He moved from His hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah’s sermon: Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up. This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: “Change your life. God’s Kingdom is here.” (Matthew 4: 12-17 MsgB)
As we come into our final six blog sessions (weeks twenty-one and twenty-two) on Ignatius’ “Second Week” of his Spiritual Exercises, it’s important to point out where we’ve traveled in recent weeks, and to draw some conclusions on what we’ve learned thus far. The “Second Week” in the Spiritual Exercises is meant to lead us along the pathway with Jesus, looking at His life and ministry, from His obscure birth in Bethlehem to the hectic days just prior to His suffering and death in Jerusalem.
It’s Ignatius’ intent in the “Second Week” to draw attention to how our humble lives, when given over more completely to the hand of God, can be used for good purposes in this world, just as we see that happening in the life of the Master and His earliest followers. This thought brings us to Ignatius’ theme of Election…or the much-trafficked intersection in life we more commonly call “making difficult decisions or tough choices.” A day doesn’t go by in this life where we don’t have to make choices of some kind or another. But Ignatius wasn’t talking about those lesser decisions like what clothing to wear or what to have for breakfast. To Ignatius, Election had to do with the larger choices that we would call major life decisions, or choices that can radically shape our lives and the direction we are going.
So how did Jesus deal with Election? How did He make major decisions in His life? How did He know when and how to make those choices? Tough choices. Choices that, quite honestly, impacted not only His life and ministry, but all those around Him as well?
As I see it, the answer lies deep in Jesus’ understanding and His total day-to-day reliance upon the in-breaking power and presence of God’s Kingdom. So, this week and next, let’s ponder a bit on the Kingdom of God and explore what it meant to Jesus in this life that is so full of Election (major choices). In today’s passage, we get our first glimpse at this dominant Kingdom theme that runs deep in the three-year teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus. This God-man from Nazareth made it very clear from the beginning. Something major on planet earth was changing with His coming, His advent. Something so major, the only way to respond to it was to radically “change your life.” Many translations of the Bible use the word; “repent” which means a complete 180-degree reversal in direction.
As Jesus walked the land, speaking to the people of His day, He wasn’t looking for a light touchup or a spring-cleaning in one’s life, but a radical, direction-altering transformation… one that would totally remake a life, top to bottom, inside and out.
God’s Kingdom is here.
Four little words that become a game-changer for Jesus. It’s this fact that seems to motivate every word Jesus says and every thing He does over the next three years of ministry. And I might suggest here, that every decision Jesus makes, both small and large, is impacted by this one fact about God’s Kingdom…
God, the Creator of the Universe, the Owner-Operator of it all, through the appearance of His Kingdom, is re-establishing His right of ownership in a way that is much different than it has ever been before (pre-Jesus), or ever will be again.
You see, when Jesus states that God’s Kingdom (His right to rule and reign) is here…He literally meant here! A physical place. An actual moment of real time. Not a general ‘here’ (like somewhere in the universe far, far away), but here, right here where Jesus is standing, the moment He says it! Eugene Peterson translates this here concept this way in Luke 10: 9: “God’s Kingdom is right on your doorstep!”
And as we see from reading about the three-year ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, wherever the Master went, something God-breathed was always occurring. Someone was being helped. Someone was being healed. Someone was being delivered from darkness or death. Someone was being encouraged to wake up and become aware. Someone was being empowered to step out of his or her old way of life and follow the new.
And the reason all of these amazing things happened was not just because Jesus is the blessed Son of God, but because, with Jesus, also came the super-natural, in-breaking power and presence of God’s Kingdom!
But more on that next time.
My prayer: Father God, it’s one thing for me to make a major decision (Election) using my own power of deduction and my best reasoning, but apparently that same decision needs to be greatly impacted by my stark awareness of the presence of Your Kingdom, right here and right now, breaking in on my limited, and many times, darkened existence. Jesus, it obviously made a huge difference in the decisions You made throughout Your life and ministry, so Holy Spirit, empower me to that same awareness of the Kingdom. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what major decisions am I in the midst of right now? Am I taking into full consideration the in-breaking power and presence of God’s Kingdom as I make these decisions? What might it look like for me to ask this question on a daily basis?
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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