“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near.”
Friday, 29 January 2021
The first words that Jesus utters in public are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the good news.” It is interesting to note that although he talks about the kingdom, Jesus never defines its meaning. We have to work it out by listening carefully to Jesus’ words – particularly the parables. By watching Jesus, his interactions with people and the miracles he performs, we learn what the kingdom is all about. Ultimately, Jesus himself is the kingdom. He can say that the kingdom is near as his presence is the kingdom.
Jesus invites these four fishermen to follow him. They take up the invitation, and over time learn that their thoughts have to become the thoughts of God and not those of people (Mark 8:33). The disciples learn how to be with Jesus (Mark 10:32). The more they identify with Jesus, the more they are with Jesus listening and watching, the closer they are to the kingdom.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius Loyola leads the one doing them on a journey in which they are taught how to listen, watch, and come to identify more closely with Jesus. Ignatius hopes that anyone who does the Spiritual Exercises recognises that their thoughts are not God’s thoughts. They are invited to “put on the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5-8). When we grow closer to Jesus and see things through his eyes, we too are closer to the kingdom.
How do we listen, watch and identify more closely with Jesus? We do this by regular prayer and reading of the Scriptures – specifically the Gospels. In the rush and stress of life, we cannot always pray and read the Scriptures. That is why the Christian Church has, throughout history, encouraged people to dedicate some special time every year for a retreat – a time when you can get away from the routine of daily life and focus on watching, listening and identifying with Jesus. This could be anything from three days to eight days.
Today you are invited to reflect on how close you are to the kingdom. How do you watch, listen and identify with Jesus? Do you take time each day to read the Scriptures? What spiritual disciplines do you find helpful? Might it be time for you to put life on hold and go on a retreat*?
*For more information on available retreats email firstname.lastname@example.org