One of the most frequent statements Jesus made is that “The kingdom is at hand.” What does that really mean? Well, the whole mission of Jesus Christ was and is to make the divine life He shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit available to every human being. When Jesus says, “The kingdom is at hand,” He is telling the whole world that this divine life is here. It’s real. We can have it.
The big problem is that most of us who consider ourselves people of faith don’t fully accept the offer of Jesus to share His divinity. We might pray. We might go to church. We might be nice. But can we say that we have experienced God’s divine power? Do we even think that experiencing God’s power is possible? The power to heal? The power to transform? The power to overcome evil?
As I mentioned in my most recent podcast (“Our Picture of Faith”), St. Paul has a few lines in almost every one of his letters that captures the fullness of Christian life. In the podcast I focused on Ephesians 1:17-20. In this blog, let’s focus on another passage, Colossians 1:9-14. I invite you to read this passage slowly and really take it in:
“…[W]e do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
What’s missing in our lives? Are we really living the fullness of divine life that St. Paul is referring to? Have we experienced the strength of God’s power, His glorious might? Do we even expect to?
Here’s a good quote from St. Ignatius Loyola, who as I have previously mentioned developed a comprehensive set of spiritual exercises to help us discern God’s will for our lives:
“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
What’s missing in our lives? Abandonment. Surrender. Complete, total, absolute, unconditional abandonment and surrender. Dying to self, to the point we can say, as Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”
Our desire to be popular, to be accepted by others, to run with the crowd, to be successful, to have lots of stuff, to be in control of our lives, all this blocks us from the rich, exciting life that God offers every one of us. To have access to God’s divine life, we have to deny ourselves, be humble and poor in spirit, to stand in a sense naked and completely vulnerable before God and acknowledge our total dependence on Him.
Thomas Merton describes the people that have done this in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation:
“Less and less conscious of themselves, they finally cease to be aware of themselves doing things, and gradually God begins to do all that they do, in them and for them, at least in the sense that the habit of His love has become second nature to them and informs all that they do with His likeness.”
I had a taste of this early in 2001, right after I had been ordained as a deacon. As a result of a virus or some other weird cause, for about 6 months I had the constant feeling that I was going to just fall over. It wasn’t dizziness. Lots of medical tests produced no explanation. During this time, I was constantly praying to God, “Please, just keep my standing. Don’t let me fall over.” I was saying this prayer many times when I was on the altar or giving a presentation to a group. God used this strange condition to help me understand that I was dependent on Him for everything, for every breath, for the simple ability to just stand up, to think, to speak and so on.
When we give it up, when we fully surrender, when we die to ourselves, our identity does not get lost. On the contrary, the person we were truly born to be emerges. By becoming simply a window through which the light of God shines and touches others, we finally achieve the fullness of our personality. God’s will, passing through each of us, enriches our humanity.