The kingdom (or reign) of God is a central symbol in the biblical tradition. Like any symbol, the kingdom of God has many layers of meaning. Most basically, it expresses God’s dream for the world. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone acknowledged God as Creator and Lord and if everyone followed God’s law of love and life! Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and revealed most completely God’s dream of the world in how he lived, taught, healed, and served others.
We ask not to be deaf to Christ’s call in our life and to be willing to do what Christ asks of us. Praying through this exercise, we recall our colloquy before the cross … when we asked, “What ought I do for Christ?” Christ calls us out of great love and concern for us and our world; ideally, we respond also in love and not in fear or obligation.
At times, we may resist opening our ears to Christ’s call because we are afraid of what we’ll hear (for example, we may not want to change something about our lifestyle). Or we may resist because we have an image of God as imposing the divine will on us to make us pay for some past sin. To the contrary, God’s call is meant to give us a fuller life of deeper meaning and authentic joy (though not without the sacrifices that accompany a life of discipleship). Far from being imposed from above, God’s will—or God’s desire—for us is found in our own deepest, truest desires.
Such honesty about our fears and resistances is helpful. If you cannot honestly ask for the grace of this week, then Ignatius would suggest that you pray for the desire to ask for the grace. Be honest….
For now, we just want to be open enough to hear the call and to get excited about Christ’s engaging vision for us and the world. We want to taste the disciples’ zeal for mission. We allow God’s Spirit to inspire holy desires. We let God work on us.
The Christ of Ignatian spirituality is Christ in action, the one who went preaching through synagogues, towns and hamlets, healing and doing good. In our day Christ sends us into the turmoil of the world and tells us to seek God as we work for the good of human beings. Thus we too learn that, along with contemplative mysticism, there is also a mysticism of action in the world. This spirituality contains a message that is specially important for those many men and women today who are tempted to seek escape from painful pressures of hard reality.
This reminds us that our faith must have practical consequences in our lives – our world of work and civic relationships. As with God’s help our faith deepens we hear the call to strive even at the cost of sacrifice to promote justice and work for peace, to work for the innumerable poor people in our neighborhoods and across this beautiful, tragic world – striving to decide, to act for that justice in love which is, at one and the same time, the dream of God for us and our own responsibility….
And in this effort we should recall that mediocrity has no place in Ignatius’ world view; he demands leaders in service to others in building the Kingdom of God in the market place of business and ideas, of service of law and justice, of economics, theology and all areas of human life. He urges us to work for the greater glory of God because the world desperately needs men and women of competence and conscience who generously give of themselves for other.
For Ignatius, the test of effective love is to be found in deeds, not words. Real love involves self-sacrifice. Thus what we do becomes the litmus test of our verbal assertions of love. Ignatius frames questions of love concretely: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?”