As we move on to chapters seven and eight of The Lord, we start to get into the public ministry of Jesus. We see him teaching in the synagogue, we see him healing the sick, and we see his following begin to grow. And if there’s one thing that could encapsulate and summarize the public life of Jesus, it would be the proclamation “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus says so himself, after John was arrested: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). But what is the Kingdom of God? Guardini puts it thus:
“God’s kingdom, therefore, is no fixed, existing order, but a living, nearing thing. Long remote, it now advances, little by little, and has come so close as to demand acceptance. Kingdom of God means a state in which God is king and consequently rules.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
The question that of course arises is what is this “state” and what does acceptance of it look like? We know that the acceptance of it involves some manner of repentance and belief, as Jesus says, but what does that mean in more practical terms?
Guardini edges us toward an answer. He spends the next few pages discussing the things that rule us in our lives. Our relationships with other people rule us, our desires for ourselves or even our desires for other people rule us, our fears, our obligations to work or to governments, those are the things that rule us in the here and now. There is no room for God in this picture. God rules in our lives only when we find the time to allow Him to rule. “He reigns only inasmuch as consciousness of his presence is able to force itself upon me, to coexist with the people in my life.”
For God to rule in our lives, God would be the first thing we think about, always. We would be conscious of him like we are a dear and intimate friend, whose face we always long to see and with whom we always want to speak. All the things and relationships in our lives would be shaped and transformed by this first and foremost reality: God is King, and without Him, nothing matters (indeed, nothing could be at all). The repentance and belief Jesus calls for is precisely the acceptance of this reality, for in its acceptance we would necessarily stop allowing other things on our lives to be the first ruler.
“Then God would stand with all the power of his being in my soul . . . My heart and will would experience him as the Holy Being who appraises every value, the Sense behind all senses; as the One who rewards not only ultimately, but also who alone, here and now, lends the most insignificant earthly act its intrinsic justification and meaning.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
This is what the season of Lent is aimed toward in a special way, and more broadly what the entirety of the Christian life ought to be ordered toward. We fast and we abstain in this season in a special way in order to force ourselves to allow more room for God in our lives. The hope being that by the end of the Lenten season, we will have accepted this state, this Kingdom of God, and that God will reign in our lives forever.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.