„When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
From that time on Jesus began to preach and say, „Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” (Matt. 4:12-17)
Advent is the liturgical season that celebrates the theme of divine light. This great light, incarnated in Jesus, confronts any kind of darkness, illusion, ignorance.
If you reflect for a moment on the natural cycles of life, our world is always coming to an end. The world of the womb comes to an end at birth; the world of infancy comes to an end at about age three; childhood comes to an end at adolescence; adolescence at young adulthood; young adulthood at the middle-age crisis; then come old age, senility, and death. Life is a process.
The experience of growing up or the decline of physical energy forces us to let go of each period of life as we pass through it. Thus physical life is always giving way to further development. It should be no surprise, therefore, that Jesus invites us to let the privatized worlds of our emotional attachments, preconceived ideas, and prepackaged values come to an end.
One of the messages of Advent, especially the theme of the end of the world, is not so much about the end of the world nor even about physical death which is the end of the present world for each of us–as about all the worlds that come to an end in the natural and spiritual evolution of life.
Thus, every time we move to a new level of faith, the previous world that we lived in with all its relationships comes to an end. This is what John the Baptist and later Jesus meant when they began their ministries with the word, „Repent.” The message they meant to convey was, „It’s the end of your world!” Naturally, we do not like to hear such news; we don’t like change. We say, „Get rid of this man!”
The process of conversion begins with genuine openness to change: openness to the possibility that just as natural life evolves, so too the spiritual life evolves. Our psychological world is the result of natural growth, events over which we had no control in early childhood, and grace. Grace is the presence and action of Christ in our lives inviting us to let go of where we are now and to be open to the new values that are born every time we penetrate to a new understanding of the Gospel.
Moreover, Jesus calls us to repent not just once; it is an invitation that keeps recurring. In the liturgy it recurs several times a year, especially during Advent and Lent. It may also come at other times through circumstances: disappointments, personal tragedy, or the bursting into consciousness of some compulsion or secret motive that we were not aware of.
A crisis in our lives is not a reason to run away; it is the voice of Christ inviting us to accept more of the divine light. More of the divine light means more of what the divine light reveals, which is divine life. And the more divine life we receive, the more we perceive that divine life is pure love.
Whenever we accept the invitation to let go of our present level of relating to Christ for a new one, it may feel scary A comfortable relationship with Christ–our own little world of reading, prayer, devotions, or ministry–is good. But just as the life process moves on day by day, so the grace of Christ relentlessly calls us beyond our limitations and fears into new worlds.
Like Abraham, the classical paradigm of faith, Jesus asks us to leave land, family, culture, peer group, religious education everything that we might cling to in order to establish an identity or to avoid feeling lonely All of this Christ gently but firmly calls us to leave behind saying, „Go forth from your father’s house and country and come into the land that I will show you.”
The call to contemplative prayer is a call into the unknown. It is not a call to nowhere, but it is nowhere that we can imagine. Each time we consent to an enhancement of faith, our world changes and all our relationships have to be adjusted to the new perspective that has been given to us.
Our relationship to ourselves, to Jesus Christ, to our neighbor, to the Church– even to God himself–all change. It is the end of the world we have previously known and lived in. Sometimes the Spirit deliberately shatters those worlds. If we have depended upon them to go to God, it may feel as if we have lost God. We may have doubts about God’s very existence.
It is not the God of faith we are doubting, but only the God of our limited concepts or dependencies; this god never existed anyway Pure faith is the purification of the human props in our relationship to God. As these are relinquished, we relate more directly to the divine presence, even though it may feel like the end of our spiritual life.
And so the second part of Jesus’ message is important. If you repent and are willing to change, or willing to let God change you, the kingdom of God is close. In fact, you have it; it is within you and you can begin to enjoy it. The kingdom of God belongs to those who have let go of their possessive attitude toward everything including God. God is pure gift; we cannot possess him just for ourselves. We can possess him only by receiving him and sharing him with others.„
This chapter is taken from the book Awakenings by Fr. Thomas Keating