Friday, November 6, 2015

"THE INNER ROOM"



In Mark1:15, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the ‘good news’ of God, saying ‘The right time is now, the Kingdom of God is 'ηγγικεν' [eggiken] within you".


This word in Greek, the written language of Mark, but not the spoken language of Jesus, is derived from the Greek “εγγιων” which [according to Liddell and Scott] can be translated as “to bring very near, to draw nigh, to be at hand”.

In “An Introduction to the New Testament’ by R.E.Brown, we read: “Although some would translate the proclamation to mean that the Rule or Kingdom of God has come, the best translation of the verb “eggizein” is probably “come near”—the Kingdom is making itself felt but has not fully arrived”.


In the JBC [Jerome Biblical Commentary} Edward J. Mally SJ writes: “ Mark1:14-16 is a summary of Jesus’ preaching which was edited in line with his own theological preoccupations. With regard to vs.15,  Mally writes “ ‘God’s reign is at hand; Repent’. This indicates that Mark is emphasizing the eschatological nature of Jesus’ presence in Galilee”.

Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus repeatedly refers to the Kingdom of God as a mystery, and not one of this earth. He also asks the disciples not to refer to him as the Messiah, for that title in Jewish traditions refers to a king of this world, one who will lead and succeed in overthrowing the oppressive foreign domination by Rome. He frequently has to use parables, metaphors and mythological images with reference to the Kingdom and emphasizes its hiddenness from human observation [“Like a seed planted in the ground, etc…]

The Synoptic Gospels represent Jesus as proclaiming the imminence of the Kingdom of God from the beginning of his public ministry. According to Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, in JBC, (#44:125), he writes: “Luke writes, therefore, in some way, the Kingdom has been and always will be ‘WITHIN you’. The unusual phrase "γαρ η βασιλεια του Θεου εντος υμων εστιν. [“for the Kingdom of God is within you”. Lk.17:20).

In an earlier letter of St. Paul to the Colossians [ca.57AD], he writes: “It is [my] task of fully proclaiming [Christ’s] ‘good news’ which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all mankind but has now revealed to his people. God’s plan is to make known to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples,. And the secret is that Christ is in you.” (1:26-27) In his letter to the Corinthians (ca. 52AD) Paul wrote: “Put yourself to the test and judge yourselves, to find out whether you are living in faith. Surely you know that Christ Jesus is in you? – unless you have completely failed.” [2CO 13:5]

Now this is very difficult to believe because it is truly impossible to understand. Our understanding comes from our intellectual processing of data received from our outside world of sensory experience. We cannot see this, nor hear it, nor touch it, taste it or smell it; nor can we imagine this nor perceive it; but we can believe it. Why can we believe it? Only because someone truly trustworthy attests to it. We believe our mother when she tells us something. Why? Because she is our mother and Mom never lies, we can hopefully say.

Our belief in the immanence of the Kingdom of God depends
upon how trustworthy Jesus testimony (and that of the evangelist) is viewed. This also explains why so many who hear this good news reject it and instead substitute some more conceivable interpretation. This explains why early Christians were in a quandary concerning whether Kingdom of God was already come, or would come at the end of the world. Paul addressed this confusion in his letters to the Thessalonians.


In A Marginal Jew, Vol2 1994, John P. Meier gives the greatest coverage of the difficulties in interpreting this particular text in Mark, and also that of Lk17:20. [See Meier, pp. 430-434; 484-487; 484-488]. “Sentences with the Kingdom of God as the subject and a verb of motion (come, arrive, draw near) as the predicate are characteristic of the historical Jesus, while they are practically absent from the Jewish writings before him as well as the rest of the NT outside of the synoptic gospels.[p.431]. …The precise meaning of the word “eggekin” (“has dawn near”) has been a battleground for exegetes for a good part of the 20th Century…our problem stems from the fact that the form of the verb used in Mk.1:15, is not the present case but the perfect tense in the Greek . It denotes an action (1) that was completed in the past but (2) whose effect perdures into the present.” Thus, Meier cannot refer to this Kingdom of God as either/or, but both/and.  It is close to what a person says while awaiting a train at the station when he says, ‘The train is here’, meaning it is “coming into the station and is already here”, or when a person in danger might cry out, ‘the wolf is at the door!’ ”
Since it is impossible to distinguish, then I believe it is perfectly acceptable to recognize the difficulty and to accept both meanings, such that “The Kingdom of God is within you” is acceptable as well as the belief that "the Kingdom of God is coming".

Two other factors encourage me to use that expression. In Mk. 1:15, the text continues by having Jesus say: ‘Repent!’ and “Believe this ‘good news’”.  The word “repent” is commonly translated as “Be sorry for your sins and do the things required to seek forgiveness”.” This indicates that before we can be baptized, it is necessary for us to be forgiven. This presumes that we all need to be forgiven.  In the development of dogmatic theology, this need for repentance by all was seen as sin transmitted to each of us by birth. Its cause was seen as the punishment for Adam’s sin at the origin of mankind.   It is difficult to appreciate how this could be referred to as the "good news'.

In 1898, a book called “The Great Meaning of METANOIA was written by Treadwell Walden. In it, he explored the history of the “mistranslation” of the Greek word “Μετανοια” by early Church Fathers. The first meaning of the word is from the Greek “Μετανοεο”, is “to perceive afterwards, or too late” about something". A secondary meaning is “to change one’s mind or opinion”, and last of all, the third meaning is “to repent “. If we translate Mark1:15 with “change the way you think” it fits the context much better for it means to change your mind about the way you think about reality itself, especially as to where you
can find God, and God’s Kingdom. It is to be found within you AND within everyone else. It seems to be the heart of Jesus’ message, his ‘good news’ as to how we are meant to live, to pray and to appreciate others, even the “least of our brothers”.


This doctrine of the INDWELLING of God has been the most
neglected of Church’s teachings throughout thousands of years except in the teachings of the mystics and monks although this teaching was itself often considered crackpot and heretical in the Wesern Church. It seems to be that of Buddhism and Zen. In the twentieth century, In  the past 40 years Catholics have been evidencing their radical belief in the indwelling of God with a regrowth of interior, centering or contemplative prayer. Writers like the late Thomas Merton, the 92 year old Thomas Keating and very successful interreligious dialogue have been most successful at drawing believers into this practice. [See Reflections on the Unknowable, by Thomas Keating (2014)].


In conclusion, I am NOT a scripture scholar nor a Catholic
preacher, but I do practice silent prayer in which I begin with a
recitation of Mark 1:14-16, and try (!) to go into my inner room and pray there in secret and silence to my Father who hears my prayer. A recent and great book on the subject of contemplation and centering prayer is Reflections on the Unknowableby Thomas Keating. When someone worries about the future of Catholicism, it is my belief that a modern renewal of the spiritual life holds great hopes for both interfaith dialogue (See Snowmass Interfaith Dialogue) and personal prayer.

                                                                               Charlie Mc