Dear Father John, you’ve written about seeking first the kingdom of God. What does that really mean?
It Means Loving with Everything We’ve Got!
Seeking something involves knowing about it, wanting it, and going out to take possession of it. These three activities correspond to the three basic powers of the human soul:
- the mind, which knows and understands;
- the emotions, which feel attraction and repulsion;
- and the will, by which one makes decisions and takes action.
And so, in essence, seeking God’s kingdom means seeking to let Jesus, the everlasting King, rule:
- our minds with his infinite truth,
- our feelings with his endless beauty,
- and our decisions with his overflowing goodness.
This is how our friendship with Christ matures. This is how we integrate our entire lives into his unique and life-giving friendship. This is how we allow God to transform and bring to full spiritual maturity our minds, our emotions, and our wills–our whole selves, every corner of our lives.
An Ongoing Adventure
The process of integration takes a lifetime, because we are always changing and growing, and because God himself, the one we are seeking, is infinite. Seeking first the kingdom, then, is not something that we can check off our to-do list once and for all. But the more intentionally and intelligently we engage in it, the more quickly and fully God’s grace will extend the Lord’s rule in our lives and move us further along the path of spiritual maturity…. What it means to “seek first the kingdom of God” point[s] toward Christ’s own instructions about how to do just that. When he was asked to identify the first and greatest commandment, the path to spiritual maturity, he answered by saying:
The first is: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29—31)
By using the verb love, Jesus centers the human vocation to holiness and happiness not simply on personal achievements, but rather on a relationship–on a personal relationship of intimate and mutual self-giving with God, which happens through friendship with Jesus.
Then, by specifying “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” Jesus points out the importance of integrating our whole personality–every facet of our humanity–into our friendship with God. In real life [these four areas] always go together; each one influences and affects all the others.
Finally, by emphasizing that we are to love God with all our “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” Jesus indicates the dynamism of this lifetime adventure; it has no limit–we can always deepen our intimacy with God, expand our spiritual integration, and discover new depths of meaning and fulfillment.
Editor’s Note: This is another excerpt from Father John Bartunek’s new book “Seeking First the Kingdom” filled with “practical examples and down-to-earth wisdom which will show you how to bring Christ into each facet of your life”. Click here to learn more about the book…or if you wish to get it for a friend or relative who doesn’t read on-line.
Art: The Sermon of the Beatitudes (La sermon des béatitudes), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, PD, Wikimedia Commons.