Conquer the Kingdom

Contrary to what many think or feel a period of spiritual endeavour (during Lent, perhaps, or while taking part in a retreat) is a time of joy because it is a time for coming home, a period when we can come back to life. It should be a time when we shake off all that is worn and dead in us in order to become able to live, and to live with all the vastness, all the depth and all the intensity to which we are called. Unless we understand this quality of joy, we shall make of it a monstrous, blasphemous caricature, when in God’s very name we make our life a misery for ourselves and for those who must pay the cost for our abortive attempts at holiness. This notion of joy coupled with strenuous effort, with ascetical endeavour, with struggle indeed, may seem strange, and yet it runs through the whole of our spiritual life, the life of the Church and the life of the Gospel, because the Kingdom of God is to be conquered. It is not something which is simply given to those who leisurely, lazily wait for it to come. For those who would wait for it in that spirit, it will come indeed: it will come at the dead of night, it will come like the Judgement of God, like the thief who takes us unawares, like the bridegroom who comes when the foolish virgins are asleep. This is not the way in which we should await the Kingdom and the Judgement. We must recapture an attitude of mind which, usually, we cannot conjure even out of our depth, something which has become strangely alien to us