“Without Him [‘the eternal Word,’ i.e., Jesus], no one understands or judges rightly.” (IC 1,3,2) “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mk 6:34)

Chapter Three of Book One of Imitation (1,3) continues Kempis’s focus on the uselessness of secular knowledge without knowledge of Christ.  Undoubtedly, there were many in the “vast crowd” of today’s Gospel (Mk 6:34-44) who were well-learned.  Yet Jesus pities them because they are lost.  Their darkened intellect, as St. Thomas Aquinas called it, makes their understanding difficult and their judgment unreliable.  They are looking for something beyond this transitory existence on earth.  They yearned for the divine.  They hungered for truth.  They were drawn to Jesus.  Why?

Listen to the guards who were later sent by the religious leaders to arrest Jesus: “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.”  (Jn 7:46)

Listen to the Lord’s closest collaborator, Simon Peter: “You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)

Listen to Jesus Himself: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63)

The chapter of The Imitation of Christ on which we are now focused is entitled “The Doctrine of Truth.”  From whom else might we get the unadulterated truth but the One who told us “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6)?

Are we humble enough to count ourselves among the pitiable sheep that need the Good Shepherd’s guidance?  Are we driven to come to know all the Lord has revealed to us?  Are we willing to live the doctrine completely?  And are we courageous enough to bring the fullness of the message to others?

Allegory of Christ as the Good Shepherd, 3rd century.

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