The very brief chapter four of Kempis is entitled “Of Prudence in Acting” (1,4), which focuses on the problem of speaking ill of others and being quick to believe when someone speaks badly to you of another person. The remedy is found in the headline. And what wiser or more conscientious man was there ever than Jesus?
In today’s Gospel (Lk 5:12-16), Jesus draws crowds partly because of His power of physical healing, in this case, of a leper. But note that the first reason given by Luke of Jesus’ popularity is the second part of the headline: to listen to Jesus.
What a dynamic and compelling figure Jesus must have been in person! Surely, not because He was ostentatious, but rather because His words are “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63) Yet, they are also “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12) — maybe not comfortable words, but ones they (and we) needed to hear. The skillful Surgeon targets the disease of sin if only we are open to the treatment and rehabilitation.
Jesus is the One to model ourselves after in speaking of others. It is true that He was not reticent to call out the religious leaders whose bad example discouraged or led astray the people entrusted to them. But he also looked with kindness and spoke words of encouragement to sinners (e.g., Mary Magdalene and the woman caught in adultery) and tax collectors (e.g., Matthew and Zacchaeus), lifting them up, not putting them down, gaining lifetime followers.
We are to go and do likewise.