As we continue to reflect on Kempis exalting the early fathers of the Church (1,18), let us highlight what the author tells us made these men holy: humility, obedience, charity, and patience. They needed to practice these virtues in the monastery, as well as with visitors, or when begging alms, or in any encounter with others. They wished to attain the holiness that God intended for them.
In the first reading today (Lv 19:1-2, 11-18), the Lord God entrusts to His servant Moses a special message to the Chosen People regarding how they should conduct themselves in their affairs with each other and with Him. The list is long: no stealing, no lying, no defrauding, no cursing, no dishonesty, no partiality, no slander, no hatred, no revenge, no grudges, and more.
Consider this list versus the traits of holiness in the first paragraph. Is it any wonder the holy fathers embraced these virtues? The opportunities to offend God and neighbor are frequent and tempting. Constant vigilance was the rule for the saints. Since we are all called to be great saints, it must be the rule for us as well. Pray for help in this daunting challenge exacerbated by our fallen nature.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This last line of the reading is the bottom line for us. Remember Jesus’ answer to the scribe who asked Him what is the greatest commandment:
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt 22:37-39)
Jesus, as they say, “doubles down” on the words of His Father. God knows it is difficult. All the more reason to pray for an increase in virtue while disciplining ourselves to genuinely see all others through the eyes of Love (see 1 Jn 4:8).