Kempis is on target that worldly accolades do much to impede us in the spiritual life (1,21). This section talks about how our focus is to be on our eternal destiny, but is it not the case that worldly ambition can easily blind us to such concerns? When we focus on how we are received in this world, the danger of such self-absorption is making ourselves and our status our only concern. Thus it is easy to increasingly freeze out God and others in our pursuit, making us slow, at best, in receiving divine messages to repent and reform.
Jesus today (Mt 21:33-43,45-46), as in yesterday’s reading, takes a dig at the Pharisees. His Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a thinly veiled summary of the history of the Chosen People. God kept sending prophets to the Israelites who, time and again, rejected their message, sometimes even killing them. The impression one gets from this reading is that the light comes on slowly after Jesus relates the entire story to them and thus we read at the end that they wish to arrest Jesus there and then but were too cowardly to do so because of the pro-Jesus crowd.
Kempis’s message certainly reflects the general attitude of the Pharisees: cold and slow of heart, concerned with their own status, and consumed with being exalted by the people (today we would call it clericalism) (see Mt 23:1-6). Well, as was mentioned in the first paragraph, we easily can imitate the Pharisees: so caught up in ourselves and our pursuits that not only is God forgotten but He may be considered an obstacle to achieving selfish goals that militate against what is required for salvation.
It is far better for us to stick with the correct order of priorities: God first, others second, us last.