We now begin a look at Book One, Chapter 22 of The Imitation of Christ. This rich chapter is entitled, “Of the Consideration of Human Misery.” The cause of misery? Turning away from God, focusing on the material not the spiritual. We will have opportunity to delve more into different aspects of this in the coming days, but today we take a short paragraph from the first section where, paradoxically, Kempis finds comfort, not misery, in suffering for the Lord.
Jesus Himself was well acquainted with hardship and suffering from the moment of His birth to His last breath on the cross. He was called the “man of sorrows” by the prophet Isaiah (53:3). Why did He suffer? For God’s sake — to fulfill the will of His Father and for the love of God and man. In today’s Gospel (Lk 4:24-30), Jesus was not about to let his townsfolk of the hook. He knew their hearts were hardened toward Him. Truly, familiarity breeds contempt. For calling them out, instead of repenting, they were about to kill Him right there and then. But in a scene I liken to Moses parting the Red Sea (since this is the way I always picture it) “he passed through the midst of them and went away.” He knew His ultimate fate but this was not the time — He still had much work to do in His ministry. One never gets the sense from Christ that He was particularly perturbed when He was personally attacked, even knowing how He was getting a rise out of the religious leaders. He was at ease with His mission and remained unafraid during His entire public ministry to call a spade a spade, regardless of the consequences.
We, too, should be at ease with our mission: to live the Gospel and spread the Gospel. True, these are challenging times when the Good News is militated against by the inverting of truth (see Rom 1:25). Do we go along to get along or will we be counter-cultural, not counting the cost? What suffering can come our way that compares to the joy that awaits those of us who keep the faith (see Rom 8:18)?