This new chapter (XXIII) of Book One of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis is a Meditation on Death. The crux of it: live well every moment because death can come at any time — and will come eventually for everyone. In the first section, the quote above ties in very well with the end of the first reading today.
The reading from Hosea (14:2-10) gives us almost the entire last chapter of this book. Hosea lived in the eight century B.C. in the Northern Kingdom. The prophet documents various internal intrigues as well as relations with other nations, including Assyria, which would overrun the north in 722 B.C. He urges the people to admit their sins, repent, and come back to the Lord. God, for His part, is eager to take them back, and promises abundant blessings if they humbly return. But the final warning from Hosea is provided in the headline.
Hosea’s final admonition should remind us of Jesus’ words, who well may have been thinking of this prophet, when He uttered the following:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (Mt 7:13-14)
The path is straight: keep the commandments. It is not easy, though, as the road is “constricted.” By God? No! By us! We far too often find the detours, brush, and trees off the road too tempting not to follow. We are easily distracted, due to our fallen human nature, with sin and materiality. We “stumble” amidst the rocks, briers, and detritus that litter these detours that appeal far too easily to our fallen nature. Kempis and Hosea both are encouraging us to keep our eye in the prize if we are to achieve peace now and ultimate happiness with the Lord forever.