Kempis hits the reader powerfully with death (1,23). He urges constant preparation for that moment that will come to each of us: when the Lord calls us to Himself at the end of this earthly existence. Daily prayer and repentance are necessary to prepare well for the moment we take our last breath.
Jesus’ well-known parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) once again highlights the vice of pride and the virtue of humility. The Pharisee thinks he is the source of his own glory — look at how great I am! Then he wishes to lift up himself by putting another down, comparing himself to the tax collector in his midst (and don’t think that poor wretch wasn’t meant to overhear the Pharisee’s denunciation). The man in the back, on the other hand, shows true humility, needing few words and using no excuses to lay bare his soul (whose state is known better to God than to either man) by simply asking for mercy.
Kempis would have approved of the tax collector’s attitude as well. The man’s prayer, “sent heavenward…with sighs and tears,” is exactly the disposition that the sinner (that is, all of us) should have when speaking to God. To realize we are helpless without God, but that “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26), is vital to keep proper perspective on our relationship with the Lord and to the Lord. To the extent we are open to God’s help, God will help. Radical humility opens the door to the divine assistance (that is, grace).
Let us never tire of offering ourselves completely to the Lord God, even our sins, so that the merciful Father can forgive us, heal us, and strengthen us for the fight ahead until He calls us home.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (1661) by Barent Fabritius