This chapter of The Imitation of Christ (1,23) is wrought with mortification and turning from sin. Another example is presented above. The paradox of the requirement of death to bring new life is central to the Bible in the Resurrection. For Kempis, this transformation starts in this life. Die now to iniquity and worldly desires to draw ever closer to Jesus, who, as we should, always had His end in mind in His work here on earth.
Paul tells the Ephesians (Eph 5:8-14), and us,
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret
What are these works of darkness? Paul explains earlier in the chapter: “Immorality or any impurity or greed” (v. 3). He urges us to “expose” them in ourselves now. We have this opportunity in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Not only does this great gift give us the assurance of forgiveness if we sincerely desire it, it provides us the grace, to the extent that we are open to it, to overcome the temptations that assault us daily.
Paul’s words “Awake, O sleeper” (speculation is that the words in today’s headline come from a hymn already sung in Paul’s time; here is one from closer to our time) likely make us think of the sleep of physical death, but we should not approach this teaching only in those terms. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23a). All sin damages our relationship with God; mortal sin is death to the soul. The time to repent is now; there is no more opportunity once Jesus calls us to Himself.
So Kempis agrees with Paul (no surprise!). The time is now to lay ourselves bare, repent, ask forgiveness, do penance, and “firmly resolve with the help of God’s grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.” (from the Act of Contrition)
The dire warning we just heard from Paul’s letter to the Romans ends with this good news: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23b).
Let us be enlightened now by the Truth so as to live in the light of Christ for all eternity.