Kempis closes out Book One (“Useful Admonitions for a Spiritual Life”) of his The Imitation of Christ with his longest chapter so far: “Of the Fervent Amendment of Our Whole Life” (1,25). In a certain way, it is a good summary of the entire first book, focusing on those in religious life, but certainly applicable to all who seek to please God. It is filled with short helps and admonitions like the one above: see bad behavior for what it is and avoid it or, if you have been guilty of it yourself, repent and do better. Even the bad example of others can lead to (a return to) good behavior in ourselves.
The Book of Wisdom starts off with guns a blazin’, so to speak. The wicked are called out within the first few verses of this book, carrying through the entire second chapter. In the first reading today (Wis 2:1a, 12-22), it quickly becomes clear why this passage was chosen as we quickly approach Holy Week. We can hear plainly the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in this passage. The author (Solomon gets the attribution) speaks of a “just one” who “boasts that God is his Father” and “judges us debased” so “[l]et us condemn him to a shameful death.” The author’s conclusion regarding their sentiments can be seen in the headline.
Kempis warns his readers to not do the reprehensible things they see others do, and to change our ways quickly if they are guilty of the same. The danger if they don’t: the blindness that comes with sinning habitually. Justification for bad behavior comes more and more easily: everyone else is doing it; others are doing much worse things; I’m basically a good person so I can allow myself this “little” vice; I’m only human; and on and on it goes. The inevitable result: growing blind to offenses against God and becoming more easily disposed to give into temptation to do even worse things. Amend quickly! The consequences of being obstinate in wickedness are dire indeed, as Wisdom attests.
King Solomon in Old Age (1866) by Gustave Doré