Today we begin the second, and shortest, of the five books of Thomas à Kempis’s masterpiece, The Imitation of Christ. This book is entitled, “Admonitions Concerning the Interior Life.” The first chapter: “Of Interior Conversation.” Once again, Kempis discourages materialism and distractions so that we can better communicate interiorly with God — the better disposed we are to listen, the more fruit will come of this practice. The headline gives us in a nutshell the entire chapter. We will be consoled if we allow in Christ fully.
The Gospel proclaimed this day (only in Jn 8:1-11) is the episode in which the Jewish religious leaders bring to Jesus (forcibly, most assuredly) a woman caught in adultery in order to attempt to trap Him: let her go and He breaks the Law of Moses; authorize her killing and He breaks Roman law (executions were only to be carried out by Roman officials). As always, Jesus cleverly avoids their trap by turning it around on them: are they willing to break Roman law and do they feel interiorly disposed to cast this judgment? Eventually they all drop their rocks and go away. The words above are the only discourse between Jesus and the woman in this story.
It seems to me that this is a very good example of something good coming from something evil. Actually, two evils: the woman’s adulterous act and the conniving of the scribes and Pharisees. The woman, undoubtedly ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid for her life, is dragged to the temple area, no less, in front of this great teacher, preacher, and healer (I wonder how much she knew of Him — He must have been the talk of all Jerusalem by that time). This all changes quickly as, in a matter or minutes, Jesus frees her and commands her to amend her life. What began as a horror fer her turned out to be the greatest blessing of her life.
Per Kempis, Christ did come to her (or maybe better put, Christ brought her to Himself). What consolation must she have felt when Jesus not only caused her freedom but also doesn’t condemn her. He desired to make for Him “a fit dwelling within [her]” if only she would renounce her previous immorality and embrace holiness. We do not know what becomes of her (at least explicitly; this short article makes a compelling case for her as Mary Magdalene). But, it’s hard to imagine that her life was not changed forever. We hope that her consoling encounter with Jesus kept Him in her heart always and that she gave up her sinful ways for her remaining days.
Just the same, we are freed by Jesus (see Gal 5:1) and commanded to amend our lives so Jesus can find “a fit dwelling within [us].” We dispose ourselves to the ever greater lordship of Christ in our lives through daily prayer, contemplation, examination of conscience, Scripture and other spiritual reading, along with frequent sacramental Confession, and weekly or more Holy Communion (at least spiritually, if not able to get to daily Mass). If we are faithful, we need not be ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid for our spiritual life.
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1565) by Pieter Bruegel