Chapter III of Book II of The Imitation of Christ speaks of “The Good Peaceable Man.” Interior peace leads to contentment as well as peace in relationships because such a man bears with and excuses others. The quote above addresses the man who does not have this peace: he does no good for others or himself.
Jesus, in today’s Gospel (Jn 12:1-11), just days before His Passion and death, seeks the company of his good friends, the siblings Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. During the dinner they held for Him and His closest followers, Mary is inspired to bathe the Master’s feet with expensive perfumed oil. Judas objects, claiming his interest is in the poor and how this oil could have been sold to give alms (John knows better and tells us the Iscariot’s true motive: lining his own pockets). Judas takes a beautiful, heartfelt act from a deeply loving and spiritual person and monetizes it. How the others must have looked at him after Jesus reprimanded him.
Judas is arguably the most notorious figure in history that fits Kempis’s description of the man with no peace. We sense from Scripture that Judas was a deeply troubled man throughout Jesus’ ministry. As this Passover approached, we read in some detail of his machinations regarding giving up Christ to the Jews. Instead of interiorizing the message of the Prince of Peace, with whom he was with daily for years, worldly concerns closed his heart to the Gospel. Ultimately, this led to unspeakable trouble for Jesus and his brother apostles. More so, though, this turned out to be more trouble for himself. Jesus turned this most egregious evil to the greatest good that the world could ever receive: redemption. But Judas, quickly regretting his betrayal, despaired of his life, his soul, and God’s mercy, and committed suicide (see Mt 26:24).
Kempis’s advice to his readers is outstanding. Strive for the inner peace that comes with ever closer communion with God. With confidence in the Lord and seeing others with the eyes of Jesus, we will not become unduly disturbed by persons and events we encounter in daily living. We then will be little troubled ourselves and cause little unnecessary trouble for others.
16th-century fresco from Tarzhishte Monastery, Strupets, Bulgaria, showing Judas hanging himself