We finish off Chapter V of Book II of Kempis by again quoting from the last section. The author continues to emphasize looking heavenward, not toward others here on earth, for true and lasting consolation and joy. Why settle for a distant second best?
The words above from St. Peter in today’s first reading (Acts 2:36-41) are imploring his hearers on Pentecost to embrace “Jesus whom you crucified” as the one “that God has made… both Lord and Christ.” They are “cut to the heart” and want to know what they need to do. “Repent and be baptized,” he tells them and then goes on to say the words we are focusing on here.
Acts here says that Peter “testified with many other arguments,” but the exhortation in the headline is the only one Luke, the author of this book, explicitly mentions. We should ask why, not only out of curiosity regarding what it meant to this first century Jewish crowd, but to consider its everlasting significance (after all, “the word of God is living and effective” — Heb 4:12).
It seems to me that we could find a substantial number of folks in every generation from time immemorial who lament how corrupt their generation is. And they would not be wrong. We are sadly easily corruptible due to concupiscence, that tendency toward sin that comes with our fallen nature. Peter implores the persons he is addressing to rise above their human weakness, with the help of the Holy Spirit promised if they repent and receive baptism, and no longer be of the world even as they continue to live in the world.
Taking our cue from Kempis, all that is corrupt and corruptible is inferior to God. The moral decay we see around us should not be allowed to drag us down with it. Bishop Robert Barron, in a recent homily, spoke of a famous author who used the image of the Son of God coming down into the muck to save us by bringing us out of the slop to clean us up. If Jesus did that for us, paying for it with His Passion and death, why would we choose to remain in the quagmire?
St. Peter Preaching the Gospel in the Catacombs (1902) by Jan Styka