We come now to a particularly beautiful chapter in The Imitation of Christ: “Of the Love of Jesus Above All Things” (2,7). The title speaks for itself. Jesus must be loved above all things to keep one’s orientation properly directed in regards to oneself, others, and this world’s enticements. One is to attach himself to the Lord above all things with the promise that he “shall stand firm in eternity.”
Today’s first reading (Acts 4:13-21) gives us the ongoing saga of the first arrest of some of the apostles (in this case, Peter and John). Not knowing what to do with these men, especially as they have become very popular, particularly because of the miraculous healing of the crippled man, the religious leaders ultimately decide to warn them sternly not to preach in Jesus’ name. What the apostles think of this order is stated by Peter at the top.
The apostles were not interested in popularity, either with the Pharisees or with the general populace. What they were interested in is embracing Jesus’ message and sharing it with the world, whatever the consequences. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost reminded them of their calling (see Jn 14:26) and gave them the spiritual fortitude to carry out their mission (Mt 28:19-20), even unto persecution and ultimately martyrdom (tradition holds that only John escaped this fate, although a long life of hardships and persecutions were to be his lot).
We have the same gifts and mission! True, it is to be carried out in different ways based on our station in life, but we all are called to spread the Good News in some fashion. Maybe it’s in the way we raise our children. Or it could be in the integrity we show in the workplace. Donations of time or talent or treasure or all of the above might be our witness. The religious life might be the way we more explicitly follow the Lord and lead others to Him. But, for all of us, a religious life of prayer and good works, even if hidden, even if homebound, certainly must be part of our daily living. When we embrace Jesus it will be impossible not to speak of Him (and to Him) regarding the difference He has made to us. Let us stand firm in the Faith here so that we “shall stand firm in eternity.”
The Apostles Peter and John the Evangelist (1477-1482) by Luca Signorelli