Continuing a prevalent theme in his work, Kempis emphasizes the importance of Christ over anything else in our earthly lives (2,8). Considering the greatest commandment given by God in the Old Testament (see Deut 6:5) and repeated by His Son in the New Testament (Mt 22:37-38), it is something every Christian should be able to agree on.
It seems that today’s Gospel reading are the words of the evangelist himself (Jn 3:31-36). He emphasizes the preeminence of the Christ and closes this short aside with the sentence above. It is extremely important to note that John contrasts belief not with unbelief but, rather, disobedience. If one thinks he is in the clear regarding his eternal salvation due to an easy believism, he is sadly mistaken. “Once saved, always saved” is absolutely unbiblical, as is evidenced in Jesus repeated assertions of the eternal disposition awaiting the just versus the unjust.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Mt 7:21)
Today’s reading hits on a vital concept that I often stress in theological discussions and Bible studies. It is absolutely clear in reading Scripture as the Church teaches, that is by respecting its content and unity and not cherry picking verses, that demands are placed on the person who wishes to be called a Christian. How we live and what we do matters to our eternal destiny. Of course, it is only because of Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection that heaven is open to us in the first place; and we don’t have a chance to get there without the free gift of grace. But we have a part to play. We are offered unimaginable glory but we must cooperate with grace. As a preacher once said, “God is not a chump.” The ocean of God’s mercy is vast, but if we don’t so much as dip a toe in that water, we are lost.
Yes, Jesus is a treasure (see Mt 13:44-50). And yes, losing His life within us by disobedience is the greatest loss. All sin is deeply offensive to God, but mortal sin, unrepented, dooms a person to eternal separation from God (see CCC 1854-1861). When our horror for sin approaches God’s we are making progress. Let us strive to allow no sin to separate us from the Almighty even the slightest bit, and certainly let us never grow comfortable with “little” sins that inevitably open the possibility for a slide into grave offenses.
St. John the Evangelist (1620s) by Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri)