The final chapter in Book Two of Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ is entitled “Of the Royal Road of the Holy Cross” (2,12). In a nutshell, Kempis tells us in this long chapter that suffering is the lot of human life; how we handle it informs us very much of our eternal destiny. Today’s quote highlights this truth splendidly.
Today’s second reading (1 Pt 2:20b-25) has Peter appealing to servants/slaves to bear their hardships uncomplainingly, as Jesus did. He concludes with a paragraph clearly referring to Isaiah 53‘s Suffering Servant. Their suffering was anticipated and endured by Christ for their sake — He understands better than anyone the meaning and effects of tribulations.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)
The Lord Himself was clear as to what was involved and expected of His followers (we are all called to be servants/slaves of Christ). Peter undoubtedly harkened back to the words of his Master in writing his epistle. The head of the apostles had already suffered much for the Faith, and the worst (or best, from a salvation perspective) was yet to come.
Suffering of any kind is not easy, but it will come. We need to constantly implore the Lord to bear it well and unite it to Him for the salvation of souls (including our own). It is not without purpose that Paul said:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church… (Col 1:24)
What a privilege that Jesus invites us to participate in His work. Lord, give us the grace and the strength to recognize this and embrace it for love of you and your people.
(Read Pope St. John Paul II’s beautiful apostolic letter on redemptive suffering here.)