This whole chapter in Kempis (2,12) has to do with the inevitability of suffering and the way we are to be disposed to it whenever we encounter it. The good news is that if we persevere as Christ did we have the promise of life eternal with Him.
In today’s Gospel (Jn 10:11-18), Jesus’ “Good Shepherd” discourse continues. What makes for a good shepherd? That he lay down his life for his sheep. So Jesus is not speaking metaphorically here (although I would argue there is an aspect of this in the constant difficulties He encountered in His public ministry and in general in aligning His will entirely with the Father’s). Jesus knew that His mission would end in death, freely accepted. He also knew that death would not have the last word.
Because of the Paschal Mystery — the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus — we too have confidence that the end of our earthly lives marks the beginning of eternal life. Jesus took up His own life and so we are secure in the knowledge that He will take up ours as well. But, as worthy imitators of Christ we don’t forget that He said the following:
Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (Lk 24:26)
As athletic coaches are wont to shout: “No pain, no gain!” We know that we will be companions with Christ in death — it is our inevitable fate. We must also be His companions in suffering to enter into His glory.
Lord grant us the grace to suffer well for love of you and your Church, the Body of Christ.
Woman on Her Deathbed (1883) by Vincent van Gogh