Kempis (2,12) does not hesitate to frequently reiterate the necessity of imitating Christ (thus the title of the book). Conforming ourselves to Jesus is an ongoing challenge — living an authentically Christian life is difficult, made even more so by a culture that is increasingly militating against objectively true moral values. In a paradox, this increasing difficulty — and the persecution that may come with it — is actually a vehicle to allow us to draw closer to Christ by accepting this cross without complaint and in a manner that our Lord embraced it and carried it to His execution.
Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 12:44-50) brings us to the very end of the so-called “Book of Signs,” that is, the first part of John. Jesus has just made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many have come to believe, even authorities and Gentiles, but the Pharisees remain hard-hearted toward Jesus and His message. Today’s passage is Jesus’ last plea before Passover (and the Last Supper) to the people to accept Him and His message that, He emphatically declares, comes from God the Father. The consequences of rejecting God have eternal ramifications, as we read at top.
The two quotes in the headline are a study in contrasts: what we are to do and what we are to avoid in relating to Jesus. The two concepts that jump out at us in today’s reflection are Word and Cross. These are inseparable. The Word was made flesh (see Jn 1:14) to accomplish our redemption through the wood of the Cross. Jesus’ whole life was leading to this (see Jn 12:27). If we accept the Word we must accept the Cross. All of Scripture speaks of Christ since it and He are one. All creation waited with bated breath for the coming of the Messiah. We are the beneficiaries of that event. So let us know the Word well through prayer and reading so that we can accept the Cross well when it is placed on our shoulders. Then we will be conformed to Christ and need not fear rejection on our judgment day.
The Last Judgment (1541) by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Rome