|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter VII: ”How Grace Should Be Hidden Under the Guardianship of Humility” (first entry)
Kempis comes back to the nearly constant theme of humility in our next chapter. As regards the spiritual life, reveling in heavenly consolation or being disappointed when not quickly receiving consolation is a recipe for disaster. It is best to remember that it is only the gift of grace that allows us to do anything good. The quote in the headline conveys the sentiment that we must always remember the Giver in adversity or affliction and not despair of His love and mercy even if it is not sensibly apparent.
|Today’s Gospel Reading, Mt 28:16-20
For the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, we hear proclaimed the final words of Matthew’s Gospel that gives us Jesus’ Great Commission. This Gospel says nothing about Jesus’ Ascension. In fact, this scene is the only encounter between Jesus and the apostles that the tax collector mentions. Considering what we know from the other Gospels, one wonders why they doubted. Was this the first encounter of Jesus and the apostles after the Resurrection? It would not seem so, considering Jesus’ appearance in the Upper Room (see Jn 20:19-20).
The apostles were daily companions of Jesus for at least three years. They heard Him preach many, many times. They saw miraculous healings and awesome exorcisms. They experienced the first Mass at the Last Supper. They now see Him glorified in His risen body. Yet “some doubted.” What more evidence did they need that Jesus was who He said He was: Lord and Savior?
Instead of rushing to judge these men, we are better served in examining ourselves first (in fact, I would encourage you to do this any time you are tempted to scoff at one or more of the apostles’ reactions to some words or event in Scripture — rather, put yourself in their place and time). If we believe Jesus is Lord and Savior, we certainly worship Jesus (primarily in the Eucharist). But do we also doubt? Consider the circumstances Kempis mentions: when we are tempted to despair of God’s love, or even His existence, in times of difficulty. Let it not be so! We are not fair weather friends of the Lord, are we? His grace is sufficient for us (see 1 Cor 12:9), even if it doesn’t make it easy to navigate troubled waters when storms arise in our lives. Even when Jesus exclaimed in the depths of unimaginable pain in mind, body, and spirit about being forsaken by His Father it was only to point to His ultimate triumph:
For he has not spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
but heard me when I cried out. (Ps 22:25)
As difficult as life’s unexpected challenges can be, let us “poor wretches” never take our eyes off of the prize: eternal beatitude.
Have confidence in God. I would encourage you to get this treasured little book of short meditations on exactly this topic. You will be blessed.