|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XI: ”How We Must Examine and Moderate the Desires of Our Heart” (first entry)
Kempis spends this entire short chapter speaking of the need to moderate our own desires in favor of God’s will for us. In today’s key quote from this chapter, the author has Christ telling the disciple that self-interest must not trump what He desires of us. Focusing on self only leads to distraction, scandal, and losing heart.
|Today’s First Reading: 2 Tm 4:1-8
Today we continue to read Paul’s instruction to his disciple Timothy. The Apostle urges him to be persistent in his ministry even thought it will be challenging, since “people will not tolerate sound doctrine…and will stop listening to the truth.” Paul concludes by saying that his time on this earth is just about up (“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith”).
Paul’s encouragement to the disciple to be persistent in ministry (and all the baptized have a God-given ministry) “whether convenient or inconvenient” bolsters the point Kempis’s Christ is making. Self-interest will often render giving Christian witness in word and deed “inconvenient” in a world where “people will not tolerate sound doctrine…and will stop listening to the truth” (also see Rom 1:25). What will people think? Do I really want to make waves? Is it worth the risk? Can I deal with the backlash sure to come?
Well, being “convenient” was not a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. He made plenty of people uncomfortable — that double-edged sword can cut deep in the most sensitive areas (see Heb 4;12). Sometimes (often?) it was tough love. But it was out of love that Jesus taught what He taught, lived how He lived, and died how He died. St. Augustine is helpful here:
Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good. (Seventh Homily on 1 John 4:4-12 [#8])
So, with the Doctor of Grace, let us always remember that Love comes first. If we love with the love of God, then all we do will be in accord with His will. “whether it is convenient or inconvenient” for our worldly status.