“[T]otally conform your desires to My good pleasure, and…be not a lover of yourself, but the fervent executor of My will.” (IC 3,11,3) | “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned” (Jn 3:18)

|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XI: ”How We Must Examine and Moderate the Desires of Our Heart” (second entry)

Kempis has Christ begin with these words as He tells the disciple that “you still have to learn many things, which you have not yet learned well.” Focusing on Jesus and His will for us covers it. Total conformity to God’s will takes care of everything if we can attain it. As the rest of the chapter tells us, as if we need any outside source to raise awareness of this, it is not easy to overcome fallen desires that conflict with the Lord’s designs.

|Today’s First Reading: Jn 3:16-18

Today we hear the famous John 3:16 verse (made prominent at many football games). Jesus goes on to expound upon this message, with the follow-up declaration to Nicodemus in the headline. In this short reading we have Jesus declaring Himself the Son of God and the only Savior of the world. Belief in Him is required for salvation.

|Reflection

The reason I put these Kempis and John quotes together is to emphasize a point that I never tire of making because I believe it is much misunderstood, even in certain Christian circles. “Belief” in Christ is not merely a verbal, emotional, or even intellectual, assent; all these are good as far as they go, but they are insufficient. True belief does not stoop to an “easy-believism” (that is, I can’t lose my salvation no matter how I behave now that I have declared allegiance to Jesus). No, we are required to conform our hearts and minds to God and live this out accordingly. Paul’s words to the Romans are instructive:

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

I hear a lot of Kempis in this important passage. I also hear a lot of Jesus here (see Mt 5:48 for starters).

“Belief” requires a radical change from our fallen desires that constantly tempt us away from God. The world, the flesh, and the devil are powerful forces (see Eph 2:1-3; some also see these challenges in the Parable of the Sower in vv. 4-7). But they don’t stand a chance against grace. Grace does not necessarily make conforming to God’s will, and ultimately salvation, easy. But it does make it possible (see Mt 19:26 and 2 Cor 12:9).

Let us pray daily that the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to dispense the graces that we would be lost without to aid us in our struggles to meet His demanding standards..

File:Henry Ossawa Tanner - Nicodemus coming to Christ.jpg
Nicodemus coming to Christ (between 1924-1927) by Henry Ossawa Tanner

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