|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XI: ”How We Must Examine and Moderate the Desires of Our Heart” (third entry)
Kempis closes this chapter on moderating the desires of our heart with the words above. Fitting it is since our tendency is to become annoyed and voice complaint when things don’t go precisely they way we want them to, often in the most minor matters. By controlling these earthly, passing desires, we mortify ourselves and become more open to the Lord’s voice and more like Jesus in humility in order to face much more significant adversities as we ought.
|Today’s First Reading: Mt 5:1-12
Today begins our slow and steady journey through the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the famous Beatitudes. Jesus sure knows how to get a crowd’s attention when beginning to teach. All the points He makes are challenging to bear with or live out, particularly the final one which, after being stated, is emphasized in the quote above. The people must have been astonished in this heretofore unheard of program from a man of God. There must have been a lot of mouths agape and glances shot as Jesus fired off each blessing. Undoubtedly His listeners were eager to find out where He was going with all of this. We will find out in the coming days.
This long slate of blessings in the Beatitudes come when we persevere through sadness, difficulties, and challenges, keeping our eyes on the ultimate goal: union with God in His Kingdom. Whether or not we receive material benefits or even spiritual comfort from doing what is right, we know that through our faithfulness, we will be rewarded.
By not “murmuring” at the little personal adversities we work on steeling ourselves against the greater insults, persecutions, and calumnies that are sure to come when we boldly live the Christian life in word and action. Kempis is wise to emphasize, time and again, self-discipline. As much as the wiles of the enemy can hurt, whether in mind, body, or spirit, we know that if we faithfully defend Christ, we are on the right side of (salvation) history. Take courage!
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39)