|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XV: ”How We are to Regulate Ourselves, and What We are to Say in Every Desirable Thing” (fourth entry)
We close out this chapter with another message of mortification and submission to God’s will. Kempis knows well the Gospel and the call to discipleship that necessarily entails rejection and suffering. This is to be embraced, though, while creature comforts and personal adulation are to be shunned.
What we have in today’s Gospel are some of the instructions from Jesus to the twelve apostles after commissioning them to go out and preach, heal, and exorcise demons. The Lord makes no bones about the fact that they will be persecuted. They must be courageous in the face of this, though, and not hold back on the complete message of the Good News. “Do not be afraid”!, He says. Fear and compromise have eternal consequences for those who persist in these ways.
Fully embracing Christ and the Truth He is and taught is ever more vehemently opposed by the culture of our day. Jesus warns against giving in to the prevailing antagonism despite the promise of persecution (see also Mk 10:29-30). These few moments we spend on earth are nothing in comparison to eternity but this time fully determines our eternal disposition. Kempis suggests that our response must be more than tolerating the abuse that is sure to come for living and proclaiming the Gospel; actually, we are to “love to be despised and ignored.” One way to prepare ourselves for these difficulties is to “die to all things that are in the world.” That is, not only material things, but also to compliments, accolades, good wishes, and so on. Not that we shouldn’t gratefully accept these (always remembering Who gets the credit), but we are not to become attached to them, count on them, or regret when they are not forthcoming. Like Paul, we must keep our eyes on the prize, come what may in this life:
I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Phil 3:8)
I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)