|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XVI: ”How True Comfort must be Sought in God Alone” (third entry)
Kempis wraps up this chapter by emphasizing the importance of finding consolation In God alone and His will for us, even if there is not a sensible or spiritual consolation. Simply conforming to God must be enough for us..
For this Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist we hear proclaimed one of Isaiah’s beautiful servant songs. How appropriate! There was no better prophet or servant of the Lord than Jesus’ cousin (see Mt 11:11). Isaiah prophesies a man called from his mother’s womb to be a “sharp edged sword…a polished arrow…a light to the nations.” He was to experience sorrow and difficulties (see the headline) but he received reward, glory, and strength from God. This could be said of all the prophets, but John, the immediate precursor of Christ, fulfills this in spades through his lifestyle (ascetic), preaching (uncompromising), suffering (intense), and death (vengeful)
From the womb John the Baptist received his mission. Even at that time he was inspired to leap when he first encountered Jesus, then just a few days in Mary’s womb (see Lk 1:41). Even his father, Zechariah, was moved to declare him “prophet of the Most High” who “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (see Lk 1:76). The die was cast; John had the most special mission of any prophet — to prepare the way for the imminent coming of the Messiah. It would not be easy, ultimately costing him his life.
John must have experienced many frustrations in his ministry. He could certainly draw a crowd, but he was not making a lot of friends of the religious class with his outspoken and harsh opinions of them (see Mt 3:7-10). He was a sharp sword, attempting to move hearts with truth that sometimes hurts. He certainly did not enjoy creature comforts with his chosen way of life, and he likely knew where his ministry was headed (all he had to do was consider the fate of the prophets in the Scriptures). His greatest consolation was knowing that he was being a faithful servant. What joy he must have felt when his cousin finally began His public ministry! He knew then that his mission was winding down and the end was likely near (see Jn 3:30).
Like John, we are called to prepare hearts for the Messiah (including our own!). In what we say and do, we are to see Jesus in others and be Jesus to others. Will we experience rejection? Guaranteed. Will the truth cause some to go away? Certainly. Will we be tempted to discouragement? Of course. But we must fulfill our mission. We are not called to a comfortable life, a lukewarm existence, here on earth. We are to toil, even if it sometimes seems in vain, knowing that our reward will be great in heaven.