“For although this present life be burdensome, yet it has now become, through Your grace, very meritorious and, by following Your example and in the footsteps of Your saints, it seems more clear and more bearable to the weak.” (IC 3,18,2) | “[W]hoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:38)

|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XVIII: ”How Temporal Miseries are to be Borne with Patience Imitating the Example of Jesus Christ” (first entry)

This book is rightly called The Imitation of Christ. The disciple here is responding to Christ’s bearing witness to His “temporal miseries” and an entire earthly existence in which He “was never without suffering” so that we “would learn patience” in our trials.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 10:37-42

Here Jesus famously speaks of the necessity of His faithful followers to take up their crosses as He was bound to. The Lord demands our love before any thing or any person, including those closest to us, even if it means forfeiting this life for His sake. This then naturally flows to care and appreciation for others in the spiritual realm (the prophet) as well as those in the physical realm (the thirsty disciple).

|Reflection

The icon below portrays well the combination of quotes in the headline. There is not a canonized (or otherwise) saint who did not ultimately and definitively take up his or her cross and follow Jesus in the end. It is a requirement and a privilege for us to follow in their footsteps. Note that Jesus implies that the cross of suffering is a necessity, not an option. We are not “worthy” of Jesus in any case, but He deigned to come down to lift us up. Remember, Jesus said this:

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. (Jn 12:32)

Not only does He draw us to the cross, He lifts us up on the cross. He led the way and supports us in our own mini-crucifixions (“mini” because we cannot fathom the complete immolation that Jesus suffered physically and spiritually carrying the burden of all sin of all time). Our example of faithfulness and patience in suffering may well bring others to Jesus as well. In any case, as Kempis’s disciple says, our suffering is meritorious due to divine grace. Thus, we can say with Paul:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24)

Nothing is “lacking” from Christ’s sacrifice except what He deigns is required willingly of us. What a privilege it is to unite our sufferings with Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of souls. May this conviction strengthen us in our most grievous trials.

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