“A man should…soar above everything created, and perfectly forsake himself, and in ecstasy of mind stand and see that You, the Creator of all, have no equal among creatures.” (IC 3,31,1) | “They trust in you who cherish your name, for you forsake not those who seek you, O LORD.” (Ps 9:11)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXI: “Of disregarding all Creatures, that we may find the Creator” (third entry)

It is an interesting image we find above. In this chapter, like so many others in this fine book, Kempis emphasizes the importance of mortification regarding earthly goods. Here, the author encourages the reader to consider a bird’s eye view of creation, separating himself from it, and maybe even encouraging us to consider how small and insignificant these things are in relation to God.

|Today’s responsorial psalm: Ps 9:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

Psalm 9 is all about the psalmist praising God for victory over enemies. In the highlighted verse, those who remain faithful are not forsaken as they continue to seek the Lord and endeavor to follow His will.

|Reflection

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. (Is 55:6)

This life is a constant journey culminating in eternity. That we try to keep God in view in all of our thoughts, words, and actions, is a noble and necessary task. The Lord, knowing what’s best for us, is our only perfectly trustworthy guide. We should ask often for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might fulfill the Father’s will and honor His Son by our lives. In particular, we should invoke the Paraclete when big decisions loom or difficult situations arise. Even a simple Sign of the Cross cherishes the Triune God. Or uttering the name Jesus (“God saves”), like the good thief on his cross, is a lofty prayer in itself, especially when the mind is so clouded it can come up with nothing else. God is trustworthy; He will not abandon us.

In honor of St. Dominic, whose memorial we celebrate today, let us recall what was said about him by a good friend of his: “Dominic…always spoke either of God or to God.” In the spirit of today’s post, may it be said of us as well, maybe not in all of our explicit words but rather in the way we express them and in any corresponding thoughts and actions.

birds-eye-view – The Business Therapist

“[W]ho can be freer than he who wishes for nothing upon the earth?” (IC 3,31,1) | “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXI: “Of disregarding all Creatures, that we may find the Creator” (second entry)

The disciple in Kempis, at the beginning of this chapter, implores God for the grace to not allow any created person or thing to be an obstacle for him to focus solely on God. It it in this way that he knows he will find true freedom.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 16:24-28

A short, but profound, excerpt on the conditions of discipleship closes out chapter sixteen of Matthew. Denial of oneself, hardship, maybe even death, will be in store for authentic Christian. The focus must be on Christ, not worldly enticements, so that at the judgment, those who remain faithful will be repaid handsomely. Jesus concludes with a rather mysterious prophecy regarding the timing of His return.

|Reflection

For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. (Rom 6:19-22)

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

An addict, when feeling honest — or hitting rock bottom — will admit to the slavery of his addiction. But one does not have to be a fall-down drunk or a drug-addled junkie to appreciate the effects of sin in one’s life. Any earthly vice that compels us to behave badly, to shirk our duties, or to put God, family, and friends on the back burner, is a significant problem with devastating consequences if allowed to go unchecked. Do anything for that cigarette? Don’t bother me for anything during my show? Spend hours on social media or the internet wasting time or worse? Indulge in endless combox “debates” and trashing whomever?

Freedom of choice? Or no freedom because these are not choices but obsessions?

Nothing on earth can enslave us when our primary focus is on the Lord and His will for us. But becoming “slaves of God”? We should want to be counted in that number. Paul speaks of the “yoke of slavery” of those things that will not gain us salvation. Rather, let us turn to Jesus whose “yoke is easy, and…burden light” (Mt 11:30).

Image may contain: 1 person
My Yoke is Easy (contemporary) by Maria Lang

“Far more noble is that learning which comes from above, from the divine influence, than that which is laboriously acquired by the efforts of man.” (IC 3,31,2) | “[W]e possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pt 1:19)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXI: “Of disregarding all Creatures, that we may find the Creator” (first entry)

This chapter urges the reader to focus on God above all things. The key is detachment from created things, even very learned works, when they distract us, or worse, lead us away from, Truth Himself.

|Today’s second reading: 2 Pt 1:16-19

We hear from Peter because he recalls to his readers the Transfiguration he personally witnessed on this its feast day. The vicar of Christ declares that he is not conveying some clever story but rather what he witnessed on the mountain one day: the honor, glory, and majesty bestowed on Jesus by God the Father. He wants to share the message of the Father with us: “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” He omits the last three words that Matthew records, “listen to him.” The prophetic message Peter and the apostles convey comes from their Master and the Holy Spirit and so all should listen and be enlightened.

|Reflection

Learning is wonderful. We should not stop learning until we are no longer able to take in information. But, we must realize that the pinnacle of learning is the Bible. It is the ultimate preparation for eternal life. How can we “listen to him,” or even know Him, if we do not read about Him in His inspired word. So, while we may well need to keep up with resources regarding our chosen profession or avocation, we must not neglect the Word of God, “the prophetic message that is altogether reliable” and “that learning which comes from above.” Now, here, I would strongly recommend a Catholic Bible with solid, orthodox commentary (the notes from learned persons who are in conversation with God). But, before even getting to the commentary, just meditate on the passage you have chosen (“be attentive to it”). Then enhance this time of contemplation with (other) deep insights from the commentator and Father, Doctors, and great figures of the Church. Find recommendations and resources here.

Our Lord, the Word of Truth, wants to be our “lamp shining in a dark place.”

Worship Resources for Transfiguration Sunday | Revlisad.com
The Transfiguration (contemporary) by Michael D. O’Brien

“Where is your faith? Stand firmly and perseveringly. Be patient and have courage, consolation will come to you in due season.” (IC 3,30,2) | “‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour.” (Mt 15:28)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXX: “Of Asking the Divine Assistance, and of Confidence of Receiving Grace” (third entry)

Here, Jesus speaks of temptations that afflict, fears that frighten, and worries about what the future may bring. True faith is manifested in patience and courage bringing consolation. I am reminded of the Scripture, “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Lk 8:50, Mk 5:36).

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 15:21-28

The Gentile woman who seeks out Jesus to exorcise her daughter is the moving tale we are graced with today. Jesus travels to her region where news of His wondrous deeds apparently preceded Him. She begs Him for help and He ignores her. She does not give up, annoying the disciples to the point that they ask Jesus to send her away. She persists, with Jesus finally responding to her, but only to say that He has come for Israelites only, calling her like “dogs.” Yet still she persists, and Jesus credits her faith, telling her that she has received what she wished for her daughter.

|Reflection

In addition to patience and courage, the Canaanite woman exhibited the quality that Kempis has emphasized most throughout his book: humility. True, she would not give up, and certainly she was bold in her initial request and persistence, but in the end it was her meekness that won over Jesus. We should long to hear addressed to us the words the Lord spoke to the woman: “great is your faith.” Also, we should be reminded of another Gentile, made famous in the Gospels, the centurion seeking healing for his son/servant: “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt 8:10). It is worth contemplating that two of Christ’s most adamant declarations of faith are to outsiders and “sinners” (as the Pharisees would have it). No persons (including us) are beyond the reach of God, regardless of their origin, status, or past deeds. We would do well to not only imitate this woman and the centurion, but to remember — and pray for — all

[t]hose who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – [since] those too may achieve eternal salvation. (Lumen Gentium 16 as cited in CCC 847)

Let us pray that “consolation will come…in due season” for mankind as all are prompted to turn to the one and only Savior of the world.

File:Jean-Germain Drouais - The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ - WGA06696.jpg
The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ (1784) by Jean Germain Drouais

“[A]ll things avail you little, until you consider that I am He Who delivers those who trust in Me.” (IC 3,30,1) | “Thus says the LORD: See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; City shall be rebuilt upon hill, and palace restored as it was.” (Jer 30:18)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXX: “Of Asking the Divine Assistance, and of Confidence of Receiving Grace” (second entry)

These words that Kempis puts on Christ’s lips come immediately after He chastises the disciple for seeking consolations and external delights. What is reinforced here is that it is in Jesus that we find true consolation and the delight of mind and heart that cannot be attained elsewhere. Deliverance from trial and tribulation can only be secured in prayerful trust in the One who created us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us.

|Today’s first reading: Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22

Today we hear the opening words of the “Book of Consolation” in Jeremiah. Likely written at the time of the siege of Jerusalem by Babylon (587 B.C.) or shortly thereafter, Jeremiah finally brings some comfort to a people whom he has long warned of devastation and who are now experiencing it. The city will be rebuilt, the Temple restored. God has rebuked His wayward people but will never abandon them.

|Reflection

When we put together the two quotes in the headline we learn something very important about our God: no matter what we do or how far we stray, God is always with us desiring our return to Him so that He can restore us and make us better than ever before. The Chosen People constantly were drawn away from Yahweh by following the gods of foreign lands. We are tempted to fall away from Christ due to the pull of temporary worldly consolations and delights. Kempis often speaks of mortification in order to keep our focus on God. This is good advice. Fasting and abstaining of our own accord from even good things helps to prepare us for those times when we are deprived of comfort, consolation, health, and so on. It keeps our focus on what is really important: eternal life with the Lord.

Shining City on the Hill Digital Art by ReeNee Cummins
Shining City on the Hill is a piece of digital artwork by ReeNee Cummins which was uploaded on May 15th, 2015.

“[H]aving recovered your spirit after the storm, grow strong again, in the light of my tender mercies; for I am at hand to repair all, not only to the brim, but also with abundance and beyond measure.” (IC 3,30,1) | “After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.'” (Mt 14:32-33)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXX: “Of Asking the Divine Assistance, and of Confidence of Receiving Grace” (first entry)

I am reminded in this chapter of the story of Job. Kempis has Christ telling us “Is anything difficult to Me? Or shall I be like the one who promises and does not perform.” He asks for an increase in faith, especially in the most turbulent of times, even when it seems He is not there. The true disciple who sincerely endeavors to do God’s will trusts Him in all circumstances.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 14:22-36

The famous episode of Jesus walking on water graces us today. The disciples in the boat see Jesus coming to them on the sea are scared out of their wits. Jesus reassures them and then Peter impulsively asks the Lord to have him come out on the water to meet Him. Jesus tells him to come but Peter becomes afraid when a strong wind starts blowing and starts to sink, calling on his Master to help him. Jesus pulls him out of the water and they get into the boat (prompting an exclamation of faith from all) and get to shore. At their landing, Jesus is immediately sought out to perform healings, which He grants to all who come.

|Reflection

Christ certainly did “repair all” in the boat. Peter, firstly, in his near death experience, and the rest of the crew who, in seeing this unprecedented event, declared Jesus to be God. He strengthened their faith through a miracle. Their spirit was recovered after the storm. How often must these witnesses (Gk. mártyres) have hearkened back to this event when storms were brewing in their lives and ministries. How they must have been bolstered in remembering Jesus’ words, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” How many times must they have cried out in their lives, “Lord save me,” as did Peter. Their three years with Jesus would have been a constant source of fodder for meditation for the rest of their lives. But I would wager this story must have come to mind particularly often and been shared with others with great drama and joy.

In our lives, how many times do we appeal to the Lord when the storms come? Do we recall “do not be afraid”/ Do we implore Him to “save us” with full confidence that He cares and that He will? And when the trial passes, and we recognize Jesus’ assistance, are we sure to reiterate our conviction to Him that “Truly, you are the Son of God”? May it be always the case in this life, so that when He calls us home we can utter those same words as He welcomes us into His Kingdom.

Jesus Saves Peter Icon Wall Plaque - Catholic to the Max - Online ...

“Lord, I am at present in tribulation, and my heart is troubled; but I am greatly afflicted with my present suffering.” (IC 3,29,1) | “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” (Rom 8:35)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXIX: “How God must be Invoked and Blessed in Time of Tribulation” (third entry)

This chapter is all about the disciple’s lamenting his current state of trial and tribulation and looking to Christ for help. He asks to withstand his suffering with patience, humility, and fearlessness, realizing that he deserved no better, trusting that a greater good will come of it.

|Today’s second reading: Rom 8:35, 37-39

Paul famously wraps up chapter eight of Romans with encouraging words for the Christian who is experiencing any manner of difficulties. God is with us and loves us through all of our challenges. We must not doubt this regardless of what we are asked to endure since “in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly.”

|Reflection

As difficult as life can be at times, we are to take comfort in knowing that God loves us and is always there for us through it all, even if it seems that the whole world has abandoned us. Nothing in this mortal coil can cut us off from the Lord except our own grave sin. This is why sin of any kind should be a horror to us, as it was the great saints. Why would we want to offend, even to the point of cutting off, the One who made us, sustains us, redeemed us, and desires us to be saved for eternal beatitude with Him? Like the disciple in Kempis, we should bring our difficulties to Christ, laying them out before Him, while asking for the patience, humility, courage, and strength to see them through for the greater glory of God. This may need to be reiterated by us daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute in our darkest moments. But the promise of divine assistance and ultimate reward is assured for those who persevere. Would that we are able to say with Paul in another letter:

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)

“Offer it up!” the good nuns would tell us. This is biblical wisdom we must interiorize to make our hearts like unto Christ’s.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: St. Paul in Prison
St. Paul in Prison (1627) by Rembrandt

“May it please You, O Lord, to deliver me; for, poor wretch that I am, what can I do and where shall I go without You.” (IC 3,29,1) | “I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me.” (Ps 69:30)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXIX: “How God must be Invoked and Blessed in Time of Tribulation” (second entry)

The disciple realizes his own wretchedness so in his time of trial he knows that only the Lord, ultimately, is his safe refuge. Without God’s help he can do nothing good and would be without a reliable moral compass.

|Today’s responsorial psalm: Ps 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34

Psalm 69 is one of David’s songs of lament. A great king, but also a great sinner, he repented whole-heartedly, with an unblinking look at his own despicable actions. He feels about to drown and he is scorned by all. Yet he appeals to the Lord for salvation, fully trusting in the Lord to rescue him and his people.

|Reflection

Kempis’s disciple and David both have precisely the correct perspective and impulse. They are lowly, filled with humility, recognizing their own weakness, their inability, by their own power, to redeem themselves. They immediately appeal to God for help, begging his mercy, acknowledging Him as protector and guide.

So it should be with each and every one of us. While conversation with God should be an important event in our daily routine, it is in times of particular trouble or distress that our appeals to the Lord tend to be most intense. And that’s okay. Jesus longs for us to communicate with Him and tell Him of all those matters that weigh most heavily on our heart. What are true friends for (see Jn 15:15)?

Jesus, I place my trust in you.

Amazon.com: Tomorrow sunny 24X36 INCH / Divine Mercy Image Love ...

“Help me, O my God, and I will not fear, regardless of how much I may be distressed.” (IC 3,29,1) | “When Jeremiah finished speaking all that the LORD bade him speak to all the people, the priests and prophets laid hold of him, crying, ‘You must be put to death!'” (Jer 26:8)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXIX: “How God must be Invoked and Blessed in Time of Tribulation” (first entry)

The disciple cries out to the Lord in a time of inevitable trial and tribulation, asking that it turn out for his good, yet still troubled and afflicted by his circumstances. He appeals for fortitude and patience while realizing that he “well deserved to be afflicted and oppressed.”

|Today’s first reading: Jer 26:1-9

Jeremiah again finds himself in deep trouble with the southern kingdom of Judah for giving warning of the devastation to come if the people do not repent. By simply conveying what the Lord asks him to proclaim, he is held captive and threatened with death — by the religious leaders! At Mass tomorrow we will see how this turns out.

|Reflection

It is, sadly, not uncommon for many around the world to be faced with martyrdom for their Christian faith. The words of Kempis’s disciple hopefully is on their lips. While we do not (yet?) face the prospect of giving our lives for the Gospel, we must have fortitude to maintain the conviction of our belief in Christ regardless of the consequences. Let us turn to St. Paul for encouragement:

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 8:35-39)

Only sin can distance us from God, and only grave sin can separate us from His love completely (not that He wants to, or even is able to, stop loving us; but we, through a devastating thought, word, or deed, definitively can stop loving Him). Let us repent and humbly cry for the Lord’s help to persevere in goodness and beg for the grace to do so.

Saint Paul in Lystra preaching by Giovanni Ghisolfi on artnet
Saint Paul in Lystra Preaching by a follower of Giovanni Ghisolfi (b. ca. 1623–1683)

“Your peace does not depend on the tongues of men, because whether they judge well or evil of you, you are not for this another man. Where is true peace and true glory? Is it not in Me?” (IC 3,28,2) | “Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps 146:3)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXVIII: “Against the Tongues of Slanderers” (third entry)

The words Kempis has Christ speaking cut to the heart. We are who we are in God’s eyes; what others say about us does not change that. So we turn to the Lord for “true peace and true glory” — it will not be found elsewhere.

|Today’s first reading: Jer 15:10, 16-21

Psalm 146 is a short song of exuberant praise of God. He is our help, our hope, our maker. The oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the handicapped, the feeble, the immigrant, the widow, all find recourse in Him. Look to the Lord, not men, for eternal salvation — and glory in Him for this gift.

|Reflection

Kempis and the Psalmist converge well today. Both encourage us, over and over, to keep our gaze upward and forward, to God and eternity. In this valley of tears, there will be many ups and downs, but the Lord is constant, unchanging (by definition). In this brief sojourn in the valley of tears, let us never waver in keeping our eyes on the prize and our feet on the narrow path. And if the trials to which we are subjected seem overwhelming, let us immediately take refuge in a God who understands us and the human condition better than we ourselves do.

Woman Praying In Front A Of A Pieta Statue In The Cathedral Of ...