“If you know perfectly how to annihilate yourself, and empty yourself of all created love, then would I flow into you with much grace.” (IC 3,42,2) | “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (Lk 6:20)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXLII: “Peace is not to be Placed in Men” (second entry)

Kempis’s nearly continuous call to self-abasement continues here. We need to empty ourselves to worldly attachments so that grace can find more room to abide in us.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Lk 6:20-26

Today we are given Luke’s version of Jesus’ proclaiming of the Beatitudes, with blessings to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced, but woes to the rich, satiated, mirthful, and exalted.

|Reflection

Matthew’s Beatitudes say “poor in spirit” in his version of the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the mount (chapters 5 through 7), meaning those who are detached from earthly things. This interpretation fits here, as well, it seems. A quite wealthy person may use his riches for good and may not be attached at all to material things. A person in dire financial straits may be extraordinarily greedy and holding closely even his meager possessions while coveting more.

Our spirit must desire God in all circumstances, never letting the world become a hindrance. With such obstacles out of the way, we open up ourselves to taking advantage of the graces with which the Lord so happily desires to ravish us.

May our disposition always be one of openness to God’s gift. The ultimate reward is fit for a king.

abouna.org : Pope: Jesus is the King "of our life"

“[I]f you have recourse to the everlasting and abiding Truth, you will not be grieved when a friend leaves you or dies.” (IC 3,42,1) | “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28a)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXLII: “Peace is not to be Placed in Men” (first entry)

Variation on a recurring theme here ultimately gets back to the idea of placing one’s primary and overwhelming focus on God. Any good earthly relationship is arranged and sustained by God. Nevertheless, one should even withdraw himself from worldly ties to be closer to the Lord. Ultimate peace comes from emptying oneself and drawing nearer and nearer to the Almighty.

|Today’s first reading: Rom 8:28-30

Romans 8:28 is oft-quoted and certainly not an uncommon tagline under many signatures. It is a message of comfort and hope when life does not make sense and the darkness never seems to part. For the faithful who persevere, though, glory will be theirs.

|Reflection

How difficult it is to lose a loved one or close friend to life circumstances or death. In tragic situations it is difficult, if not impossible, to perceive how any good can ever come out of certain events. Yet, we must trust in the Lord who allows evil in order that a greater good can come from it (the verse we are considering is the “go to” Scripture for this truth). Sometimes we are blessed and can look back to see how this has been so. Other times, we may go to our deathbed without ever understanding the calamities of this life. In any case, a deep and abiding faith in our loving Father is required. And, at the end of time, all will be made known by the Lord about the entire plan of salvation.

Man kneeling and praying at coffin, funeral service

“Lift up your heart to Me in Heaven, and you will not be grieved by the contempt of men on earth.” (IC 3,41,1) | “The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.” (Lk 6:7)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXLI: “Of the Contempt of all Worldly Honor” (third entry)

Kempis has Christ saying the words of encouragement above to the disciple who is “disheartened [to] see others honored and advanced, and [him]self despised and humiliated.”

|Today’s Gospel reading: Lk 6:6-11

Jesus is confronted with a man with a withered hand as the scribes and Pharisees continue to observe Jesus carefully in the synagogue. Knowing that they sought to trap Him for Sabbath violations, Jesus calls out these religious leaders and then cures the man since it is “lawful to do good on the sabbath.” Infuriated and humiliated, amongst themselves they “discussed together what they might do to Jesus.”

|Reflection

Although Kempis has Jesus direct His words to His disciple to strengthen Him, it seems that Jesus Himself would have often had recourse to his heavenly Father with the same sentiments in His frequent times of prayer. This was especially needed due to the machinations of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, several of whom were on a constant crusade to take down this popular interloper. How it must have grieved Jesus to bear such acrimony from men who claimed to be privileged representatives of His Father.

‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (Jn 15:20)

So why should we, as fallen and imperfect as we are, to be treated any better than Our Lord and Savior? Would it be that we would handle these situations as He did. God help us.

Spoiler Alert: Jesus Offended a Lot of People | Third Hour

“Lord, we are blind, and quickly seduced by vanity.” (IC 3,41,2) | “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert” (Ps 95:8)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXLI: “Of the Contempt of all Worldly Honor” (second entry)

Above we have the disciple’s immediate response to Christ’s telling him to not be concerned about being humiliated, despised, or receiving contempt from his fellow man. The disciple, realizing his weakness, knows that pride will rear its ugly head with a vengeance if provoked by the attacks of others. He concludes that he cannot complain since he has done far worse to God and thus must content himself with this deserved treatment.

|Today’s responsorial psalm: Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

This psalm praises God for His glory and majesty and looks back with regret at the defiance of the Israelites in the desert whom the Lord rescued from Egypt. Their constant complaining and lack of trust in Yahweh ensured that “They shall never enter my rest.” And none did but the noble Joshua and Caleb.

|Reflection

What is hardening one’s heart but vanity that is a result of pride? The Israelites in the wilderness thought they had a better idea than God their savior so they told their leader Moses what they thought in defiance of the Almighty. So, too, we disciples, thinking we know better how the Lord should treat us and what’s best for us, let our haughtiness rule our actions. Do we really think that “we don’t deserve” this offensive treatment?

I never heard anything bad said of me which I did not clearly realize fell short of the truth. If I had not sometimes–often, indeed–offended God in the ways they referred to, I had done so in many others, and I felt they had treated me far too indulgently in saying nothing about these” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 15).

Is this easy to swallow? Not in our condition. But the eternal rewards of accepting humiliations helps us increase in humility and the reception of even greater graces. As for justice, leave that up to God to mete out — He has got it covered perfectly (us, not so much).

Now, it may be necessary to defend oneself against particular allegations, but it should always be done in humility with no desire for revenge assuming the best possible motives. Our good example will be a sign for all observers (including the attacker, but especially Jesus Christ) that we are Christians of good will who desire only the best for every person, friend or enemy. This attitude, widely adopted, will be more effective in changing hearts and minds than any imposed program to legislate morality.

St. Teresa of Jesus

“[U]nless I place myself in this disposition: to be willing to be despised and forsaken by all creatures, and to be esteemed wholly nothing, I cannot possess interior peace and strength, nor be spiritually enlightened, nor perfectly united to you.” (IC 3,41,1) | “When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.” (1 Cor 4:12b-13a)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXLI: “Of the Contempt of all Worldly Honor” (first entry)

We begin this very short chapter by presenting the last paragraph, spoken by the disciple in response to Christ’s telling him that when he is despised on earth he should have recourse to Him. A line in the reflection following the text says all that needs to be said about this chapter: “It is only just that a person, who has sinned against his Creator, be punished by creatures, who are the instruments of Divine Justice.”

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 4:6b-15

Paul uses irony (I deem it sarcasm) to call out the Corinthians who are proud, boastful, and full or worldly wisdom, thinking that the possessions they have and the honors they have received came through their own power or status. Paul and Apollos, on the other hand, count themselves fools for Christ and are persecuted for His name. Yet they do not return these attacks in kind. Paul closes by saying that he does not write this to shame the Corinthians but to admonish them to listen to apostles like himself in order to live well as Christians.

|Reflection

The apostles and many early Christians were “willing to be despised and forsaken by all creatures” for the sake of the Faith. This disposition was not unique to them and their time as throughout the ages, and even today, in many parts of the world, including our own country, being “despised and forsaken” for espousing and living authentic Christianity is becoming more and more a commonplace.

Blessing our persecutors, enduring their persecution, responding to slander gently. These are the dispositions Paul and his companions possessed, and what we are called to do by Holy Writ. This is true imitation of Christ. Christianity’s numbers explode when and where its adherents are most despised. When Jesus superseded “an eye for an eye” with “turn the other cheek,” it seems to me He was on to something (see Ex 21:23-25 and Mt 5:38-42) (I’m sure Jesus is happy for my vote of confidence in Him)? Our politicians should take special note, but this instruction applies to us all. This begins in the domestic church (our homes) and fans out. It is a grassroots effort. Revenge must become socially unacceptable. Thus hearts may be softened and the impulse to persecute be lessened.

The reward for all this effort to be Christlike? “Interior peace and strength,” spiritual enlightenment, and unity with the Lord. Quite a bargain, don’t you think?

slapping jesus

“You are my glory, You are the happiness of my heart.” (IC 3,40,5) | “Take delight in the LORD, and he will grant you your heart’s requests.” (Ps 37:4)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXL: “Man has no Good of Himself and can Glory in Nothing” (third entry)

We close this chapter with a simple exclamation of the disciple. His recognition of His own deficiencies and reliance on His Creator, who deserves “all praise, honor, power, and glory” (as he says in the chapter’s final sentence), leads him to express his awe with unbounded enthusiasm.

|Today’s Responsorial Psalm: Ps 37:3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40

The title of this psalm, given in the Navarre Bible, is “The upright trust in the Lord, even though the wicked seem to prosper.” We don’t get the full brunt of this in the excerpts proclaimed this day, but we do come to see that the just who trust in the Lord will ultimately gain victory and evildoers will ultimately be destroyed. The Lord will not refuse a heart that delights in Him.

|Reflection

If in our heart we deem true happiness as desiring to know and follow God’s will, then we will be granted our “heart’s request.” Would it be that we would emulate our Blessed Mother whose heart was so united to her Son’s that, when the centurion’s sword pierced His heart on the Cross, she experienced it mystically in her own body (see Lk 2:35). She gave her entire being to be the instrument of the most Holy Trinity.

Dear Mother, pray that we more fully embrace your Son to whom you completely and unreservedly dedicated your life on earth and in heaven.

DSCF3589
Lacrimosa I: “…and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (2014) by Ric Stott

“I, for my part, am but vanity, and nothing in Your sight; a changing and weak man.” (IC 3,40,4) | “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Lk 5:8)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXL: “Man has no Good of Himself and can Glory in Nothing” (second entry)

The disciple wants to rid himself of all vanity as he knows his own deficiencies but acknowledges God’s greatness. Help needed.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Lk 5:1-11

The Gospel reading is the story of the calling of Peter to be an apostle. This happens due to Providence. Jesus is teaching, the crowd’s press in, and Jesus appropriates a boat and asks the fisherman to put out a bit so that He can continue preaching; they do, He does. When finished, Jesus orders Simon to drop the nets to catch fish. He objects since they had no luck at all during the night. He does so, anyway, and brings in a tremendous haul of fish at which time he utters the exclamation in the headline due to this miracle. Peter and his companions, James and John, drop everything when they reach the shore to follow Jesus.

|Reflection

We should easily be able to understand and empathize with Simon Peter’s astonishment and humble words. We can all legitimately say precisely the same thing as He did to Jesus and mean it. Fortunately for Simon and for us the Lord does not depart, or wish to depart, from His friends. He doesn’t want to lose anyone (see Jn 18:9 and 1 Tim 2:3-4). We know we are vain and weak; God knows this much better than we do. So we must fight the temptation to attribute any good thing to our own power, but in all things point to our Blessed Messiah for all the credit and glory. For we don’t want to depart from Him, either — now and forever. Amen.

Raffaello Santi : The Miraculous Draft of Fishes (The Royal Collection) 1483 - 1520 ラファエロ・サンティ Victoria And Albert Museum, Canvas Art, Canvas Prints, Art Prints, Framed Prints, Raphael Paintings, Art Ninja, Sibylla Merian, Fresco
Miraculous Catch of Fish (1515) by Raphael

“Let Your Name be praised, not mine; let Your work be magnified, not mine; let Your Holy Name be blessed, but let nothing be attributed to me of the praises of men.” (IC 3,40,5) | “[N]either the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” (1 Cor 3:7)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXL: “Man has no Good of Himself and can Glory in Nothing” (first entry)

Chapter 40 is the disciple’s response to Christ. He acknowledges his nothingness and that any progress he makes is with God’s help. Praise of God is abundant here and, as seen in the quote above, all glory is to go to God, not to the disciple.

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 3: 1-9

Paul is commenting on the Corinthians’ spiritual progress or lack thereof. Paul and another disciple, Apollos, have evangelized in Corinth but progress is slow. The Corinthians are still very much thinking in worldly, not otherworldly terms. Apparently they’ve even broken up into factions and pledge allegiance to either Paul or Apollos. Thus the quote above (Paul as planter, Apollos as waterer, but God who gives life). He closed by calling himself and his friend “God’s co-workers” and the Corinthians “God’s field.”

|Reflection

With this reading I am reminded of two other passages of Paul’s:

For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:11-13)

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” They called Barnabas “Zeus”* and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice. The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments* when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’ (Acts 14;11-15)

Talk about directing praise, magnification, and blessing to Christ! Paul understood he was a chosen instrument of God, and all that he accomplished was due to the Lord. The “praises of men” seemed to not even tempt him in the least to pride (imagine what he could have had had he acknowledged that he was a god!).

So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” (Lk 17:10)

Words to live by. Paul did.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Paul-vs-Peter.jpg

“It is therefore a thing of great importance to abandon yourself even in little things.” (IC 3,39,3) | “[W]ho has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” (1 Cor 2:16)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXIX: “A Man must not be too Anxious in his Affairs” (third entry)

In our final consideration of this chapter, we hear the Christ of Kempis bluntly call for complete and total self-abandonment to Him in things great and small. He says these words in the context of our earthly pursuits. We find that even when we go after something feverishly, and then finally attain it, it is not as compelling as we imagined and we quickly move on to other things — ultimately we find that any worldly object or pursuit does not bring lasting joy. The solution is to abandon selfish pursuits, that are all ultimately little, in favor of the only goal that is worth attaining with all our being.

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 2:10b-16

Paul speaks of the “Spirit of God” given to the Christian who then gains spiritual wisdom that confounds the base person. The quote above refers to Is 40:13. Man cannot inform God of anything since God knows everything. And we don’t have access to the mind of God except by way of that which He has revealed to us. But the believer does know something about God through faith and revelation. The last line sums up this way: “But we have the mind of Christ.”

|Reflection

To “have the mind of Christ,” is to eschew the little things (and they are all little things in the grand scheme of things and in light of our brief lives on earth) that distract us from what should be our driving motivator: love of God and our desire to be happy with Him forever. By favoring our own lesser, or even sinful pursuits, we seek to counsel the Lord in what is best for us. Abandoning such a perspective and opening ourselves to God’s will in toto, our minds come to reflect God’s mind in our every thought, word, and deed.

From GQ to Jesus - VIE Magazine
Photograph by Michael Belk

“[A]lways entrust your cause to Me; I will dispose of it well in due time.” (IC 3,39,1) | “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:3-5)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXIX: “A Man must not be too Anxious in his Affairs” (second entry)

These opening words from Christ in this chapter are certainly ones to live by. Trust the Lord always and give everything to Him, whatever the cause. The outcome will always be better than anything we produce.

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul humbly admits that his approach to evangelizing the Corinthians relies on the power of the Cross rather than his own words or wisdom. “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” he says. If he were to come to them relying entirely on himself, he would get nowhere — he certainly would come in “fear and trembling.” Preachers, relying on their own egos, come and go, and are quickly forgotten. But it is the power of God and the sacrifice of Christ that imbues Paul’s presence with efficacy.

|Reflection

Paul entrusted his cause to the one who commissioned him, Jesus Christ. His attitude was exactly what ours should be: if we believe we can do anything of lasting value on our own, without grace, we are doomed. In particular, Paul was considering the evangelizing mission to which he was called in an unexpected (to say the least) way. Focus on Christ and His redemptive offering; this is the key. We proclaim the message boldly, in word and deed, and Jesus sends His Spirit to move hearts and minds toward Himself.

There is no Christianity without Christ. He should dominate our way of life. For those who have long been away from the Lord, or maybe never felt they had encountered Him, let them find Him in us.

St. Paul
Saint Paul the Apostle (17th century) by Claude Vignon