“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 XL: “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.”


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.

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“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.”


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.

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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.


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

“A man’s true progress consists in denying himself, and the man of self-denial is very much at liberty, and very secure.” (IC 3,39,4) | “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)

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

The plea that Kempis puts on Christ’s lips is that we entrust all that we do to Him. We are to wait patiently for His response and not become unduly anxious or consumed with our own whims and desires that often change, even once we have attained our goal. True progress in this life is found in the quote above.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 16:21-27

Jesus predicts His passion and death to His disciples eliciting Peter’s infamous remark that may God forbid this from happening. Jesus retorts with the stinging words, “Get behind me Satan. You are an obstacle to me.” The Messiah then goes on to tell His followers the necessity of self-denial, suffering, and even death, if they are to faithfully follow Him. They will be repaid by the Father accordingly.


It is widely believed that self-denial is an undesirable thing. “Just do it.” “You deserve a break today.” “Indulge yourself.” These are the messages that permeate our airwaves and devices. Denying oneself? Not so popular a message. Even many fad diets and health programs promise much gain with little pain. Jesus Christ ensures us that self-denial is a requirement of the Christian. Because He likes to see us sad or suffering? No. Because He knows what is best for us, not only because He created us, but also from personal experience.

This is how Kempis can say that “the man of self-denial is very much at liberty, and very secure.” Detachment from sin goes without saying. But even setting aside goods is beneficial to us. There are many pleasant and uplifting things in this world that God has supplied. We can and should enjoy them — in moderation. Even initially wholesome pursuits of temporal things can, over time, consume us. The good Lord made created things good in the beginning and that good continues in many of them. But this fact should always direct our hearts and minds back to the Creator. Being consumed with things of this world leads to a certain slavery and insecurity (obsession with pursuing it and a fear of losing it). Let us always be thankful to God for what He has provided but may we never lose sight of our ultimate goal: life eternal. This should be our only obsession to gain and our only dread to lose.

Take Up Your Cross – First Baptist Owasso

“[F]ly to the closet of your heart, and there most earnestly implore the divine assistance.” (IC 3,38,2) | “Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.” (1 Cor 1:26)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVIII: “The Good Government of Ourselves in Exterior Things and of having Recourse to God in Dangers” (third entry)

Kempis draws a comparison to Moses recourse to the tabernacle and prayer when difficulties arose with his challenging flock during their forty year sojourn on the way to the Promised Land. We are to imitate this patriarch when begging help from the Lord.

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 1:26-31

The words above begin today’s excerpt from Paul. He continues the theme of the “foolishness of God” by speaking of those God chooses (the foolish, weak, lowly, despised, and those of no account) to shame the wise, the strong, and “those who are something.” This, so no one can boast about himself. Rather, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.


“Consider your own calling.” Wise words. Generally, we tend to believe such advice is for the young regarding career choice or vocation. But this directive of Paul applies to everyone above the age of reason: seven to one hundred seven. We are all called daily to listen to God and to do His will. It is worth contemplating how we are to live out our professed Christianity in the long term. But we must also reflect on our sacred duties day in and day out. How do we fully live as “other Christs” in the world moment by moment? We must learn to keep this at the forefront in our every thought, word, and deed.

“Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34) is a tall order, but it is a commandment and it is our calling. Let us “earnestly implore the divine assistance” in this endeavor.

Helping Someone Through Child Loss

“[S]tand above present things, and contemplate the eternal ones.” (IC 3,38,1) | “Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?” (1 Cor 1:20d)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVIII: “The Good Government of Ourselves in Exterior Things and of having Recourse to God in Dangers” (second entry)

What is in the headline is a mark of a person who is “lord and master of [his] actions” who always has one eye on heaven and does not allow temporal things to draw him away from God.

|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 1:17-25

The online commentary accessed by the link above calls this section the “Paradox of the Cross.” Humans, at a natural level, see a man crucified and see failure, or at best a poor soul deserving pity for meeting such a miserable end. That’s the wisdom of the world. Paul tells his readers that this wisdom is turned into foolishness in God’s eyes. We will not attain salvation by reading and pondering Christianity. Rather, “it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith.”


We cannot save ourselves on our own. Grace — a free gift — makes possible eternal salvation. Faith, also, is needed — this too is a gift. Wisdom, properly understood, is a wonderful thing — this is not being given short shrift by Paul — it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit after all (Is 11:2)! And there are many “wisdom books” in the Bible (see here). But, if we think that being worldly wise, or calculating our way into heaven, is going to work, forget about it. And if we believe we know better than God what is good for us, we are already lost. What human person would come up with the story of salvation history and our way to glory? Even Hollywood wouldn’t take that script. So we look to the Church for true, lasting, and unchanging wisdom in its safeguarding and proclaiming of divine revelation (see here). We can contemplate these eternal things continuously for a lifetime and only never completely plumb their infinite depths. But that should not deter us, wherever we are in our knowledge of the Faith or spiritual journey, from diving in or going deeper.

Young & Catholic Nigeria | Symbolon #2: Divine Revelation

“[D]o not permit [yourself] to be drawn away by temporal things so as to adhere to them, but rather draw these things to serve that end, for which they were ordained by God and appointed by that sovereign Artist.” (IC 3,38,1) | “[Y]ou also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Mt 24:44)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVIII: “The Good Government of Ourselves in Exterior Things and of having Recourse to God in Dangers” (first entry)

Kempis here has Christ speaking of the necessity of us being “lord and master of your actions.” This is where true freedom is found. Temporal things that draw us away from God are distractions — they are only good when they bring us closer to the Lord, or at the very least, do not lead us away from Him.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 24:42-51

The message of the Gospel is a vital one: be always prepared to meet the Lord because we don’t know when that day will come. If a homeowner knows a thief is planning to break in that evening he keeps watch to prevent it from happening. If a steward is doing his job well he will make sure the household is in order in case the master comes back unexpectedly; if the steward is negligent, the master, finding his affairs in disarray, “will punish him severely.”


How is it that we are best “prepared”? By not permitting ourselves “to be drawn away by temporal things.” The wicked servant in the Gospel allowed his own passions to overcome him in spite of his duties. He lost his job and was punished severely. We do not want to be that man! We want to “distribute…[the]…food,” that is those gifts we have been granted us by God, “at the proper time.” We “draw these [temporal] things to serve that end” to which the Lord intends, not, like the bad servant, toward our own ends. Then we will be properly prepared for that day that “the Son of Man will come.” We don’t know when the end of time will arrive, but we know that surely that the end of our time on earth is inevitable. On that day, can we claim to have been good and faithful servants?

“[F]orsake yourself, resign yourself, and you will enjoy a great inward peace.” (IC 3,37,5) | “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” (2 Thess 3:16)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVII: “Of a Pure and Entire Resignation of Ourselves to Obtain Freedom of Heart” (third entry)

The words above lead off the closing section of this chapter. Christ, here, goes on to say that all those things that prevent us from having peace are attachment to ourselves and the passing concerns of this world. .

|Today’s first reading: 2 Thess 3 6-10, 16-18

This Scripture passage takes us to the end of this letter to the Thessalonians. Paul’s conclusion instructs the readers and hearers of this letter that they are to shun heretics in their midst. They can use Paul and his companions as the model to imitate in their manual labor and their self-sufficiency.


We all look for peace. “I just need a little peace and quiet,” we might say after a long and frenetic day. Kempis gives us a simple, if not easy to attain, remedy to ease the turmoil of our lives: resignation. Definitely not easy to achieve. Our pride, our attachments, our busyness, our striving, are all impediments to closer union with God.

It is worth pondering: What is keeping us from a deeper relationship with the Lord? What unnecessary, and maybe even harmful, tasks, habits, and distractions, push prayer to the background or eliminate it altogether? How might we recall Jesus and His sacrifice increasingly and more deeply throughout the day? Consider why this should give us repose in the whirlwind of daily living.

May the peace of Christ, the only true and lasting peace, be with us now and forever.

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“Give all for all; seek nothing, ask for nothing back; stand purely and with a full confidence before Me, and you will possess Me.” (IC 3,37,5) | “[S]tand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught” (2 Thess 2:15)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVII: “Of a Pure and Entire Resignation of Ourselves to Obtain Freedom of Heart” (second entry)

Kempis’s Christ goes on to say that doing this leads to the elimination of slavery to sin, darkness, vain imaginations, evil disturbances, immoderate fear, and inordinate love. Staying close to God naturally entails keeping far from anything that could ultimately trouble us.

|Today’s first reading: 2 Thess 2:1-3a, 14-17

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, encourages them not to be disturbed by false teachers who claim Jesus’ return is imminent. Rather, they are to fall back on the solid teachings of Paul from his visit and his writings. He prays that they will be encouraged and strengthened by God to be faithful to the truth conveyed by the Apostle to the Gentiles, that is, himself.


The words above from the Imitation of Christ most certainly were exemplified by St. Paul. He quite possibly was unmatched in confidence as a Jewish persecutor of Christians, and I believe more so as a Christian apostle, first to his fellow Jews, and then to Gentiles. He knew that his teaching was solid, the Word of God, and conveyed faithfully. He was undoubtedly annoyed when others, claiming to have a better idea than himself about Christ, distorted the truth and disturbed those whom he had evangelized. Certainly, Paul fired off this letter in short order after learning of trouble in Thessalonica.

We are to imitate Paul. With full confidence in Christ and His word (after all, He is the Word), we can be entirely confident that we are on the right path if we embrace it all with no consideration for anything that will diminish its power or deter us from achieving union with God.

File:Jan Lievens - St. Paul writing to the Thessalonians.jpg - Wikimedia  Commons
St. Paul writing to the Thessalonians (c. 1629) by Jan Lievens

“Son, abandon yourself and you will find Me.” (IC 3,37,1) | “Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.'” (Jn 1:49)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVII: “Of a Pure and Entire Resignation of Ourselves to Obtain Freedom of Heart” (first entry)

The opening words of this chapter make for a good introduction to the chapter. Kempis’s nearly continuous call to self-abandonment and worldly detachment are foundational in this work. Later in the chapter, Jesus calls on the disciple to “die to yourself and eternally live with Me.” Yes, that is what a complete focus on God and His will for us ultimately requires and leads to.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Jn 1:45-51

The Gospel for the apostle Bartholomew’s feast fittingly relates the calling of him (here called by his given name, Nathanael) by Jesus through Philip. Philip, just called by Jesus, tracks down Nathanael, telling him that he has found the Messiah. Nathanael is skeptical of a Galilean being the Messiah, but he goes along with his friend. Upon seeing Nathanael, Jesus immediately lauds him as having “no duplicity.” Wondering how Jesus could make such an assessment, Jesus reveals Nathanael’s previous whereabouts which leads the latter to exclaim the words in the headline. Jesus then says that much more amazing things will be revealed to him than this.


With Nathanael’s call, there is a sense of instantaneous conversion from skeptic to wholehearted believer. This man with no guile now was ready to abandon everything to follow his God and king. When we abandon ourselves to the Lord guilelessly, expect major conversions and awesome events — first happening to us, and then to all to whom we spread the Good News by our words and works.

The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew (1634) by Jusepe de Ribera