“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.

|Reflection

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

“Son, cast your heart firmly on the Lord, and fear not human judgment, when your conscience gives witness of your piety and innocence.” (IC 3,36,1) | “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19b)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVI: “Against Useless Judgments of Men” (third entry)

We end with the beginning of this chapter. Kempis sets before the reader well the theme of this chapter: be concerned to strictly follow the Lord regardless of what our fellow man thinks, says, or does. Follow a well-formed conscience, despite any worldly repercussions, to maintain right relationship with God.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 16:13-20

The Gospel we hear proclaimed today is vitally important to Catholics. In it are firmly supported three doctrines of the Church: the founding of the institutional Church itself, the papacy, and sacramental confession. Jesus begins by taking a poll of the apostles regarding His identity. A variety off suggestions are proffered before Simon declares him the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus indicates this answer was divinely inspired and makes Peter the foundation “Rock” of His Church which has the power to bind and loose sins. Finally, Jesus says to tell no one that He is the Christ.

|Reflection

I present the two quotes in the headline to emphasize the proper perspective on judgment. We are not to judge souls and should not be concerned when others have the audacity to judge ours. We are to form our conscience well and act according to this gift from God. When we disobey our conscience we are blessed to have recourse to the divinely instituted Sacrament of Reconciliation, another tremendous gift from a God ready and eager to forgive.His wayward children.

We are called not to be judgmental (Mt 7:1) but introspective. We all easily have a lifetime of work in examining, doing penance for, and purifying our own thoughts, words, and actions, without concerning ourselves with others’ disposition.

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter (1481-82) by Pietro Perugino

“What can anyone do to you by words or injuries? He hurts himself more than you; nor can he escape the judgment of God, whoever he be.” (IC 3,36,3) | “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:12)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVI: “Against Useless Judgments of Men” (second entry)

We are not to fear anything a human person can do to us; our only concern is what God ultimately will do with us. Mortals come and go, but God — and our soul — remains forever. All will get their due at the judgment.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 23:1-12

Jesus, not one to hold back when He detects hypocrisy, and, in addition, not sparing in criticism of the biggest hypocrites with whom He had dealings, the scribes and Pharisees, denounces them strongly here. Jesus recognizes their God-given authority and the truth of their teaching, thus telling the people to heed their words, but comes down hard on their practices which do not follow their preaching. The key to overcome this problem: humility manifesting itself in service to all others.

|Reflection

I think it is fair to say that if Kempis could sum up in one word what the imitation of Christ is, it would be “humility.” It is a continuous thread through the entire text of his most famous work. Humility will be exalted on the day of judgment; pride goes before a fall. The first sin was pride (I know better than God what is good for me — boy that apple looks good) so is it any wonder that it is the most prominent fault found in the world these many millennia later? When we culpably sin we exhibit pride — we did it our way. When we show humility, as in Kempis’s example in the headline, we overcome the temptation for revenge. Many great saints were dealt with viciously in word and action, sometimes accused of heinous acts of which they were totally innocent. Yet, they often took these humiliations as an opportunity, permitted by God, to reflect on their true sins and to show even greater humility. This attitude tends to go against every fiber of our being. This only indicates our fallen nature and how far we are from perfection.

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles (1475) by Meister des Hausbuches

“It is impossible to satisfy all.” (IC 3,36,1) | “[H]e satisfied the longing soul and filled the hungry soul with good things.” (Ps 107:9)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXVI: “Against Useless Judgments of Men” (first entry)

This brief chapter has Christ telling us that we should not be concerned about what others say about us, even if their words are meant to hurt or disparage us — we are to accept it with patience and humility. In fact, such an offender hurts himself more because he will be liable on judgment day.

|Today’s responsorial psalm: Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Psalm 107 begins by extolling God’s mercy and then goes on to provide many examples of how this benevolence has been extended to the Chosen People time and again, despite their unworthiness. It is a message for all time as we are all in need of God’s mercy.

|Reflection

The two quotes in the headline are a study in contrasts. The first refers to our relations with our fellow man — even the most irenic person will not fail to develop enemies. The second refers to God’s relation with mankind — only the Lord can ultimately satiate the thirst we have for the truth, beauty, and goodness that He embodies (so to speak).

We may not be able to satisfy every person with whom we have dealings, but we sure can, through word and deed, invite others at every opportunity to have their longings fulfilled by the only One who can effect it — here and hereafter. This will satisfy some, be ignored by others, and garner derision from those who do not like our message. But a sincere following of God’s will (the greatest commandment) should lead to evangelization and conversion (the second commandment that is like the first).

Coronavirus: Church bans use of Common Cup for Holy Communion ...

“[Y]ou are never safe in this life; but as long as you love you are always in need of spiritual weapons.” (IC 3,35,1) | “I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” (Ez 36:27)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXV: “There is No Security from Temptation in this Life” (third entry)

We end our consideration of this chapter with the words that begin it. These are foundational words for us in our struggle with temptation and sin. We know we can’t overcome our fallen nature without supernatural help. We need spiritual weapons! God’s gratuitous gift of grace is the only and ultimate spiritual weapon that helps us, sustains us, and saves us.

|Today’s first reading: Ez 36:23-28

We hear this day from the prophet’s “Book of Comfort.” Jerusalem has been sacked by the Babylonians and many of its citizens have now been taken into captivity by the conquering Babylonians. As desperate and depressing as the situation is, there is hope because God has not abandoned His people. He will restore them and bring them back together once again to show His might and holiness among the nations after the Chosen People has profaned Him. God will do this by cleansing His people and putting His spirit within them.

|Reflection

It is only by having God’s own Spirit within us that we have any hope of keeping His commands. We keep the life of God in us by not committing mortal sin. We are strengthened against the lure of sin through freely given grace — we have no hope in this life or the next without it. The sacraments are the ordinary means that the Lord uses to give us grace so we must take advantage of Reconciliation and the Eucharist often. Sacramentals assist us in this spiritual battle. All of this must be wrapped in frequent and consistent prayer that increasingly disposes us to be as open as possible to receive the benefit of the gift of which the Almighty so wishes us to take advantage.

“‘Expect the Lord, do manfully and let your hear take courage’; do not despair, do not fall away, but offer both soul and body for the glory of God with constancy.” (IC 3,35,2) | “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.” (Ps 23:4)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXV: “There is No Security from Temptation in this Life” (second entry)

We are not to despair or wander (or sprint) away from the Lord’s path regardless of troubles, temptations, or desolations. Through it all we offer “both soul and body” through our constancy in abundance and deprivation. The next sentence, closing out this chapter, Christ promises that, with this attitude, “I will reward you most abundantly.”

|Today’s Responsorial Psalm: PS 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

This short and beautiful psalm is usually associated with funerals. It is a message of hope for those mourning the departed loved one. With God guiding us, what can we possibly lack? What should we fear? No matter how dark things get, we are to take courage, for the Lord has not, will not, abandon us, as he desires that “we will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.”

|Reflection

Fr. Hardon’s Catholic dictionary defines courage this way:

Virtue of bravery in facing difficulties, especially in overcoming the fear of consequences in doing good. As moral courage, it enables a person to pursue a course deemed right, through which one may incur contempt, disapproval, or opprobrium. As physical courage, it is simply bodily or emotional strength to withstand opposition.

Courage in the face of fear, contempt, and opposition. Usually, far easier in theory than in practice. I am reminded of the Scripture:

Fear is useless; what is needed is trust. (Luke 8:50; Mark 5:36)

What is needed is complete trust in God and His will for us. What then is there to fear with such a Good Shepherd pursuing His lost sheep as long as life lasts?

The Lord desires no one to be lost (see 1 Tim 2:4). Let’s not disappoint Him. Pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Cowardly Lion - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

“Seek true peace, not upon earth, but in Heaven; not in men, nor in other creatures, but in God alone.” (IC 3,35,2) | “[E]veryone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXV: “There is No Security from Temptation in this Life” (first entry)

While the title speaks of temptation, Kempis’s Christ speaks of many types of sufferings we must endure, like labors, sorrows, anxieties, infirmities, detractions, humiliations, and more. Enduring all these trials with faith and perseverance attains for the Christian an eternal crown. Per the highlighted quote, the serenity we must seek is that which we know we’ll have in heaven. Looking for true peace on earth is a fool’s errand — we will not find it in creatures, but only in our Creator.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 19:23-30

The reading of the day is the follow-up to the rich young man and his departure. The one attached to wealth over God cannot be saved except with the help of the Almighty, Peter then pipes up saying that he and Jesus’ closest followers have “given up everything” for Him. Jesus promises them eternal royal thrones. He goes on to declare that everyone who places Him first will gain eternal life. These lowest will be elevated while those who gain fame here while pushing the Lord aside will come out in the lowest place on judgment day.

|Reflection

Being a follower of Jesus did not give the apostles much peace when they were with Him or after the Ascension. Tradition has it that all but John died martyrs (although John himself suffered much into old age). Come Pentecost, these fishers of men tossed fear overboard and worked for Jesus intently and incessantly, not counting the cost. They knew that fighting the good fight here, even unto death, would bring lasting peace and joy that could never be taken away.

I imagine they often thought of this scene from early in Jesus’ public ministry; we should be mindful of it as well:

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (Jn 2:23-25)

Being well aware of the fallen human condition, we should know with certainty that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come” (Heb 13:14) to find true and lasting contentment.

DESERT FATHERS

“[T]hey that follow You by the contempt of worldly things, and by the mortification of the flesh, are found to be truly wise, for they are brought from vanity to truth, from the flesh to the spirit.” (IC 3,34,2) | “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis,Book III Chapter XXXIV: “He Who Loves God Relishes Him above all Things and in all Things” (third entry)

Detachment and mortification due to the gift of wisdom least to ultimate truth and a view that changes from baseness to spiritual things. Kempis goes at these themes from different angles but always with similar lessons. Repetitive? Yes. But repetition is the mother of learning. Kempis wants to drive home the importance of an otherworldly outlook whenever possible.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 19:16-22

This story of the Rich Young Man is oft-told by those wishing to point out the dangers inherent in an unhealthy attachment to possessions. This man comes to Jesus asking Him what actions he must take to gain eternal life. Jesus responds with several commandments from the second tablet of the Decalogue (having to do with how one is to treat other persons). When the newcomer says that he is faithful in all of these matters, he asks what more he must do. When the Lord tells him to sell all that he owns and follow Him, he demurs and goes away sad.

|Reflection

Whenever I encounter readings like this one in which we are introduced to a character upon his interaction with Jesus and never hear about him again I wonder what prompted him to approach Jesus in the first place and then I speculate on what happened to the person afterward. Did he give up on Jesus entirely? Or maybe later he hopefully rethought his position and became a practicing and generous Christian. That he went away sad and not mad is a hopeful sign. It shows that the good Lord got him to mull over his situation with the possibility of reconsidering it.

Kempis tells us of the great treasure we find when we shift our focus from the profane to the sacred. The rich man seems to be somewhere in between. There is no reason to believe he is insincere in his questioning Jesus. Maybe he felt somewhat guilty about his wealth and wanted to make sure he was in God’s good graces. Who knows? That Jesus tells him that he must be rid of these goods to become perfect indicates that He knew that these things were standing in the way of this poor rich man completely embracing God. His lack of “contempt of worldly things” prevented him from embracing truth (personified in Jesus) and turning from the material to the spiritual.

Treasure on earth that we can’t take with us vs. treasure in heaven that can never be taken from us. Only our weakened will and darkened intellect make what should be an easy decision a difficult choice for us (see Rom 7:15).

Let us pray for the true wisdom to discern God’s will for us amidst all the noise that deafens our soul thus preventing us from listening to Him.

28B The Rich Young Man

“Show forth, I beseech You, Your wonderful works, and let Your right hand be glorified. For there is no hope nor refuge for me but in You, O Lord, my God.” (IC 3,34,4) | “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Mt 15:27)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis,Book III Chapter XXXIV: “He Who Loves God Relishes Him above all Things and in all Things” (second entry)

Kempis ends this chapter with praise and hope. The disciple repeatedly acknowledges his sin, fallenness, and unworthiness, but just as often turns to God with trust in His goodness and mercy. Kempis tells us that we should be a beacon of the “wonderful works” we have been open to God performing in us and through us. There is “no hope nor refuge” but in the God who saves.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 15:21-28

This episode details the episode in which a pagan woman loudly calls out to Jesus begging for Him to exorcise her daughter. Jesus ignores her initially and the disciples even ask Him to send her packing as she must have been repeatedly shouting after their party to their annoyance. Jesus finally addresses her by saying He has come for the salvation of Israel, the Chosen People. She persists, asking Him to help her. Jesus again tells her that what He has to offer is not for the “dogs” (meaning persons like her). Undeterred, she utters the words in the headline, causing Jesus to remark on her great faith and telling her that her daughter is healed.

|Reflection

It is not difficult to imagine the Canaanite woman thinking thoughts similar to what Kempis conveys above. Desperate for the freeing of her daughter and likely hearing of this “miracle man,” whose reputation surely preceded Him, she is bound and determined to reach this healer and plead her case. In all humility she begs for her daughter’s life, despite several rebuffs. Even an apparent insult does not dissuade her, but actually brings forth a response that must have amazed Jesus. She was given the gift of faith and she did not squander it.

May it be that the same is said of us who have been blessed with much more than this poor woman. God’s “wonderful works” shone in her daughter’s recovery (what an early apostle to her townsfolk she must have been!). She found hope — maybe what she determined was her last hope — in Jesus. Again, this is what we must do. When it appears that have no safe harbor in this world, and when all hope in temporal things is despaired of, let us look to eternity and the Eternal One for “refuge.”

https://rgrebenc.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/a4958-folio_164r__the_canaanite_woman.jpg
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 164r – The Canaanite Woman the Musée Condé, Chantilly

“Oh, when will this blessed and desirable hour come, when You will fill me with Your presence and become to me all in all?” (IC 3,34, 3) | “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice” (Lk 1:41-42)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXIV: “He Who Loves God Relishes Him above all Things and in all Things” (first entry)

Staying close to the Lord is a great wisdom that yields peace and joy. Kempis’s disciple, bemoaning the fact that the “old man” with sinful deeds and inclinations is still in him, longs to be completely filled with grace so that he can be perfected.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Lk 1:39-56

Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are presented the full episode of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Upon receiving the message of Angel Gabriel and accepting the blessing of becoming the mother of the Savior, Mary leaves quickly on a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth who the angel tells her is also miraculously pregnant. Without a word being spoken, Elizabeth recognizes and declares the favors both she and Mary have received: Mary being blessed to be the mother of God and Elizabeth being blessed by her presence (being “filled with the Holy Spirit”). Mary then breaks out into the wonderful Magnificat, declaring the blessing she has humbly received and exalting the wonderful works of the Lord in the past and in the future.

|Reflection

Mary was “full of grace” — no sin ever touched her soul. Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” due to the embryonic presence of the Christ child, the God-Man, in the womb. So should our desire be: to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be “possessed” by the Third Person of the Trinity.

Staying close to the Lord and His mother is the key. Let us have recourse to St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist (the little boy in her womb), who were filled with the Holy Spirit, for their intercession. Then we too will be able to confidently “cr[y] out in a loud voice” of the blessings of God we have received and to inspire others, whom He so much wants to impart the same, to be disposed to ask and receive them.

May “this blessed and desirable hour” come soon!