The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 13

Image by Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

THE OBEDIENCE OF ONE HUMBLY SUBJECT TO THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS CHRIST 

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

MY CHILD, he who attempts to escape obeying withdraws himself from grace. Likewise he who seeks private benefits for himself loses those which are common to all. He who does not submit himself freely and willingly to his superior, shows that his flesh is not yet perfectly obedient but that it often rebels and murmurs against him.

Learn quickly, then, to submit yourself to your superior if you wish to conquer your own flesh. For the exterior enemy is more quickly overcome if the inner man is not laid waste. There is no more troublesome, no worse enemy of the soul than you yourself, if you are not in harmony with the spirit. It is absolutely necessary that you conceive a true contempt for yourself if you wish to be victorious over flesh and blood.

Because you still love yourself too inordinately, you are afraid to resign yourself wholly to the will of others. Is it such a great matter if you, who are but dust and nothingness, subject yourself to man for the sake of God, when I, the All-Powerful, the Most High, Who created all things out of nothing, humbly subjected Myself to man for your sake? I became the most humble and the lowest of all men that you might overcome your pride with My humility.

Learn to obey, you who are but dust! Learn to humble yourself, you who are but earth and clay, and bow down under the foot of every man! Learn to break your own will, to submit to all subjection! Be zealous against yourself! Allow no pride to dwell in you, but prove yourself so humble and lowly that all may walk over you and trample upon you as dust in the streets!

What have you, vain man, to complain of? What answer can you make, vile sinner, to those who accuse you, you who have so often offended God and so many times deserved hell? But My eye has spared you because your soul was precious in My sight, so that you might know My love and always be thankful for My benefits, so that you might give yourself continually to true subjection and humility, and might patiently endure contempt.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 12

ACQUIRING PATIENCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CONCUPISCENCE

THE DISCIPLE

PATIENCE, O Lord God, is very necessary for me, I see, because there are many adversities in this life. No matter what plans I make for my own peace, my life cannot be free from struggle and sorrow.

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

My child, you are right, yet My wish is not that you seek that peace which is free from temptations or meets with no opposition, but rather that you consider yourself as having found peace when you have been tormented with many tribulations and tried with many adversities.

If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of purgatory? Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen. Therefore, in order that you may escape the everlasting punishments to come, try to bear present evils patiently for the sake of God.

Do you think that men of the world have no suffering, or perhaps but little? Ask even those who enjoy the most delights and you will learn otherwise. “But,” you will say, “they enjoy many pleasures and follow their own wishes; therefore they do not feel their troubles very much.” Granted that they do have whatever they wish, how long do you think it will last? Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke, and there shall be no memory of their past joys. Even in this life they do not find rest in these pleasures without bitterness, weariness, and fear. For they often receive the penalty of sorrow from the very thing whence they believe their happiness comes. And it is just. Since they seek and follow after pleasures without reason, they should not enjoy them without shame and bitterness.

How brief, how false, how unreasonable and shameful all these pleasures are! Yet in their drunken blindness men do not understand this, but like brute beasts incur death of soul for the miserly enjoyment of a corruptible life.

Therefore, My child, do not pursue your lusts, but turn away from your own will. “Seek thy pleasure in the Lord and He will give thee thy heart’s desires.”  If you wish to be truly delighted and more abundantly comforted by Me, behold, in contempt of all worldly things and in the cutting off of all base pleasures shall your blessing be, and great consolation shall be given you. Further, the more you withdraw yourself from any solace of creatures, the sweeter and stronger comfort will you find in Me.

At first you will not gain these blessings without sadness and toil and conflict. Habit already formed will resist you, but it shall be overcome by a better habit. The flesh will murmur against you, but it will be bridled by fervor of spirit. The old serpent will sting and trouble you, but prayer will put him to flight and by steadfast, useful toil the way will be closed to him.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 11

It has been several years since I’ve worked on this project, but…


THE LONGINGS OF OUR HEARTS MUST BE EXAMINED AND MODERATED

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

MY CHILD, it is necessary for you to learn many things which you have not yet learned well.

THE DISCIPLE

What are they, Lord?

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

That you conform your desires entirely according to My good pleasure, and be not a lover of self but an earnest doer of My will. Desires very often inflame you and drive you madly on, but consider whether you act for My honor, or for your own advantage. If I am the cause, you will be well content with whatever I ordain. If, on the other hand, any self-seeking lurk in you, it troubles you and weighs you down. Take care, then, that you do not rely too much on preconceived desire that has no reference to Me, lest you repent later on and be displeased with what at first pleased you and which you desired as being for the best. Not every desire which seems good should be followed immediately, nor, on the other hand, should every contrary affection be at once rejected.

It is sometimes well to use a little restraint even in good desires and inclinations, lest through too much eagerness you bring upon yourself distraction of mind; lest through your lack of discipline you create scandal for others; or lest you be suddenly upset and fall because of resistance from others. Sometimes, however, you must use violence and resist your sensual appetite bravely. You must pay no attention to what the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected, even by force, to the spirit. And it should be chastised and forced to remain in subjection until it is prepared for anything and is taught to be satisfied with little, to take pleasure in simple things, and not to murmur against inconveniences.

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4 Ch. 5

pexels-photo-64768.jpeg


The voice of the Beloved:
[W]ith your entire will offer yourself upon the altar of your heart as an everlasting sacrifice to the honor of My name, by entrusting with faith both body and soul to My care, that thus you may be considered worthy to draw near and offer sacrifice to God and profitably receive the Sacrament of My Body.

The altar of my heart… I have to wonder how the altar of my heart appears to my Lord.  Broken.  Filled with rubbish.  Scarred.  Desecrated.  So much is laid there that there must be no room remaining for the Body of my Savior to rest.

If a man does what he can and is truly penitent, however often he comes to Me for grace and pardon, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”; I will no longer remember his sins, but all will be forgiven him.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

“And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:5)


338986

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4 Ch. 5

pexels-photo-941125


The beginning and end of the chapter Thomas à Kempis writes (primarily written for priests, but it was in the meditation following that I found a truth for us all):

Had you the purity of an angel and the sanctity of St. John the Baptist, you would not be worthy to receive or administer this Sacrament. It is not because of any human meriting that a man consecrates and administers the Sacrament of Christ, and receives the Bread of Angels for his food. Great is the Mystery and great the dignity of priests to whom is given that which has not been granted the angels…. When the priest celebrates Mass, he honors God, gladdens the angels, strengthens the Church, helps the living, brings rest to the departed, and wins for himself a share in all good things.

Each and every time I consider that God has made me a priest through the laying on of hands by the Bishop, I shake my head in disbelief.

Here is my heart, Lord.  My mind.  My soul.  You only need glance upon the surface of each to know with certainty that filth covers them all.  Please, dear Savior, do not look to see what is within, my shame would crush me.  Yet, through the great mystery of grace, forgiveness… Love… You chose me.  So, there I stand, hands outstretched over the bread and the wine, praying for your presence.  Praying once more for you to come to us, your people.  I’ve seen the mist of Your Spirit upon the wine and the drops of Your blood on the bread and I’ve seen the wine “stirred up”, and I am… no words.  We bow before you.  We approach Thee.

When you approach the world, when you approach others…

Thine endeavor should be to cherish within thee throughout the day the same dispositions with which thou shouldst approach the altar.

We must seek to approach the world and others in the same manner, with the same reverence and holiness and awe and fear that we approach Jesus on the altar.  Here, in this one, in this many, is God.

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4, Ch.3.2

communion-2263987_1280


Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” (Matthew 15:32)

Jesus had given so much of himself in the healing of the crowd, yet he continues to have compassion for them and their needs.  Therefore, he feeds the 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.

Jesus also has the same compassion for us as he did for that crowd.  Yet, the food he gives to us is himself.

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

Brother Thomas writes:

Therefore must I often come to Thee, and receive Thee as the medicine of my salvation, lest perhaps I faint in the way, should I be deprived of this heavenly food.  For so thou, O most merciful Jesus, when thou hadst been preaching to the people and curing the various maladies, didst once say: I will not send them fasting to their home, lest they faint on the way.

The Lord does not send us away with our soul’s fasting.  He nourishes us with his body and blood.  No greater love.

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4, Ch.1.9

TAK = Thomas à Kempis

IOC = Imitation of Christ


IMG_0965


Last year I had the opportunity to visit the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.  It was spectacular and truly I could have spent several days there poking into the various rooms, chapels, and nooks.  I would have liked the time to stop and pray here and there and allow my soul to drift upwards.  It seemed, for whatever worldly reason, that I was nearer to my God.  I would not call it a religious experience, but it came close.

Many people travel far to honor the relics of the saints, marveling at their wonderful deeds and at the building of magnificent shrines. They gaze upon and kiss the sacred relics encased in silk and gold; and behold, You are here present before me on the altar, my God, Saint of saints, Creator of men, and Lord of angels!

Often in looking at such things, men are moved by curiosity, by the novelty of the unseen, and they bear away little fruit for the amendment of their lives, especially when they go from place to place lightly and without true contrition. But here in the Sacrament of the altar You are wholly present, my God, the man Christ Jesus, whence is obtained the full realization of eternal salvation, as often as You are worthily and devoutly received. To this, indeed, we are not drawn by levity, or curiosity, or sensuality, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere love.

I wonder and am ashamed.  Here in my church in Enid, Oklahoma, below the sanctuary lamp and within the chamber of the Tabernacle is my Lord!  Why is it that I do not desire and seek to know the Living God, to explore Him as I did that great building of wood, stone, and mortar?

Turn the eyes of my soul to Thee, my God, that I may behold the glory of Thy Presence.  That I may seek Thee where Thou truly are.

Funerals and Names

I stopped keeping track of the number of funerals that I have presided over when it reached 100.  The youngest was age 4 and the oldest was 101.  Some had their lives taken from them, others took their own lives, and some lived full lives.  I have been present at the time of death on a number occasions.  I have sat quietly praying next to the deceased in emergency rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes, private homes, in a garage – wherever they lie in the end.  It sometimes bothers me that I can’t remember all their names.  It seems I should.

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

On Bad Sermons

BARCHESTER TOWERS (Chapter VI), by Anthony Trollope (1857)

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. … But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday’s rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship, but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for escape which is the common consequence of common sermons.

I pray my sermons never fall into such a category!  (Although it may be pride that makes me think they haven’t!!)