BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 11: OF THE SMALL NUMBER OF THE LOVERS OF THE CROSS OF JESUS
JESUS hath now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers
of His Cross.
He hath many that are desirous of consolation, but few of tribulation.
He finds many companions of His table, but few of His abstinence.
All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to endure anything for His sake.
Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His Passion.
Many reverence His miracles, but few follow the ignominy of His Cross.
Many love Jesus as long as they meet with no adversity; many praise Him and bless Him as long as they receive some consolations from Him.
But if Jesus hide Himself, and leave them for a little while, they either murmur or fall into excessive dejection.
2. But they that love Jesus for Jesus' sake, and not for the sake of some consolation of their own, bless Him no less in tribulation and anguish of heart than in the greatest consolation.
And if He should never give them consolation, yet would they always praise Him, and always give Him thanks.
3. Oh, how much is the pure love of Jesus able to do, when it is not mixed with any self-interest or self-love!
Are not all they to be called mercenaries who are ever seeking consolations!
Do not they prove themselves to be rather lovers of themselves than of Christ, who are always thinking of their own advantage and gain?
Where shall we find a man that is willing to serve God disinterestedly?
4. Seldom do we find anyone so spiritual as to be stripped of all things.
For who shall be able to find the man that is truly poor in spirit, and divested of attachment to all created things? "His voice is (as of things that are brought) from afar, and from the remotest coasts."
If a man give his whole substance, still it is nothing.
And if he do great penance, it is but little.
And if he attain to all knowledge, he is far off still.
And if he have great virtue and very fervent devotion, there is still much wanting to him, namely, the one thing which is supremely necessary for him.
What is that? That having left all things else, he leave also himself, and wholly go out of himself, and retain nothing of self-love.
And when he shall have done all things which he knows he ought to do, let him think that he has done nothing.
5. Let him not make great account of that which may appear much to be esteemed; but let him in truth acknowledge himself to be an unprofitable servant; as the Truth Himself has said: "When ye shall have done all things that have been commanded you, say: 'We are unprofitable servants'."
Then may he be truly poor in spirit, and may say with the Psalmist: "I am alone and poor."
Yet is there no one richer than such a man, none more powerful, none more free; who knoweth how to leave himself and all things, and to put himself in the very lowest place.
How many Christians adore Jesus, poor in the manger, and suffering upon the Cross, who will neither submit to privation, nor endure tribulation for His sake! Yet He was born, and lived, and died in poverty and sufferings to teach us to renounce all things, and to bear our crosses with patience; to teach us, by His preaching and example, the virtues necessary for salvation, and to merit for us the grace to practice them. What will it avail thee to adore Jesus Christ, thy Savior and thy model, if thou dost not imitate Him and place thy whole confidence in Him? Take then the generous resolution of renouncing all things by depriving the senses of all dangerous or unprofitable gratifications; by discarding from thy mind all vanity and self-complacency, and all malignity in condemning others; and by stripping thy heart of all attachment to self-satisfaction and self-seeking on all occasions. Carry this interior poverty and deprivation even so far as to renounce thine own will in all things, to desire only and to accomplish the will of God. It is by thus giving up thy whole self to God that thou wilt constitute Him the sole master and proprietor of thy heart, and by stripping thyself of all things here, make Him thine inheritance forever hereafter.
I CONCEIVE, O my Savior, an exalted idea of the bereavement Thou requirest of a Christian heart, since Thou dost oblige it to yield itself up entirely to Thee, and to substitute Thy love in place of the love of itself. But how far am I from practicing it, how incapable of it of myself! Help me, O Lord, to renounce and to die to myself in all things. Suffer not my heart to seek itself, since thou designest it to be entirely Thine. Grant that whenever it is tempted to live for, or to seek itself in anything, it may immediately renounce and die to itself, to live only in and for Thee. Then may I say with Thine Apostle: "Jesus Christ is my life, and it is gain for me to die to all, that I may live only in Him, and by Him, and for Him." Amen.