BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 3: THE WORDS OF GOD ARE TO BE HEARD WITH HUMILITY,
AND THAT MANY WEIGH THEM NOT
MY son, hear My words, words most sweet, excelling all the learning of philosophers, and of the wise men of this world.
My words are spirit and life, and not to be estimated according to human perception.
They are not to be drawn forth for vain complacency, but are to be heard in silence, and to be received with all humility and great affection.
2. And I said: "Blessed is the man whom Thou, O Lord, shalt instruct, and shalt teach him Thy law; that Thou mayst give him rest from the evil days, and that he may not be desolate upon earth."
I, saith the Lord, have taught the Prophets from the beginning, and even till now I cease not to speak to all.
But many are deaf and hardened to My voice.
The greater number listen more willingly to the world than to God; and are readier to follow the desires of their flesh than the good pleasure of God.
The world promiseth things temporal and of small value, and is served with great eagerness; I promise things most excellent and everlasting, and yet men's hearts remain torpid.
3. Who is there that serveth and obeyeth Me in all things with that great care with which the world and its lords are served? Be ashamed, O Sidon, saith the sea. And if thou ask the cause, hear wherefore.
For a scanty sustenance, men run a great way; for eternal life, many will scarce lift foot once from the ground.
A petty gain is sought after; for a single coin sometimes men shamefully quarrel; for men will brave toil day and night, yea, for some mere trifle or a slight promise.
4. But, alas! for an unchangeable good, for an inestimable reward, for the highest honor and never-ending glory, they are loath to undergo a little fatigue.
Blush, then, thou slothful, querulous servant, that they are actually more ready to labor for death than thou for life.
They rejoice more in vanity than thou in the truth.
Sometimes, indeed, they are disappointed of their hopes; but My promise deceiveth no man, nor sendeth away empty him that trusteth in Me.
What I have promised I will give; what I have said, I will make good; if only a man continue to the end faithful in My love.
I am the Rewarder of all the good, and the mighty Prover of all the devout.
5. Write My words in thy heart, and think diligently on them; for they will be very necessary in the time of temptation.
What thou understandest not when thou readest, thou shalt know in the day of visitation.
I am accustomed to visit Mine elect in two manner of ways-----namely, by trial and by consolation.
And I daily read to them two lessons: One to rebuke their vices, and the other to exhort them to the increase of virtue.
He that hath My words, and slighteth them, hath One Who shall judge him at the last day.
A Prayer to implore the grace of devotion.
6. O Lord, my God, Thou art all my good; and who am I, that I should dare to speak to Thee?
I am Thy most poor servant, and a wretched little worm, much more poor and contemptible than I can conceive or dare express.
Yet remember, O Lord, that I am nothing; I have nothing, and can do nothing.
Thou alone art good, just and holy; Thou canst do all things; Thou givest all things; Thou fillest all things, leaving only the sinner empty.
Remember Thy tender mercies, and fill my heart with Thy grace, Thou Who wilt not that Thy works should be void.
7. How can I support myself in this wretched life, unless Thy mercy and grace strengthen me?
Turn not away Thy face from me, delay not Thy visitation, withdraw not Thy comfort, lest my soul become as earth without water to Thee.
O Lord, teach me to do Thy will; teach me to converse worthily and humbly in Thy sight; for Thou art my wisdom; Thou knowest me in the truth, and didst know me before the world was made, and before I was born in the world.
IT is astonishing to witness how much men undertake, urged on by vain and deceitful hope, to obtain temporal and perishable goods, and how very little they do to obtain spiritual and eternal rewards, though encouraged by a solid and certain hope founded upon the word of God, which never fails. The prospect of interest, or the uncertain hope of riches, animates every heart, enhances every pleasure, dries up every tear, lightens every labor; and we think ourselves well repaid for our trouble when we have acquired the honor, the pleasure, or the advantage we had in view. The hope of Heaven alone, the prospect of eternal happiness, which may be obtained by patience and good works, animates us not; it neither supports nor consoles us; we are as much cast down and discouraged at the thought of gaining Heaven by patient suffering as though we esteemed it of no value. Whence comes this? It is because we are too much attached to things present, and too indifferent about the things to come. Our hope is faint because our faith is weak.
WHAT confusion for me, O Lord, that I should give myself so much trouble to please the world and to gratify my passions, and take so little pains to satisfy Thy justice by works of penance, or Thy goodness by punctuality in the discharge of my duties! Alas! Why do I not undergo as much for Thee as for myself? Why is not my ardor to please Thee as fervent as my eagerness to gratify myself? Change, O Lord, change the object and inclinations of my heart. Take Thou the place of self within me, and grant that my love for Thee may be as ardent to please Thee as my own self-love is to satisfy myself. Give me such a love for Thee as may be called a love of reparation-----that is, such as may, by its ardor and constancy, make amends for the languor and inconstancy of mine. Amen.