II --- The Two Groups
A --- THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST AND THE FOLLOWERS OF THE WORLD
7. Dear Brethren these are the two groups that appear before you each day, the followers of Christ and the followers of the world.
Our loving Savior's group is to the right, scaling a narrow path made all the narrower by the world's corruption. Our kind Master is in the lead, barefooted, thorn-crowned, robed in His Blood and weighted with a heavy Cross. There is only a handful of people who follow Him, but they are the bravest of the brave. His gentle voice is not heard above the tumult of the world, or men do not have the courage to follow Him in poverty, suffering, humiliation and in the other crosses His servants must bear all the days of their life.
B --- THE OPPOSING SPIRIT OF THE GROUPS
8. To the left is the world's group, the devil's in fact, which is far superior in number, and seemingly far more colorful and splendid in array. Fashionable folk are all in a hurry to enlist, the highways are overcrowded, although they are broad and ever broadening with the crowds that flow through in a torrent. These roads are strewn with flowers, bordered with all kinds of amusements and attractions, and paved with gold and silver (Matt. 7, 13-14).
9. To the right, the little flock that follows Jesus can speak only of tears, penance, prayer and contempt for worldly things. Sobbing in their grief, they can be heard repeating: "Let us suffer, let us weep, let us fast, let us pray, let us hide, let us humble ourselves, let us be poor, let us mortify ourselves, for he who has not the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Cross, is none of Christ's. Those who are Christ's have crucified their flesh with its concupiscence. We must be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ or else be damned!" "Be brave," they keep saying to each other, "be brave, for if God is for us, in us and leading us, who dare be against us? The One Who is dwelling within us is stronger than the one who is in the world; no servant is above his master; one moment of light tribulation worketh an eternal weight of glory; there are fewer elect than man may think; only the brave and daring take Heaven by storm; the crown is given only to those who strive lawfully according to the Gospel, not according to the fashion of the world. Let us put all our strength into the fight, and run very fast to reach the goal and win the crown." Friends of the Cross spur each other on with such Divine words.
10. Worldlings, on the contrary, rouse one another to persist in their unscrupulous depravity. "Enjoy life, peace and pleasure," they shout, "Enjoy life, peace and pleasure. Let us eat, let us drink, let us sing, let us dance, let us play. God is good, He did not make us to damn us; God does not forbid us to enjoy ourselves; we shall not be damned for that; away with scruples; we shall not die. " And so they continue.
C --- LOVING APPEAL OF JESUS
11. Dear Brethren, remember that our beloved Jesus has His eyes upon you at this moment, addressing you individually: "See how almost everybody leaves Me practically alone on the royal road of the Cross. Blind idol-worshipers sneer at My Cross and brand it folly. Obstinate Jews are scandalized at the sight of it as at some monstrosity (1 Cor. 1, 23). Heretics tear it down and break it to pieces out of sheer contempt. But one thing I cannot say without My eyes filling with tears and My heart being pierced with grief is that the very children I nourished in My bosom and trained in My school, the very members I quickened with My spirit have turned against Me, forsaken Me and joined the ranks of the enemies of My Cross (Is. 1, 2; Phil. 3, 18). Would you also leave Me? (John 6, 68). Would you also forsake me and flee from My Cross, like the worldlings, who are acting as so many Anti-Christs? (1 John 2, 12). Would you subscribe to the standards of the day (Rom. 12, 2), despise the poverty of My Cross and go in quest of riches; shun the sufferings connected with My Cross, to run after pleasure; spurn the humiliations that must be borne with My Cross, and pursue worldly honors? There are many who pretend that they are friends of Mine and love Me but in reality they hate Me because they have no love for My Cross. I have many friends of My table, but few indeed of My Cross." (Imitation of Jesus Christ, Book 2, Chap. 11. )
12. In answer to the gracious invitation which Jesus extends, let us rise above ourselves. Let us not, like Eve, listen to the insidious suggestion of sense. Let us look up to the unique Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus crucified (Heb. 12, 2). Let us fly from the corrupting concupiscence and enticements of a corrupt world (2 Pet. 1, 4). Let us love Jesus in the right way, standing by Him through the heaviest of crosses. Let us meditate seriously on these remarkable words of our beloved Master which sum up the Christian life in its perfection: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16, 24).