Suffer With Christ

From Imitation of Christ, 2.1 “Meditation” (ca. 1420)

Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to the impious. Christ will come to you offering his consolation, if you prepare a fit dwelling for him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein he takes delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are frequent, his communion sweet and full of consolation, his peace great, and his intimacy wonderful indeed. Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that he may come and dwell within you; he himself says, “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him.”

Give place, then, to Christ, but deny entrance to all others, for when you have Christ you are rich and he is sufficient for you. He will provide for you. He will supply your every want, so that you need not trust in frail, changeable men. Christ remains forever, standing firmly with us to the end. Do not place much confidence in weak and mortal man, helpful and friendly though he be; and do not grieve too much if he sometimes opposes and contradicts you. Those who are with us today may be against us tomorrow, and vice versa, for men change with the wind. Place all your trust in God; let him be your fear and your love. He will answer for you; he will do what is best for you. You have here no lasting home. You are a stranger and a pilgrim wherever you may be, and you shall have no rest until you are wholly united with Christ….

If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your thoughts to Christ’s passion and willingly behold his sacred wounds. If you turn devoutly to the wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you will find great comfort in suffering, you will mind but little the scorn of men, and you will easily bear their slanderous talk.

When Christ was in the world, he was despised by men; in the hour of need he was forsaken by acquaintances and left by friends to the depths of scorn. He was willing to suffer and to be despised; do you dare to complain of anything? He had enemies and defamers; do you want everyone to be your friend, your benefactor? How can your patience be rewarded if no adversity test it? How can you be a friend of Christ if you are not willing to suffer any hardship? Suffer with Christ and for Christ if you wish to reign with him. Had you but once entered into perfect communion with Jesus or tasted a little of his ardent love, you would care nothing at all for your own comfort or discomfort but would rejoice in the reproach you suffer; for love of him makes a man despise himself. A man who is a lover of Jesus and of truth, a truly interior man who is free from uncontrolled affections, can turn to God at will and rise above himself to enjoy spiritual peace.

Thomas a Kempis (ca. 1389-1471) was a German priest and spiritual writer. He served as prior of house of the Brethren of the Common Life, a religious community devoted to simplicity and education. He is remembered for The Imitation of Christ, a manual of advice for laypeople, which is one of the most widely read and cherished books of Western Christian spirituality. He is commemorated in some churches on July 24.


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