OF OBTAINING PEACE, AND OF ZEAL FOR GROWTH IN GRACE
1. We might enjoy much peace if we would not busy ourselves with the words and deeds of others, and things which appertain nothing to our charge. How can he abide long in peace, who thrusteth himself into the cares of others, who seeketh occasions abroad, who little or seldom cometh to himself? Blessed are the single-hearted; for they shall enjoy much peace.
2. Why were some of the saints so perfect and contemplative? Because they labored to mortify themselves wholly to all earthly desires; and, therefore, they could with their whole heart fix themselves upon God, and be free for holy retirement. We are too much led by our passions, and too solicitous for transitory things. We also seldom perfectly overcome any one vice, and are not inflamed with a fervent desire to grow better every day; therefore we remain cold and lukewarm.
3. If we were perfectly intent upon our own hearts, and not entangled with outward things, then should we be able to relish divine things, and to have some experience of heavenly contemplation. The greatest, and indeed the whole impediment is that we are not free from passions and lusts, neither do we endeavor to walk in the perfect way of the saints; and when but a small adversity befalleth us, we are too quickly dejected, and turn ourselves to human consolations.
4. If we would endeavor like brave men to stand in the battle, surely we should feel the assistance from Heaven. For He Who giveth us occasion to fight, to the end we may get the victory, is ready to succor those that fight, and that trust in His grace. If we esteem our progress in religious life to consist only in outward observances, our devotion will quickly be at an end. But let us lay the ax to the root, that being free from passions, we may find rest for our souls.
5. If every year we could root out one vice, we should sooner become perfect men. On the contrary, we now oftentimes perceive that we were better and purer at the beginning of our conversion than after many years of our profession. Our fervor and profiting should increase daily: but now it is accounted a great matter if a man can retain but some part of his first zeal. If we would do but a little violence to ourselves at the beginning, then should we be able to perform all things afterward with ease and delight.
6. It is a hard matter to forego that to which we are accustomed, but it is harder to go against our own will. But if we overcome not small and easy things, when shall we overcome harder things? Resist thy inclination in the very beginning, and unlearn evil habits, lest perhaps by little and little they draw thee to greater difficulty. O, if thou didst but consider how much inward peace unto thyself, and joy unto others, thou wouldest procure by demeaning thyself well, I think that thou wouldest be more careful of thy spiritual progress.
Editor’s Note: Today’s reflection is an excerpt from the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis.
Art for this post on “Obtaining Peace and Zeal for Growth in Grace”: The Friendly Gossips, Eugene de Blaas, date not shown (though painter lived from 1843-1932), PD-US because of age; Detail of The Artist’s Family, Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1528/29, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; The Anchorite, Teodor Axentowicz, 1881, PD-US author’s term of life plus 75 years or less; all Wikimedia Commons.