Sunday, 20 March 2011

Imitation 10 - Friends with Christ

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (top right) by Velazquez

From the Imitation:

Blessed is he who understands what it is to love Jesus and to despise himself for the sake of Jesus. We must leave for this Friend every other friend, because Jesus wants us to love him above all things.
Here Thomas a Kempis gets to the heart of the matter. All discipline in the spiritual life is ordered to friendship with Christ. To "despise" oneself in this sense doesn't mean to hate oneself, but to count one's own comforts and privileges as nothing in the face of gaining the love of Christ. Such self-forgetful love is natural, say, in the case of a young couple. It is also the love that the saints are shown to have in Revelation 12: 11 - "they loved not their lives even unto death." This love is in fact that of Christ himself who "emptied himself" to become man for our sake (Phil 2 7: 7). To leave our friends for this Friend, in a similar way, doesn't mean that we have no friends besides Christ, but that we have no friends contrary to Christ, or even equal to Christ. That is, we do not keep company that will prevent us living our true Christian vocation (think of Caravaggio's painting of the Call of Matthew), and we do not depend on our friends the same we depend on Jesus, who is the Strength to whom we turn, the God who shows us love (Psalm 59: 17). Lent therefore is a great opportunity for stopping to look at this relationship, to ask ourselves if we are willing to "waste time" with Jesus.

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