Monday of the second week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
On Avoiding Rash Judgment
from On the Imitation of Christ, Book I, Chapter 14, trans. C. Pavur, S.J.
1. Look at yourself. Beware of judging what other people do. Judging others is wasted effort: it often leads to mistakes and easily to sin. Judging and examining ourselves, however, is always productive. The greater our interest in something, the more frequently we make judgments about it; our personal affection makes us lose objectivity. If God were always the single goal of our longing, we would not so easily fall into turmoil because of our the resistance of our feelings.
2. There is always something lurking inside of us, or even intruding upon us from outside, that drags us along with itself. Many people are subconsciously looking out for themselves in what they are doing, and they fail to realize it. They even seem to be quite at peace, when things go their way. Frequently enough, on account of the range of understandings and opinions, hurtful misunderstandings arise between friends and fellow-citizens, and between religious and devout people.
3. It is hard to suppress an old habit, and everyone is reluctant to look beyond immediate interest. If you rely more on your own reason or effort than on the underlying strength of Jesus Christ, you will be enlightened all-too-seldom and all-too-late: God want us to be completely in tune with his will and to go beyond all mere reason in our passionate love of him.
Cap. 14. De temerario judicio vitando.
1. Ad te ipsum oculos reflecte et aliorum facta caveas judicare. In judicando alios homo frustra laborat, sæpius errat, et leviter peccat. Se ipsum vero judicando et discutiendo semper fructuose laborat. Sicut nobis res cordi est, sic de ea frequenter judicamus. Nam verum judicium propter privatum amorem faciliter perdimus. Si Deus semper esset pura intentio desiderii nostri, non tam faciliter turbaremur pro resistentia sensus nostri.
2. Sed semper aliquid ab intra latet, vel etiam ab extra concurrit, quod nos etiam pariter trahit. Multi occulte se ipsos quærunt in rebus, quas agunt, et nesciunt. Videntur etiam in bona pace stare, quum res pro eorum velle fiunt. Propter diversitatem sensuum, et opinionum satis frequenter oriuntur diffensiones inter amicos et cives, inter religiosos et devotos.
3. Antiqua consuetudo difficulter relinquitur et ultra proprium videre nemo libenter ducitur. Si rationi tuæ magis inniteris vel industriæ, quam virtuti subjectivæ Jesu Christi, raro et tarde eris homo illuminatus, quia Deus vult nos sibi perfecte subjicii, et omnem rationem per inflammatum amorem transcendere.
Lenten Reflection by Claude Pavur, S.J., for March 5, 2012
Thomas à Kempis (1380 – 1471) was a priest and monk of the Netherlands famous for his devotional works, most importantly, the Imitation of Christ. Though the authorship of this work was debated for centuries, there has never been any doubt about the widespread impact it has had in its thousands of editions and in its translations into dozens of different languages. Perhaps the most accessible and approachable of all texts ever written in Latin, it speaks in a humble, simple, straightforward style, even as it deals with the most subtle mysteries of the inner life. It aims to set the heart on fire for God, as we see at the end of this selection, and by this means to bring to the soul a peace that is beyond our everyday understanding. That is probably the one of the greatest reasons that this book appealed so strongly to the passionate and zealous Ignatius of Loyola, who kept it as his constant companion for many years of his life (1491-1556). People who knew both the Imitation of Christ and Ignatius easily believed that the saint was the perfect living expression of the spiritual ideal that it expressed. Some might be surprised that the ever-active, personally engaging Ignatius would have liked a book that seems full of a quiet, withdrawn monastic sensibility, but what is found there is the cultivation of a profound religious interiority, a pointed awareness of God and self, that is actually essential to the spirit of Ignatius.
The passage we read today also shows us that deeply interior self-knowledge must inevitably involve how we relate to others. It points out how our rootedness in God will heal the rift that can so easily arise from differences of interests and viewpoints. The lectionary readings of the day point us also toward a profound awareness of our own sinfulness, the importance of our admitting that WE have sinned, and WE have been forgetful of God’s law. “Justice, O Lord, is on your side.” God is the standard, not our own biassed judgments, self-interest, and self-seeking. According to à Kempis, “God want us to be completely in tune with his will.” Then the Gospel-surprise: to deeply experience the mercy of God that we now know we need so much, Jesus says that we will first have to stop judging, make God our focus, and not the shortcomings of our neighbors.
Fr. Claude Pavur, S.J. is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Jesuit Sources, where he is translating and editing an early life of Ignatius by Pedro de Ribadeneira. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at SLU.