28 May 2020
Thomas a Kempis has an extraordinary chapter in ‘The Imitation of Christ’. It is entitled, ‘A Meditation on Death’ and should be compulsory reading for anyone who aspires to live the Christian life and, in particular, those who would exercise leadership within the church whether as minister or elder.
‘If you are not ready to die today, will tomorrow find you better prepared?’ Many people live in denial about their own death. They think that they will go on forever and that their influence on family, work and world will be undiminished. But death is a leveller. The world forgets everyone with few exceptions.
‘You should order your every deed and thought, as though today were the day of your death.’ Our human predicament adds urgency to the present moment. We should make the most of it. And we should live it in such a way that when we are gone, the world will continue to turn with an even more graceful orbit as if we had never lived.
He sees no special virtue in living a long life arguing that it often adds to our sinfulness rather than increasing our virtue. ‘Few are made better by sickness and those who make frequent pilgrimages seldom acquire holiness by so doing.’ Why bargain with God for more life if it only means a life full of self and devoid of self-reflection!
‘Keep yourself a stranger and pilgrim upon the earth … Keep your heart free and lifted up to God, for here you have no abiding city.’ Shun adulation and honour. Focus on God and not the world. Cultivate a measure of detachment from status and wealth. They are transient. Care for the things of God. They are eternal!