ON THE SIN OF ANGER – St. Alphonsus

“Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.” MATT. v. 2.

ANGER resembles fire; hence, as fire is vehement in its action, and, by the smoke which it produces, obstructs the view, so anger makes men rush into a thousand excesses, and prevents them from seeing the sinfulness of their conduct, and thus exposes them to the danger of the judgment of eternal death. “Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.”

Anger is so pernicious to man that it even disfigures his countenance. No matter how comely and gentle he may be, he shall, as often as he yields to the passion of anger, appear to be a monster and a wild beast full of terror. ”Iracundus,” says St. Basil, ”humanam quasi liguram amittit, ferae specimen indutus.” (Hom, xxi.)

But, if anger disfigures us before men, how much more deformed will it render us in the eyes of God! In this discourse I will show, in the first point, the destruction which anger unrestrained brings on the soul; and, in the second, how we ought to restrain anger in all occasions of provocation which may occur to us.

First Point

The ruin which anger unrestrained brings on the soul.

1. St. Jerome says that anger is the door by which all vices enter the soul. ”Omnium vitiorum jantia est iracundia.” (Inc. xxix. Prov.) Anger precipitates men into resentments, blasphemies, acts of injustice, detractions, scandals, and other iniquities; for the passion of anger darkens the understanding, and makes a man act like a beast and a madman. ”Caligavit ab indignatione oculus meus.” (Job xvii. 7.) My eye has lost its sight through indignation. David said: ”My eye is troubled with wrath.” (Ps. xxx. 10.)

Hence, according to St. Bonaventure, an angry man is incapable of distinguishing between what is just and unjust. ”Iratus non potest videre quod justum est vel injustum.” In a word, St. Jerome says that anger deprives a man of prudence, reason, and understanding. ”Ab omni concilio deturpat, ut donee irascitur, insanire credatur.” Hence St. James says: ”The anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” (St. James i. 20.) The acts of a man under the influence of anger cannot be conformable to the divine justice, and consequently cannot be faultless.

2. A man who does not restrain the impulse of anger, easily falls into hatred towards the person who has been the occasion of his passion. According to St. Augustine, hatred is nothing else than persevering anger. “Odium est ira diuturno tempore perseverans.” Hence St. Thomas says that”anger is sudden, but hatred is lasting. ” (Opusc. v.)

It appears, then, that in him in whom anger perseveres hatred also reigns. But some will say: I am the head of the house; I must correct my children and servants, and, when necessary, I must raise my voice against the disorders which I witness. I say in answer: It is one thing to be angry against a brother, and another to be displeased at the sin of a brother.

To be angry against sin is not anger, but zeal; and therefore it is not only lawful, but is sometimes a duty. But our anger must be accompanied with prudence, and must appear to be directed against sin, but not against the sinner; for, if the person whom we correct perceive that we speak through passion and hatred towards him, the correction will be unprofitable and even mischievous.

To be angry, then, against a brother’s sin is certainly lawful. ”He,” says St. Augustine, ”is not angry with a brother who is angry against a brother‟s sin.” It is thus, as David said, we may be angry without sin. ”Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ps. iv. 5.) But, to be angry against a brother on account of the sin which he has committed is not lawful; because, according to St. Augustine, we are not allowed to hate others for their vices. ”Nee propter vitia (licet) homines odisse” (in Ps. xcviii).

3. Hatred brings with it a desire of revenge; for, according to St. Thomas, anger, when fully voluntary, is accompanied with a desire of revenge. ”Ira est appetitus vindicteo.” But you will perhaps say: If I resent such an injury, God will have pity on me, because I have just grounds of resentment Who, I ask, has told you that you have just grounds for seeking revenge?

It is you, whose understanding is clouded by passions, that say so. I have already said that anger obscures the mind, and takes away our reason and understanding. As long as the passion of auger lasts, you will consider your neighbour’s conduct very unjust and intolerable; but, when your anger shall have passed away, you shall see that his act was not so bad as it appeared to you. But, though the injury be grievous, or even more grievous, God will not have compassion, on you if you seek revenge.

No, he says: vengeance for sins belongs not to you, but to me; and when the time shall come I will chastise them as they deserve. ”Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.” (Deut. xxxii. 35.) If you resent an injury done to you by a neighbour, God will justly inflict vengeance on you for all the injuries you have offered to him, and particularly for taking revenge on a brother whom he commands you to pardon. ”He that seeketh to revenge himself, shall find vengeance from the Lord …. Man to man reserveth anger, and doth he seek remedy of God? …. He that is but flesh nourisheth anger; and doth he ask forgiveness of God? Who shall obtain pardon for his sins ?” (Eccl. xxviii. 1, 3, 5.)

Man, a worm of flesh, reserves anger, and takes revenge on a brother: does he afterwards dare to ask mercy of God? And who, adds the sacred writer, can obtain pardon for the iniquities of so daring a sinner? “Qua ironte,” says St. Augustine, ”indulgentiam peccatorem obtinere poterit, qui præcipienti dare veniam non acquiescit.” How can he who will not obey the command of God to pardon his neighbour, expect to obtain from God the forgiveness of his own sins?

4. Let us implore the Lord to preserve us from yielding to any strong passion, and particularly to anger. “Give me not over to a shameful and foolish mind.” (Eccl. xxiii. 6.) For, he that submits to such a passion is exposed to great danger of falling into a grievous sin against God or his neighbour.

How many, in consequence of not restraining anger, break out into horrible blasphemies against God or his saints! But, at the very time we are in a flame of indignation, God is armed with scourges. The Lord said one day to the Prophet Jeremias: “What seest thou, Jeremias? And I said: I see a rod watching. ” (Jer. i. 11.) Lord, I behold a rod watching to inflict punishment. ”The Lord asked him again: “What seest thou? And I said: I see a boiling caldron.” (Ibid., v. 13.). The boiling chaldron is the figure of a man inflamed with wrath, and threatened with a rod, that is, with the vengeance of God. Behold, then, the ruin which anger unrestrained brings on man.

It deprives him, first, of the grace of God, and afterwards of corporal life. ”Envy and anger shortens a man‟s days.” (Eccl. xxx. 26.) Job says: ”Anger indeed killeth the foolish.” (Job v. 2.) All the days of their life, persons addicted to anger are unhappy, because they are always in a tempest. But let us pass to the second point, in which I have to say many things which will assist you to overcome this vice.

Second Point.

How we ought to restrain anger in the occasions of provocation which occur to us.

5. In the first place it is necessary to know that it is not possible for human weakness, in the midst of so many occasions, to be altogether free from every motion of anger. “No one, ” as Seneca says, “can be entirely exempt from this passion. ” “Iracundia nullum genus hominum excipit” (I. 3, c. xii). All our efforts must be directed to the moderation of the feelings of anger which spring up in the soul. How are they to be moderated?

By meekness. This is called the virtue of the lamb that is, the beloved virtue of Jesus Christ. Because, like a lamb, without anger or even complaint, he bore the sorrows of his passion and crucifixion. ”He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” (Isa. liii. 7.) Hence he has taught us to learn of him meekness and humility of heart. ”Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. xi. 29)

6. Oh! how pleasing in the sight of God are the meek, who submit in peace to all crosses, misfortunes, persecutions, and injuries! To the meek is promised the kingdom of heaven. ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” (Matt. v. 4.)

They are called the children of God. ”Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. ” (Ibid., v. 9.) Some boast of their meekness, but without any grounds; for they are meek only towards those who praise and confer favours upon them: but to those who injure or censure them they are all fury and vengeance. The virtue of meekness consists in being meek and peaceful towards those who hate and maltreat us. “With them, that hated peace I was peaceful.” (Ps. cxix. 7.)

7. We must, as St. Paul says, put on the bowels of mercy towards all men, and bear one with another. “Put on ye the bowels of mercy, humility, modesty, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another.” (Col iii. 12, 13.) You wish others to bear with your defects, and to pardon your faults; you should act in the same manner towards them. Whenever, then, you receive an insult from a person enraged against you , remember that a “mild answer breaketh wrath,” (Prov. xv. 1.)

A certain monk once passed through a cornfield: the owner of the field ran out, and spoke to him in very offensive and injurious language. The monk humbly replied: Brother, you are right; I have done wrong; pardon me. By this answer the husbandman was so much appeased that he instantly became calm, and even wished to follow the monk, and to enter into religion. The proud make use of the humiliations they receive to increase their pride; but the humble and the meek turn the contempt and insults offered to them into an occasion of advancing in humility. “He,” says St. Bernard, ”is humble who converts humiliation into humility.” (Ser. xxiv. in Can.)

8. “A man of meekness,” says St. Chrysostom, “is useful to himself and to others.” The meek are useful to themselves, because, according to F. Alvares, the time of humiliation and contempt is for them the time of merit. Hence, Jesus Christ calls his disciples happy when they shall be reviled and persecuted. “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you.” (Matt. v. 11.)

Hence, the saints have always desired to be despised as Jesus Page 145 of 233 Christ has been despised. The meek are useful to others; because, as the same St. Chrysostom says, there is nothing better calculated to draw others to God, than to see a Christian meek and cheerful when he receives an injury or an, insult. ”Nihil ita conciliat Domino familiares ut quod ilium vident mansuetudine jucundum.” The reason is, because virtue is known by being tried; and, as gold is tried by fire, so the meekness of men is proved by humiliation. “Gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. ” (Eccl. ii. 5.)”My spikenard, ”says the spouse in the Canticles, “sent forth the odour thereof” (i. 11.)

The spikenard is an odoriferous plant, but diffuses its odours only when, it is torn and bruised. In this passage the inspired writer gives us to understand, that a man cannot be said to be meek unless he is known to send forth the odour of his meekness by bearing injuries and insults in peace and without anger.

God wishes us to be meek even towards ourselves. When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself, to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself, and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for, while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good. ”My heart is troubled; my strength hath left me.” (Ps. xxx vii. 11.)

9. Thus, when we receive an insult, we must do violence to ourselves in order to restrain anger. Let us either answer with meekness, as recommended above, or let us remain silent; and thus, as St. Isidore says, we shall conquer. “Quamvis quis irritet, tu dissimula, quia tacendo vinces.” But, if you answer through passion, you shall do harm to yourselves and others. It would be still worse to give an angry answer to a person who corrects you. ”Medicanti irascitur,” says St. Bernard, ”qui non irascitur sagittanti.” (Ser. vi. de Nativ.) Some are not angry, though they ought to be indignant with those who wound their souls by flattery; and are filled with indignation against the person who censures them in order to heal their irregularities.

Against the man who abhors correction, the sentence of perdition has, according to the Wise Man, been pronounced. “Because they have despised all my reproofs,. . . .the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Prov. i. 30, etc.) Fools regard as prosperity to be free from correction, or to despise the admonitions which they receive; but such prosperity is the cause of their ruin. When you meet with an occasion of anger, you must, in the first place, be on your guard not to allow anger to enter your heart. “Be not quickly angry” (Eccles. vii. 10.)

Some persons change colour, and get into a passion, at every contradiction: and when anger has got admission, God knows to what it shall lead them. Hence, it is necessary to foresee these occasions in our meditations and prayers; for, unless we are prepared for them, it will be as difficult to restrain anger as to put a bridle on a horse while running away.

10. Whenever we have the misfortune to permit anger to enter the soul, let us be careful not to allow it to remain. Jesus Christ tells all who remember that a brother is offended with them, not to offer the gift which they bring to the altar without being first reconciled to their neighbour. ”Go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.” (Matt. v. 24.) And he who has received any offence, should endeavour to root out of his heart not only all anger, but also every feeling of bitterness towards the persons who have offended him.

“Let all bitterness,” says St. Paul, “and anger and indignation be put away from you.” (Eph. iv. 31.) As long as anger continues, follow the advice of Seneca”When you shall be angry do nothing, say nothing, which may be dictated by anger.” Like David, be silent, and do not speak, when you feel that you are disturbed. ”I was troubled, and I spoke Page 146 of 233 not.” (Ps. Ixxvi. 5.) How many when inflamed with anger, say and do what they afterwards, in their cooler moments, regret, and excuse themselves by saying that they were in a passion?

As long, then, as anger lasts we must be silent, and abstain from doing or resolving to do anything; for, what is done in the heat of passion will, according to the maxim of St. James, be unjust. ”The anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” (i. 20.) It is also necessary to abstain altogether from consulting those who might foment our indignation. “Blessed,” says David, “is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.” (Ps. i. 1.) To him who is asked for advice, Ecclesiasticus says. “If thou blow the spark, it shall burn as a fire; and if thou spit upon it, it shall be quenched.” (Eccl. xxviii. 14.)

When a person is indignant at some injury which he has received, you may, by exhorting him to patience, extinguish the fire; but, if you encourage revenge, you may kindle a great flame. Let him, then, who feels himself in any way inflamed with anger, be on his guard against false friends, who, by an imprudent word, may be the cause of his perdition.

11. Let us follow the advice of the apostle: ”Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Hom, xii. 21.) “Be not overcome by evil:” do not allow yourself to be conquered by sin. If, through anger, you seek revenge or utter blasphemies, you are overcome by sin. But you will say: “I am naturally of a warm temper.”

By the grace of God, and by doing violence to yourself, you will be able to conquer your natural disposition. Do not consent to anger, and you shall subdue the warmth of your temper. But you say: ”I cannot bear with unjust treatment.” In answer I tell you, first, to remember that anger obscures reason, and prevents us from seeing things as they are. “Fire hath fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun.” (Ps. lvii. 9.) Secondly, if you return evil for evil, your enemy shall gain a victory over you. ”If,” said David, ”I have rendered to them that repaid me evils, let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies.” (Ps. vii. 5.)

If I render evil for evil, I shall be defeated by my enemies. ”Overcome evil by good. ”Render every foe good for evil. ”Do good,” says Jesus Christ, “to them that hate you.” (Matt. v. 44.) This is the revenge of the saints, and is called by St. Paulinus, Heavenly revenge. It is by such revenge that you shall gain the victory. And should any of those, of whom the Prophet says, ”The venom, of asps is under their lips” (Ps. cxxxix. 4), ask how you can submit to such an injury, let your answer be: “The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John xviii. 11.)

And then turning to God you shall say: ”I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it” (Ps. xxxviii. 10), for it is certain that every cross which befalls you comes from the Lord. “Good things and evil are from God.” (Eccl xi. 14.) Should any one take away your property, recover it if you can; but if you cannot, say with Job: ”The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away” (i. 21.) A certain philosopher, who lost some of his goods in a storm, said: ”If 1 have lost my goods I will not lose my peace.” And, do you say: If I have lost my property, I will not lose my soul.

12. In fine, when we meet with crosses, persecutions, and injuries, let us turn to God, who commands us to bear them with patience; and thus we shall always avoid anger. “Remember the fear of God, and be not angry with thy neighbour.” (Eccl. xxviii. 8.) Let us give a look at the will of God, which disposes things in this manner for our merit, and anger shall cease.

Let us give a look at Jesus crucified, and we shall not have courage to complain. St. Eleazar being asked by his spouse how he bore so many injuries without yielding to anger, answered: I turn to Jesus Christ, and thus I preserve my peace. Finally, let us give a glance at our sins, for which we have deserved far greater contempt and chastisement, and we shall calmly submit to all evils.

St. Augustine says, that though we are sometimes innocent of the crime for which we are persecuted, we are, nevertheless, guilty of other sins which merit greater punishment than that which we endure. “Esto non habemus peccatum, quod objicitur: habemus tamen, quod digne in nobis flagelletur.” (in Ps. Ixviii.)

DEATH IS CERTAIN AND UNCERTAIN – St. Alphonsus

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

DEATH IS CERTAIN AND UNCERTAIN.

Let down your nets for a draught.” LUKE v. 4.

IN this day’s gospel we find that, having gone up into one of the ships, and having heard from St. Peter, that he and his companions had laboured all the night and had taken nothing, Jesus Christ said: “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” They obeyed; and having cast out their nets into the sea, they took such a multitude of fishes, that the nets were nearly broken.

Brethren, God has placed us in the midst of the sea of this life, and has commanded us to cast out our nets, that we may catch fishes; that is, that we may perform good works, by which we can acquire merits for eternal life. Happy we, if we attain this end and save our souls! Unhappy we, if, instead of laying up treasures for heaven, we by our sins merit hell, and bring our souls to damnation!

Our happiness or misery for eternity depends on the moment of our death, which is certain and uncertain. The Lord assures us that death is certain, that we may prepare for it; but, on the other hand, he leaves us uncertain as to the time of our death, that we may be always prepared for it two points of the utmost importance. First Point. It is certain that we shall die. Second Point. It is uncertain when we shall die.

First Point:  It is certain that we shall die.

1. ”It is appointed unto men once to die.” (Heb. ix. 27.) The decree has been passed for each of us: we must all die. St. Cyprian says, that we are all born with the halter on the neck: hence, every step we make brings us nearer to the gibbet. For each of us the gibbet shall be the last sickness, which will end in death.

As then, brethren, your name has been inserted in the registry of baptism, so it shall be one day written in the record of the dead. As, in speaking of your ancestors, you say: God be merciful to my father, to my uncle, or to my brother; so others shall say the same of you when you shall be in the other world; and as you have often heard the death-bell toll for many, so others shall hear it toll for you.

2. All things future, which regard men now living, are uncertain, but death is certain. “All other goods and evils,” says St. Augustine, ”are uncertain; death only is certain.” It is uncertain whether such an infant shall be rich or poor, whether he shall enjoy good or ill health, whether he shall die at an early or at an advanced age. But it is certain that he shall die, though he be son of a peer or of a monarch.

And, when the hour arrives, no one can resist the stroke of death. The same St. Augustine says: “Fires, waters, and the sword are resisted; kings are resisted: death comes; who resists it ?” (in Ps. xii.) We may resist conflagrations, inundations, the sword of enemies, and the power of princes; but who can resist death? A certain king of France, as Belluacensis relates, said in his last moments: “Behold, with all my power, I cannot make death wait for a single hour.” No; when the term of life has arrived, death does not wait even a moment”Thou hast appointed his bounds, which cannot be passed.” (Job. xiv. 5.)

3. We must all die. This truth we not only believe, but see with our eyes. In every age houses, streets, and cities are filled with new inhabitants: their former possessors are shut up in the grave. And, as for them the days of life are over, so a time shall come when not one of all who are now alive shall be among the living. “Days shall be formed, and no one in them.” (Ps. cxxxviii. 10.) “Who is the man that shall live, and shall not see death ?” (Ps. lxxxviii. 49 )

Should any one flatter himself that he will not die, he would not only be a disbeliever for it is of faith that we shall all die but he would be regarded as a madman. We know that all men, even potentates and princes and emperors, have, utter a certain time, fallen victims to death. And where are they now?”Tell me,” says St. Bernard, “where are the lovers of the world? Nothing has remained of them but ashes and worms.” Of so many great men of the world, though buried in marble mausoleums, nothing has remained but a little dust and a few withered bones.

We know that our ancestors are no longer among the living: of their death we are constantly reminded by their pictures, their memorandum books, their beds, and by the clothes which they have left us. And can we entertain a hope or a doubt that we shall not die? Of all who lived in this town a hundred years ago how many are now alive? They are all in eternity in an eternal day of delights, or in an eternal night of torments. Either the one or the other shall be our lot also.

4. But, God! we all know that we shall die: the misfortune is, that we imagine death as distant as if it were never to come, and therefore we lose sight of it. But, sooner or later, whether we think or think not of death, it is certain, and of faith that we shall die, and that we are drawing nearer to it every day. ”For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.” (Heb. xiii. 14.) This is not our country: here we are pilgrims on a journey. ”While we are in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 6.)

Our country is Paradise, if we know how to acquire it by the grace of God and by our own good works. Our house is not that in which we live; we dwell in it only in passing; our dwelling is in eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” (Eccl. xii. 5.) How great would be the folly of the man, who, in passing through a strange country, should lay out all his property in the purchase of houses and possessions in a foreign land, and reduce himself to the necessity of living miserably for the remainder of his days in his own country!

And is not he, too, a fool, who seeks after happiness in this world, from which he must soon depart; and, by his sins, exposes himself to the danger of misery in the next, where he must live for eternity?

5. Tell me, beloved brethren, if, instead of preparing for his approaching death, a person condemned to die were, on his way to the place of execution, to employ the few remaining moments of his life in admiring the beauty of the houses as he passed along, in thinking of balls and comedies, in uttering immodest words, and detracting his neighbours, would you not say that the unhappy man had either lost his reason, or that he was abandoned by God?

And are not you on the way to death? Why then do you seek only the gratification of the senses? Why do you not think of preparing the accounts which you shall one day, and perhaps very soon, have to render at the tribunal of Jesus Christ? Souls that have faith, leave to the fools of this world the care of realizing a fortune on this earth; seek you to make a fortune for the next life, which shall be eternal. The present life must end, and end very soon.

6. Go to the grave in which your relatives and friends are buried. Look at their dead bodies: each of them says to you: “Yesterday for me; Today for thee.” (Eccl. xxxviii. 23.) What has happened to me must one day happen to thee. Thou shalt .become dust and ashes, as I am. And where shall thy soul be found, if, before death, thou hast not settled thy accounts with God? Ah, brethren! if you wish to live well, and to to have you accounts ready for that great day, on which your doom to eternal life or to eternal death must be decided, endeavour, during the remaining days of life, to live with death before your eyes. ”death, thy sentence is welcome.” (Eccl. xli. 3.)

Oh! how correct are the judgments, how well directed the actions, of those who form their judgments, and perform their actions, with death before their view! The remembrance of death destroys all attachment to the goods of this earth. ”Let the end of life be considered, ” says St. Lawrence Justinian, ”and there will be nothing in this world to be loved.” (de Ligno Vitæ, cap. v.) Yes; all the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world are easily despised by him who considers that he must soon leave them forever, and that he shall be thrown into the grave to be the food of worms.

7. Some banish the thought of death, as if, by avoiding to think of death, they could escape it. But death cannot be avoided; and they who banish the thought of it, expose themselves to great danger of an unhappy death. By keeping death before their eyes, the saints have despised all the goods of this earth. Hence St. Charles Borromeo kept on his table a death’s head, that he might have it continually in view. Cardinal Baronius had the words, “Memento mori”Remember death” inscribed on his ring.

The venerable P. Juvenal Anzia, Bishop of Saluzo, had before him a skull, on which was written, “As I am, so thou shalt be.” In retiring to deserts and caves the holy solitaries brought with them the head of a dead man; and for what purpose? To prepare themselves for death. Thus a certain hermit being asked at death, why he was so cheerful, answered: I have kept death always before my eyes; and therefore, now that it has arrived, I feel no terror. But, oh! how full of terror is death, when it comes to those who have thought of it but seldom.

Second Point: It is uncertain when we shall die.

8. ”Nothing,” says the Idiota, ”is more certain than death, but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” It is certain that we shall die. God has already determined the year, the month, the day, the hour, the moment, in which each of us shall leave this earth, and enter into eternity; but this moment he has resolved not to make known to us.

And justly, says St. Augustine, has the Lord concealed it; for, had he manifested to all the day fixed for their death, many should be induced to continue in the habit of sin by the certainty of not dying before the appointed day. ”Si statuisset viam omnibus, faceret abundare peccata de securitate”(in Ps. cxliv). Hence the holy doctor teaches that God has concealed from us the day of our death, that we may spend all our days well. ”Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies. ” (Hom. xii. inter 50.)

Hence Jesus Christ says: “Be you also ready; for at what hour you think not the Son of Man will come.” (Luke xii. 40.) That we may be always prepared to die, he wishes us to be persuaded that death will come when we least expect it. ”Of death,” says St. Gregory, ”we are uncertain, that we may be found always prepared for death.” St. Paul likewise admonishes us that the day of the Lord that is, the day on which the Lord shall judge us shall come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, ”The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. v. 2.)

Since, then, says St. Bernard, death may assail you and take away your life in every place and at every time, you should, if you wish to die well and to save your soul, be at all times and places in expectation of death: ”Mors ubique te expectat tu ubique earn expectabis :” and St. Augustine says: ”Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies. ”(Hom, xii.) The Lord conceals from us the last day of our life, that we may always have ready the account which we must render to God after death.

9. Many Christians are lost, because many, even among the old, who feel the approach of death, flatter themselves that it is at a distance, and that it will not come without giving them time to prepare for it. ”Dura mente,” says St. Gregory, ”abesse longe mors creditur etiam cum sentitur.” (Moral, lib. 8.) Death, even when it is felt, is believed to be far off. O brethren, are these your sentiments? How do you know that your death is near or distant? What reason have you to suppose that death will give you time to prepare for it? How many do we know who have died suddenly? Some have died walking; some sitting; and some during sleep. Did any one of these ever imagine that he should die in such a manner?

But they have died in this way; and if they were in enmity with God, what has been the lot of their unhappy souls? Miserable the man who meets with an unprovided death! And I assert, that all who ordinarily neglect to unburthen their conscience, die without preparation, even though they should have seven or eight days to prepare for a good death; for as I shall show in the fortyfourth sermon, it is very difficult, during these days of confusion and terror, to settle accounts with God, and to return to him with sincerity.

But I repeat that death may come upon you in such a manner, that you shall not have time even to receive the sacraments. And who knows whether, in another hour, you shall be among the living or the dead? The uncertainty of the time of his death made Job tremble. “For I knew not how long I shall continue, or whether, after a while, my Maker may take me away.” (Job xxxii. 22.) Hence St. Basil exhorts us in going to bed at night, not to trust that we shall see the next day. ”Cum in lectulum ad quicscendum membra tua posueris, noli confidere de lucis adventu.” (Inst. ad fil. spirit.)

10. Whenever, then, the devil tempts you to sin, by holding out the hope that you will go to confession and repair the evil you have done, say to him in answer: How do I know that this shall not be the last day of my life? And should death overtake me in sin, and not give me time to make my confession, what shall become of me for all eternity?

Alas! how many poor sinners have been struck dead in the very act of indulging in some sinful pleasure, and have been sent to hell! “As fishes are taken by the hook, and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time.” (Eccl. ix. 12.) Fishes are taken with the hook while they eat the bait that conceals the hook, which is the instrument of their death. The evil time is precisely that in which sinners are actually offending God.

In the act of sin, they calm their conscience by a security of afterwards making a good confession, and reversing the sentence of their damnation. But death comes suddenly upon them, and does not leave them time for repentance. “For, when they shall say peace and security, then shall sudden destruction come upon them.” (1 Thess. v. 3.)

11. If a person lend a sum of money he is careful instantly to get a written acknowledgment, and to take all the other means necessary to secure the repayment of it. Who, he says, can know what shall happen? Death may come, and I may lose my money. And how does it happen that there are so many who neglect to use the same caution for the salvation of their souls, which is of far greater importance than all temporal interests? “Why do they not also say: Who knows what may happen? death may come, and I may lose my soul?

If you lose a sum of money, all is not lost; if you lose it one way you may recover the loss in another; but he that dies and loses his soul, loses all, and has no hope of ever recovering it. If we could die twice, we might, if we lost our soul the first time, save it the second. But we cannot die twice. ”It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Heb. ix. 27) Mark the word once: death happens to each of us but once: he who has erred the first time has erred for ever. Hence, to bring the soul to hell is an irreparable error. ”Periisse semel æternum est.”

12. The venerable Father John Avila was a man of great sanctity, and apostle of Spain. What was the answer of this great servant of God, who had led a holy life from his childhood, when he was told that his death was at hand, and that he had but a short time to live?”Oh!” replied the holy man with trembling, ”that I had a little more time to prepare for death!”St. Agatho, abbot, after spending so many years in penance, trembled at the hour of death, and said: ”What shall become of me? who can know the judgments of God ?”

And, O brethren, what will you say when the approach of death shall be announced to you, and when, from the priest who attends you, you shall hear these words: ”Go forth, Christian soul, from this world ?” You will, perhaps, say: Wait a little; allow me to prepare better. No; depart immediately; death does not wait. You should therefore prepare yourselves now. ”With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Phil. ii. 12.) St. Paul admonishes us that, if we wish to save our souls, we must live in fear and trembling, lest death may find us in sin. Be attentive, brethren: there is question of eternity. ”If a tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall there shall it be.” (Eccl. xi. 3.)

If, when the tree of your life is cut down, you fall to the south that is, if you obtain eternal life how great shall be your joy at  being able to say: I shall be saved; I have secured all; I can never lose God; I shall be happy for ever. But, if you fall to the north that is, into eternal damnation how great shall be your despair! Alas! you shall say, I have erred, and my error is irremediable! Arise, then, from your tepidity, and, after this sermon, make a resolution to give yourselves sincerely to God. This resolution will insure you a good death, and will make you happy for eternity.

Final Perseverance – Preparation For Death – Considerations XXXI

” He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”— Matt. xxiv. 13.

FIRST POINT.

Necessity of Perseverance.—Means of Defense against the Devil. 

JEROME says that many begin well but few persevere (Cont. Jovin. 1, 1). Saul, Judas, Tertullian, began well, but ended badly, because they did not persevere in grace. The Lord, says St. Jerome, requires not only the beginning of a good life, but also the end: (Ep. ad Fur.) it is the end that will be rewarded. St. Bonaventure says that the crown is given only to perseverance. (Diaet. Sal. 1, 8, c. 2). Hence St. Laurence Justinian calls perseverance the “gate of heaven.” (De Obed. c. 26).

No one can enter paradise unless he finds the gate of heaven. My brother, at present you have renounced sin, and justly hope that you have been pardoned. You are then the friend of God: but remember that you are not yet saved. And when will you be saved ? When you will have persevered to the end. He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved (Matt. xxiv, 13). Have you begun a good life ? Thank the Lord for it: but St. Bernard warns you that to him who begins, a reward is only promised, and is given only to him who perseveres S 82 (De modo bene viv. s. 6). It is not enough to run for the prize, you must run till you win it. So run, says St. Paul, that you may obtain (1 Cor. ix, 24). You have already put your hand to the plough, and you have begun to live well; but now you must tremble and fear more than ever. With fear and trembling work out your salvation (Phil. ii, 12). And why ? Because if—which God forbid—you look back and return to a life of sin, God will declare you unfit for paradise. No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke, ix, 62). At present, through the grace of God, you avoid evil occasions, you frequent the sacraments, and make meditation every day.

Happy you if you continue to do so, and if, when he comes to judge you, Jesus Christ will find you doing these things. Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing ( Matt. xxiv, 46). But do not imagine that, now that you have begun to serve God, there is as it were an end, or a lack of temptations: listen to the advice of the Holy Ghost. Son, when thou comest to the service of God . . . prepare thy soul for temptation (Ecclus. ii, 1). Remember that now more than ever you must prepare yourself for conflicts, because your enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, will arm themselves now more than ever to fight against you in order to deprive you of all that you have acquired. Denis the Carthusian says, that the more a soul gives itself to God, the more strenuously hell labors to destroy it.

And this is sufficiently expressed in the Gospel of St. Luke, where Jesus Christ says: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest, and not finding it, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in, they dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse 83 than the first (Luke, xi, 24).

When banished from a soul, the devil finds no repose, and does everything in his power to return: he even calls companions to his aid; and if he succeeds in re-entering, the second fall of that soul will be far more ruinous than the first. Consider, then, what arms you must use in order to defend yourselves against these enemies, and to preserve your soul in the grace of God. To escape defeat, and to conquer the devil, there is no other defense than prayer. St. Paul says that we have to contend, not with men of flesh and blood like ourselves, but with the princes of hell. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers (Eph. vi, 12).

By these words the Apostle wished to admonish us that we have not strength to resist such powerful enemies, and that we stand in need of aid from God. With his aid we shall be able to do all things. I can do all things in Him that strengthened me (Phil. iv, 13). Such is the language of St. Paul; such, too, should be our language. But this divine aid is given only to those who pray for it. Ask and you shall receive. Let us, then not trust in our purposes; if we trust in them, we shall be lost. Whenever the devil tempts us, let us place our entire confidence in the divine assistance, and let us recommend ourselves to Jesus Christ, and to the Most Holy Mary.

We ought to do this particularly as often as we are tempted against chastity; for this is the most terrible of all temptations, and is the one by which the devil gains most victories. We have not strength to preserve chastity; this strength must come from God. And, said Solomon, as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it, . . . I went to the Lord, and besought him (Wis. viii, 21). In such temptations, then, we must instantly have recourse to Jesus Christ, and to his holy Mother, frequently invoking the most holy names of Jesus and 84 Mary. He who does this, will conquer; he who neglects it, will be lost.

Affections and Prayers

Oh, my God! ” cast me not away from Thy face.” I know that Thou wilt never abandon me, unless I first abandon Thee. Experience of my own weakness makes me tremble lest I should again forsake Thee. Lord ! it is from Thee I must receive the strength necessary to conquer hell, which labors to make me again its slave. This strength I ask of Thee for the sake of Jesus Christ. O my Saviour! establish between Thee and me a perpetual peace, which will never be broken for all eternity. For this purpose I ask Thy love. ” He who loves not is dead.” O God of my soul, it is by Thee I must be saved from this unhappy death. I was lost; Thou knowest it. It is Thy goodness alone that has brought me into the state in which I am at present, in which I hope I am Thy friend. Ah, my Jesus! through the painful death which Thou didst suffer for my salvation, do not permit me ever more to lose Thee voluntarily.

I love Thee above all things, I hope to see myself always bound with this holy love, and to die in the bonds of love, and to live for eternity in the chains of Thy love. O Mary! thou art called the mother of perseverance; through thee this great gift is dispensed. Through thy intercession I ask and hope to obtain it.

SECOND POINT

We must Conquer the World. Let us now see how we must conquer the world.

The devil is a great enemy of our salvation, but the world is worse. If the devil did not make use of the world and of wicked men, by whom we mean the world, he would not obtain the victories which he gains. But says Jesus Christ, beware of men (Matt. x, 17). Men are often A L 85 worse than the devils; for these are put to flight when we pray and invoke the most holy names of Jesus and Mary.

But when a person gives a becoming answer to wicked companions, who tempt him to sin, they redouble their efforts, they treat him with ridicule, upbraiding him with vulgarity and want of education; and when they can say nothing else, they call him a hypocrite, who only pretends to sanctity.

To escape such derision and reproach, certain weak souls miserably associate with these ministers of Lucifer, and return to the vomit. My brother, be persuaded that, if you wish to lead a holy life, you must expect the ridicule and contempt of the wicked. The wicked, says the Holy Ghost, loathe them that are in the right way (Prov. xxix, 27).

He who lives in sin cannot bear the sight of those who live according to the Gospel. And why ? Because their life is a continual reproach to him; and therefore to avoid the pain of remorse caused by the good example of others, he would wish that all should imitate his own wickedness. There is no remedy.

The Apostle tells us that he who serves God must be persecuted by the world. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii, 12). All the saints have been persecuted. Who was more holy than Jesus Christ? The world persecuted him so as to cause him to bleed to death on a cross. There is no help for this; for the maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ.

What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. iii, 19). And the world regards as folly what Jesus Christ has strongly recommended,—such as crosses, pains, and contempts. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness (1 Cor. iii, 18). But if the wicked revile and reproach us, let us console ourselves with the reflection that God blesses and praises us. They will curse, and Thou wilt bless (Ps. cviii, 28). Is it not enough 86 for us to be praised by God, by Mary, by the angels, the saints, and all good men ?

Let us, then, leave sinners to say what they please, and let us continue to please God, who is grateful and faithful to all who serve him. The greater the opposition and difficulty we meet in doing good, the more we shall please God and treasure up merits for ourselves. Let us imagine that we are alone with God in this world. When the wicked treat us with derision, let us recommend them to the Lord, let us thank him for giving us light, which he does not give to these miserable men, and let us continue our journey.

Let us not be ashamed to appear like Christians; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he protests that he will be ashamed of us on the day of judgment. For he that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty (Luke, ix, 26). If we wish to save our souls, we must resolve to suffer, and to do violence to ourselves. How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life (Matt. vii, 14).

The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Matt. xi, 12). He who does not violence to himself, will not be saved. There is no remedy. If we wish to do good, we must act in opposition to our rebellious nature. In the beginning, it is particularly necessary to do violence to ourselves in order to root out bad habits, and to acquire habits of virtue. When good habits are once acquired, the observance of the divine law becomes easy, and even sweet. Our Lord said to St. Bridget, that when in the practice of virtue a person suffers the first punctures of the thorns with patience and courage, these thorns afterwards become roses.

Be attentive, then, dearly beloved Christian, Jesus Christ now says to you, what he said to the paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee (John, v, 14). Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you have the 87 misfortune of relapsing into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than all your falls (In Cant. s. 54). Woe, says the Lord, to them who begin to walk in the way of God, and afterward forsake it. Woe to you, apostate children (Isa. xxx, 1). Such sinners are punished as rebels against God’s light. They have been rebellious to the light (Job, xxiv, 13).

The chastisement of these rebels, who have been favored by God with a great light, and have been afterward unfaithful to him, is, to remain in blindness, and thus die in their sins. But if the just man turn himself away from his justice . . . shall he live ? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered; in the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die (Ezek. xviii, 24).

Affections and Prayers

Oh, my God! such a chastisement I have often deserved, because I have, through the light which Thou gavest me, renounced sin, and have miserably returned to it. I infinitely thank Thy mercy for not having abandoned me in my blindness by leaving me entirely destitute of light, as I deserved. Great then, O my Jesus ! are my obligations to Thee, and great should be my ingratitude, were I again to turn my back upon Thee.

No, my Redeemer, the mercies of the Lord I will sing forever. I hope that during the remainder of my life, and for all eternity, I will always sing and praise Thy mercies by loving Thee always, and never more seeing myself bereft of Thy graces. The great ingratitude with which I have hitherto treated Thee, and which I now hate and curse above every evil, will serve to make me weep bitterly over the injuries I have done Thee, and to inflame me still more with the love of Thee, who, after I had given Thee so many grievous offences, have bestowed upon me so many great graces. Yes, I love Thee, O my God ! worthy of infinite love. Henceforth Thou shall be my only love, my A 88 only good.

O eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask of Thee final perseverance in Thy grace and in Thy love. I know that Thou wilt grant it to me whenever I ask it. But who assures me that I shall be careful to ask this perseverance from Thee ? Hence, O my God, I ask perseverance, and the grace always to ask it of Thee.

O Mary, my advocate, my refuge, and my hope! obtain for me by thy intercession the gift of constancy in always asking of God the grace of final perseverance. Through the love which thou bearest Jesus Christ, I ask thee to obtain for me this gift.

THIRD POINT

We must Struggle against the Flesh.—Recapitulation.

Let us come to the third enemy—that is, the flesh, which is the worst of all: and let us see how we must defend ourselves against its attacks. The first means is prayer: but this we have already considered. The second is, to avoid the occasion of sin; and let us now ponder well upon this means of overcoming the flesh. St. Bernardine says that the greatest of all counsels, and the one which is, as it were, the foundation of religion, is to fly from sinful occasions (T. i, s. 21, a. 3).

Being compelled by exorcisms, the devil once confessed that of all sermons, that which displeased him most was the sermon on avoiding the occasions of sin: and justly; for the devil laughs at all the resolutions and promises of penitent sinners who remain in the occasion of sin. The occasion of sins of the flesh, in particular, is like a veil placed before the eyes, which prevents the soul from seeing either its resolutions, or the lights received from God, or the truths of eternity: in a word, it makes it forget everything, and almost blinds it. The neglect of avoiding the occasions of sin was the cause of the fall of our first parents. God had forbidden them even to touch the forbidden fruit. God L 89 commanded us, said Eve, that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it (Gen. iii, 3).

But through want of caution she saw, took, and ate it. She first began to look at the apple, she afterward took it in her hand, and then ate it. He who voluntarily exposes himself to danger, will perish in it (Ecclus. iii, 27). St. Peter tells us that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter, v. 8). And what, says St. Cyprian, does he do in order to enter again into the soul from which he has been expelled? (De zelo et liv.). He seeks an occasion of sin. If the soul permit him lo bring it again into the occasion of sin, he will enter again, and shall devour it.

The Abbot Guerric says that Lazarus came forth from the grave bound hand and foot, and after rising in this state, he died again. Miserable, this author means to say, is the man who rises from sin bound by the occasion of sin; though he should rise, he surely will die again. He, then, who wishes to be saved must forsake not only all sin, but the occasions of sin— that is, the companions, the house, the connections which lead to sin. But you will say: I have changed my life, and now I have no bad motive, nor even a temptation, in the society of such, a person.

I answer: it is related that in Mauritania there are bears that go in search of the apes. As soon as they see a bear, the apes save themselves by climbing up the trees: but what does the bear do? He stretches himself, as if dead, under the tree; and when the apes descend, he springs up, seizes, and devours them. It is thus the devil acts: he makes the temptations appear dead; and when the soul exposes itself to the occasions of sin, he excites the temptation, which devours it. Oh ! how many miserable souls, that practiced mental prayer, frequented Communion, and might be called saints, have, by putting themselves into dangerous occasions, become the prey of hell ?

It is related in ecclesiastical history, that a holy matron, who devoted herself to the pious work of 90 burying the martyrs, found one of them not dead. She brought him to her house: he recovered. What happened ? By the proximate occasion, these two saints, as they might be called, first lost the grace of God, and afterward lost the faith. The Lord commanded Isaias to proclaim that all flesh is grass (Isa. xl, 6). Is it possible, says St. John Chrysostom, for hay not to burn when it is thrown into the fire ? (In Ps. 1, hom. 1). And St. Cyprian says that it is impossible to stand in the midst of flames, and not be burned. (De Singul. Cler.). According to the prophet Isaias, our strength is like that of tow cast into the fire. And your strength shall be as the ashes of tow (Isa. i, 31). And Solomon says that it would be folly to expect to walk on redhot coals, without being burned. Can a man walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned’? (Prov. vi, 27).

Thus it is likewise folly to expose ourselves to the occasion of sin, and to expect not to fall. It is necessary then to fly from sin as from the face of a serpent. Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent (Ecclus. xxi, 2). We ought, says Gualfrido, not only to avoid the bite or contact of a serpent, but should also abstain from approaching it.

But you will say: My interest requires that I should frequent such a house, or that I should keep up a certain friendship. But if you see that such a house is for you a way to hell, there is no remedy; you must forsake it if you wish to save your soul. Her house is the way to hell (Prov. vii, 27). The Lord tells you that if your right eye is a cause of damnation to you, you must pluck it out and cast it from you (Matt. v, 29). Mark the words; you must cast it, not beside you, but to a distance from you—that is, you must take away every occasion of sin.

St. Francis of Assisi says, that the devil tempts spiritual souls, who have given themselves to God, in a way different from that in which he tempts the wicked. In the beginning he does not seek to bind them with a chain; he is content to hold them by a 91 single hair: he then binds them with a slender thread; afterward with a cord; then with a chain; and thus drags them to sin. And therefore he who wishes to be free from the danger of perdition must, in the beginning, break all these hairs, he must avoid all occasions of sins, he must give up these salutations, presents, notes, and the like.

And for those who have contracted a habit of committing sins against purity, it will not be enough to avoid proximate occasions: unless they fly even from remote occasions, they will relapse. He who sincerely wishes to be saved, must, by often repeating with the saints, Let all be lost, provided God is not lost, labor continually to strengthen and renew his resolution of never again renouncing the friendship of God.

But it is not enough to resolve never more to lose God; it is moreover necessary to adopt the means by which you may be preserved from the danger of losing him. The first means is, to avoid the occasions of sin; of this we have already spoken. The second is, to frequent the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. In the house which is often swept there is no uncleanness. By the sacrament of penance the soul is purified; by it it obtains not only the remission of sins, but also help to resist temptations. The Communion is called the bread of heaven; because as the body cannot live without earthly food, so the soul cannot live without this celestial bread. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (John, vi, 54).

But on the other hand, to those who frequently eat this bread, is promised eternal life. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever (John, vi, 52). Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins (Sess. 13, cap. 2). The third means is meditation, or mental prayer.

Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii, 40). He who keeps before his eyes the eternal truths— 92 death, judgment, eternity—will not fall into sin. God enlightens us in meditation. Come ye to Him, and be enlightened (Ps. xxxiii, 6). In meditation God speaks to us, and makes known to us what we are to avoid, and what we are to do. I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart (Osee, ii, 14).

Meditation is the blessed furnace in which divine love is lighted up. In my meditation a fire shall flame out (Ps. xxxviii, 4). To preserve the soul in the grace Of God, it is, as has been already said, absolutely necessary always to pray, and to ask for the graces we stand in need of. They who do not make mental prayer, will scarcely pray for God’s graces; and by neglecting to pray for them, they will certainly be lost. It is necessary then to adopt the means of salvation, and to lead a life of order and regularity.

It is necessary, after rising in the morning, to make the Christian acts of thanksgiving, love, oblation, and a purpose of avoiding sin, along with a prayer to Jesus and Mary that they may preserve you from sin during the day: you should afterward make your meditation, and hear Mass.

During the day you ought to make a spiritual reading, visit the Blessed Sacrament and an image of the divine Mother. In the evening, say the Rosary, and make an examination of conscience. Go to Communion several times in the week, according as your director may advise: you should ordinarily go to confession to the same confessor.

It would also be very profitable to make the spiritual exercises in some religious house. It is likewise necessary to honor the Most Holy Mary by some special devotion—such as by fasting on Saturdays. She is called the Mother of perseverance, and she promises to obtain it for all who serve her. They that work by me shall not sin (Ecclus. xxiv, 30). Above all, it is necessary to ask of God holy perseverance, and especially in the time of temptation, invoking then more frequently the names of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation continues. If you act in this manner, you will certainly be saved; if not, you will certainly be lost.

Affections and Prayers

My dear Redeemer! I thank Thee for the lights which Thou now givest me, and for the means of salvation which Thou makest known to me. I promise to endeavor to persevere in the practice of them. I see that Thou wishest for my salvation ; and I wish to be saved principally to please Thy heart, which so ardently desires my salvation.

O my God ! I will no longer resist the love which Thou entertainest for me. This love has made Thee bear me with so much patience when I offended Thee. Thou callest me to Thy love, and I desire only to love Thee. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O infinite Good ! Ah ! I entreat Thee, through the merits of Jesus Christ, not to permit me to be ever again ungrateful to Thee; either make me cease to be ungrateful to Thee, or make me cease to live.

Lord ! Thou hast already begun the work ; bring it to perfection, Confirm, O God! that which Thou hast wrought in me (Ps. lxvii, 29). Give me light, give me strength, give me love. O Mary! who art the treasurer of graces, assist me, accept me for thy servant, and pray to Jesus for me. Through the merits of Jesus Christ first, and then through thy prayers, I hope for salvation.

Conformity To The Will Of God – Pentecost Sunday – St. Alphonsus Liguori

“As the Father hath given me commandment, so do I.” JOHN xiv. 31.

JESUS CHRIST was given to us, by God, as a Savior and as a master. Hence he came on earth principally to teach us, not only by his words but also by his own example, how we are to love God our supreme good : hence, as we read in this day s Gospel, he said to his disciples : ” That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I.” To show the world the love I bear to the Father, I will execute all his commands. In an other place he said : ” I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John vi. 38.)

Devout souls, if you love God and desire to become saints, you must seek his will, and wish what he wishes. St. Paul tells us, that the divine love is poured into our souls by means of the Holy Ghost. ” The charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” (Horn. v. 5.) If, then, we wish for the gift of divine love, we must constantly beseech the Holy Ghost to make us know and do the will of God.

Let us continually implore his light to know, and his strength to fulfill the divine will. Many wish to love God, but they, at the same time, wish to follow their own, and not his will. Hence I shall show to-day, in the first point, that your sanctification consists entirely in conformity to the will of God ; and in the second, I shall show how, and in what, we should in practice conform ourselves to the divine will.

First Point Our sanctification consists entirely in conformity to the will of God.

1. It is certain that our salvation consists in loving God. A soul that does not love God is not living, but dead. “He that loveth not, abideth in death.” (1 John iii. 14.) The perfection of love consists in conforming our will to the will of God. ” And life in his good will.” (Ps. xxix. 6.) ” Have charity, which is the bond of perfection.” (Col. iii. 14.) According to the Areopagite, the principal effect of love is to unite the wills of lovers, so that they may have but one heart and one will. Hence all our works, communions, prayers, penances, and alms, please God in proportion to their conformity to the divine will ; and if they be contrary to the will of God, they are no longer acts of virtue, but defects deserving chastisement.

2. Whilst preaching one day, Jesus Christ was told that his mother and brethren were waiting for him; in answer he said : ” Whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. xii. 50.) By these words he gave us to understand that he acknowledged as friends and relatives those only who fulfill the will of his Father.

3. The saints in heaven love God perfectly. In what, I ask, does the perfection of their love consist ? It consists in an entire conformity to the divine will. Hence Jesus Christ has taught us to pray for grace to do the will of God on earth, as the saints do it in heaven. ” Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. vi. 10.) Hence St. Teresa says, that ” they who practice prayer, should seek in all things to conform their will to the will of God.” In this, she adds, consists the highest perfection.

He that practices it in the most perfect manner, shall receive from God the greatest gifts, and shall make the greatest progress in interior life. The accomplishment of the divine will has been the sole end of the saints in the practice of all virtues. Blessed Henry Suso used to say : “I would rather be the vilest man on earth with the will of God, than be a seraph with my own will.”

4. A perfect act of conformity is sufficient to make a person a saint. Behold, Jesus Christ appeared to St. Paul while he was persecuting the Church, and converted him. What did the saint do ? He did nothing more than offer to God his will, that he might dispose of it as he pleased. ” Lord,” he exclaimed, ” what wilt thou have me to do ? (Acts ix. 6.) And instantly the Lord declared to Ananias, that Saul was a vessel of election, and apostle of the Gentiles. ”

This man is a vessel of election to carry my name before the Gentiles.” (Acts ix. 15.) He that gives his will to God, gives him all he has. He that mortifies himself by fasts and penitential austerities, or that gives alms to the poor for God s sake, gives to God a part of himself and of his goods ; but he that gives his will to God, gives him all, and can say : Lord, having given thee my will, I have nothing more to give thee I have given thee all. It is our heart that is, our will that God asks of us. * My son, give me thy heart.” (Prov. xxiii. 26.)

Since, then, says the holy Abbot Nilus, our will is so accept able to God, we ought, in our prayers, to ask of him the grace, not that we may do what he will, but that we may do all that he wishes us to do. Everyone knows this truth, that our sanctification consists in doing the will of God ; but there is some difficulty in reducing it to practice. Let us, then, come to the second point, in which I have to say many things of great practical utility.

Second Point How, and in what, we ought to practice conformity to the will of God.

5. That we may feel a facility of doing on all occasions the divine will, we must beforehand offer ourselves continually to embrace in peace whatever God ordains or wills. Such was the practice of holy David. ” My heart,” he used to say, ” is ready ; God ! my heart is ready.” (Ps. cvii. 2.) And he continually besought the Lord to teach him to do his divine will.

“Teach me to do thy will.” (Ps. cxlii. 1 0.) He thus deserved to be called a man according to God s own heart. ” I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my wills.” (Acts xiii. 2 2.) And why? Because the holy king was always ready to do whatever God wished him to do.

6. St. Teresa offered herself to God fifty times in the day, that he might dispose of her as he pleased, and declared her readiness to embrace either prosperity or adversity. The perfection of our oblation consists in our offering ourselves to God without reserve. All are prepared to unite themselves to the divine will in prosperity ; but perfection consists in conforming to it, even in adversity.

To thank God in all things that are agreeable to us, is acceptable to him ; but to accept with cheerfulness what is repugnant to our inclinations, is still more pleasing to him. Father M. Avila used to say, that “a single blessed be God, in adversity, is better than six thousand thanksgivings in prosperity.”

7. We should conform to the divine will, not only in misfortunes which come directly from God such as sickness, loss of property, privation of friends and relatives but also in crosses which come to us from men, but indirectly from God such as acts of injustice, defamation, calumnies, injuries, and all other sorts of persecutions.

But, you may ask, does God will that others commit sin, by injuring us in our property or in our reputation ? No ; God wills not their sin ; but he wishes us to bear with such a loss and with such a humiliation ; and he wishes us to conform, on all such occasions, to his divine will.

8. “Good things and evil… are from God.” (Eccl. xi. 14.) All blessings such as riches and honors and all misfortunes such as sickness and persecutions come from God. But mark that the Scripture calls them evils, only because we, through the want of conformity to the will of God, regard them as evils and misfortunes. But, in reality, if we accepted them from the hands of God with Christian resignation, they should be blessings and not evils. The jewels which give the greatest splendor to the crown of the saints in heaven, are the tribulations which they bore with patience, as coming from the hands of the Lord.

On hearing that the Sabeans had taken away all his oxen and asses, holy Job said : ” The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” (Job i. 21.) He did not say that the Lord gave, and that the Sabeans had taken away ; but that the Lord gave, and that the Lord had taken away : and therefore he blessed the Lord, believing that all had happened through the divine will.” As it has pleased the Lord, so it is done : blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Ibid.) Being tormented with iron hooks and burning torches, the holy martyrs Epictetus and Atone said: ” Lord, thy will be done in us.” And their last words were : ” Be blessed, eternal God, for having given us the grace to accomplish thy will.”

9. ” Whatsoever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad.” (Prov. xii. 21.) A soul that loves God is not disturbed by any misfortune that may happen to her. Cesarius relates (lib. x., c. vi.), that a certain monk who did not perform greater austerities than his companions, wrought many miracles. Being astonished at this, the abbot asked him one day what were the works of piety which he practiced. He answered, that he was more imperfect than the other monks ; but that his sole concern was to conform himself to the divine will.

Were you displeased, said the abbot, with the person who injured us so grievously a few days ago ? No, father, replied the monk ; I, on the contrary, thanked God for it ; because I know that he does or permits all things for our good. From this answer the abbot perceived the sanctity of the good religious. We should act in a similar manner under all the crosses that come upon us. Let us always say : ” Yea, Father ; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matt. xi. 26.) Lord, this is pleasing to thee, let it be done.

10. He that acts in this manner enjoys that peace which the angels announced at the birth of Jesus Christ to men of good will that is, to those whose wills are united to the will of God. These, as the Apostle says, enjoy that peace which exceeds all sensual delights.  The peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding.” (Phil. iv. 7.) A great and solid peace, which is not liable to change. “A holy man continue in wisdom like the sun ; but a fool is changing like the moon.” (Eccl. xxvii 12.)

Fools that is, sinners are  changed like the moon, which increases to-day, and grows less on to-morrow ; to-day they are seen to laugh through folly, and to-morrow, to weep through despair ; to-day they are humble and meek, to-morrow, proud and furious. In a word, sinners change with prosperity and adversity but the just are like the sun, always the same, always serene in whatever happens to them.

In the inferior part of the soul they cannot but feel some pain at the misfortunes which befall them ; but, as long as the will remains united to the will of God, nothing- can deprive them of that spiritual joy which is not subject to the vicissitudes of this life. ” Your joy no man shall take from you.” (John xvi. 22.)

11. He that reposes in the divine will, is like a man placed above the clouds : he sees the lightning, and hears the claps of thunder, and the raging of the tempest below, but he is not injured or disturbed by them. And how can he be ever disturbed, when whatever he desires always happens ? He that desires only what pleases God, always obtains whatsoever he wishes, because all that happens to him, happens through the will of God.

Salvian says, that Christians who are resigned, if they be in a low condition of life, wish to be in that state ; if they be poor, they desire poverty ; because they wish whatever God wills, and therefore they are always content. ” Humiles sunt, hoc volunt, pau- peres sunt, paupertate delectantur : itaque beati dicendi sunt.” If cold, or heat, or rain, or wind come on, he that is united to the will of God says : I wish for this cold, this heat, this rain, and this wind, because God wills them. If loss of property, persecution, sickness, or even death come upon him, he says : I wish for this loss, this persecution, this sickness ; I even wish for death, when it comes, because God wills it.

And how can a person who seeks to please God, enjoy greater happiness than that which arises from cheerfully em bracing the cross which God sends him, and from the conviction that, in embracing it, he pleases God in the highest degree ? So great was the joy which St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to feel at the bare mention of the will of God, that she would fall into an ecstasy.

12. But, how great is the folly of those who resist the divine will, and, instead of receiving tribulations with patience, get into a rage, and accuse God of treating them with injustice and cruelty ! Perhaps they expect that, in consequence of their opposition, what God wills shall not happen ? ” Who resisteth his will ?” (Rom. ix. 19.) Miserable men ! instead of lightening the cross which God sends them, they make it more heavy and painful. ” Who hath resisted him, and hath peace ?” (Job ix. 4.)

Let us be resigned to the divine will, and we shall thus render our crosses light, and shall gain great treasures of merits for eternal life. In sending us tribulations, God intends to make us saints. ” This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thess. iv. 3.) He sends us crosses, not because he wishes evil to us, but because he desires our welfare, and because he knows that they are conducive to our salvation. ” All things work together unto good.” (Rom. viii. 28.) Even the chastisements which come from the Lord are not for our destruction, but for our good and for the correction of our faults. ”

Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord….have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.” (Jud. viii. 27.) God loves us so tenderly, that he not only desires, but is solicitous about our welfare. ” The Lord,” says David, ” is careful for me.” (Ps. xxxix. 18.) 13. Let us, then, always throw ourselves into the hands of God, who so ardently desires and so anxiously watches over our eternal salvation. ” Casting all your care upon him ; for he hath care of you.” (1 Peter v. 7.)

He who, during life, casts himself into the hands of God, shall lead a happy life and shall die a holy death. He who dies resigned to the divine will, dies a saint ; but they who shall not have been united to the divine will during life, shall not conform to it at death, and shall not be saved. The accomplishment of the divine will should be the sole object of all our thoughts during the remainder of our days.

To this end we should direct all our devotions, our meditations, communions, visits to the blessed sacrament, and all our prayers. We should constantly beg of God to teach and help us to do his will. “Teach me to do thy will.” (Ps. cxlii. 10.) Let us, at the same time, offer ourselves to accept without reserve whatever he ordains, saying, with the Apostle : ” Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” (Acts ix. 6.)

Lord, tell me what thou dost wish me to do I desire to do thy will. And in all things, whether they be pleasing or painful, let us always have in our mouths that petition of the PATER NOSTER- ” Thy will be done ” Let us frequently repeat it in the day, with all the affection of our hearts. Happy we, if we live and die saying : ” Thy will be done Thy will be done !”

On Human Respect – Sermon From St. Alphonsus De Liguori

” Whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth a service to God.”
JOHN xvi. 2.

St. Alphonsus

IN exhorting his disciples to be faithful to him under the

persecution which they were to endure, the Saviour said :
* Yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will
think that he doeth a service to God.” Thus, the enemies
of the faith believed that in putting Christians to death
they did a service to God. It is thus that many Chris
tians of the present day act. They kill their own souls
by losing the grace of God through human respect and
to please worldly friends. Oh ! how many souls has
human respect that great enemy of our salvation
sent to hell ! I shall speak on this subject to-day, that,
if you wish to serve God and save your souls, you may
guard as much as possible against human respect. In
the first point, I will show the importance of not being
influenced by human respect ; and in the second, I will
point out the means by which this vice may be over
come.

First Point On the importance of not being influenced by human respect.

1. “Woe to the world because of scandals.” (Matt,
xviii. 7.) Jesus Christ has said, that through the scan
dals of the wicked, many souls fall into hell. But how
is it possible to live in the midst of the world, and not
to take scandal ? This is impossible. To avoid taking
scandal, St. Paul says, we should leave this world.
” Otherwise you must needs go out of this world.”
( I Cor. v. 10.) But it is in our power to avoid fami
liarity with scandalous sinners. Hence the Apostle
adds : ” But now I have written to you not to keep
company …. with such an one, not as much as to eat.”
(Ibid. v. 11.) We should beware of contracting intimacy
with such sinners ; for, should we be united with them
in the bonds of friendship, we shall feel an unwillingness
to oppose their bad practices and bad counsels. Thus,
through human respect and the fear of contradicting
them, we will imitate their example, and lose the friend
ship of God.

2. Such lovers of the world not only glory in their
own iniquities (“They rejoice in most wicked things.”
Prov. ii. 14) ; but, what is worse, they wish to have
companions, and ridicule all who endeavour to live like
true Christians and to avoid the dangers of offending
God. This is a sin which is very displeasing to God,
and which he forbids in a particular manner. ” Despise
not a man that turneth away from sin, nor reproach
him therewith.” (Eccl. viii. 6.) Despise not those
who keep at a distance from sin, and seek not to
draw them to evil by your reproaches and irregulari
ties. The Lord declares, that, for those who throw
ridicule on the virtuous, chastisements are prepared in
this and in the next life. ” Judgments are prepared for
scorners, and striking hammers for the bodies of fools.”
(Prov. xix. 29.) They mock the servants of God, and
he shall mock them for all eternity. “But the Lord
shall laugh them to scorn. And they shall fall after
this without honour, and be a reproach among the dead
for ever.” (Wis. iv. 18.) They endeavour to make the
saints contemptible in the eyes of the world, and God
shall make them die without honour, and shall send
them to hell to suffer eternal ignominy among the
damned.

3. Not only to offend God, but also to endeavour to
make others offend him, is truly an enormous excess of
wickedness. This execrable intention arises from a con
viction that there are many weak and pusillanimous
souls, who, to escape derision and contempt, abandon
the practice of virtue, and give themselves up to a life
of sin. After his conversion to God, St. Augustine wept
for having associated with those ministers of Lucifer,
and confessed, that he felt ashamed not to be as wicked
and as shameless as they were. ” Pudebat me/ says
the saint, “esse pudentem.” How many, to avoid the
scoffs of wicked friends, have been induced to imitate
their wickedness ! ” Behold the saint/ these impious
scoffers will say ; ” get me a piece of his garment ; I will
preserve it as a relic. Why does he not become a
monk ?” How many also when they receive an insult,
resolve to take revenge, not so much through passion,
as to escape the reputation of being cowards ! How
many are there who, after having inadvertently given
expression to a scandalous maxim, neglect to retract it
(as they are bound to do), through fear of losing the
esteem of others ! How many, because they are afraid
of forfeiting the favour of a friend, sell their souls to the
devil ! They imitate the conduct of Pilate, who, through
the apprehension of losing the friendship of Caesar, con
demned Jesus Christ to death.

4. Be attentive. Brethren, if we wish to save our
souls, we must overcome human respect, and bear the
little confusion which may arise from the scoffs of the
enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ. “For there is a
shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that
bringeth glory and grace.” (Eccl. iv. 25.) If we do not
suffer this confusion with patience, it will lead us into
the pit of si a ; but if we submit to it for God s sake, it
will obtain for us the divine grace here, and great glory
hereafter. “As,” says St. Gregory, ” bashfulness is
laudable in evil, so it is reprehensible in good.” (Horn.
x. in Ezech.)

5. But some of you will say : I attend to my own
affairs ; I wish to save my soul ; why then should I be
persecuted ? But there is no remedy ; it is impossible
to serve God, and not be persecuted. ” The wicked loathe
them that are in the right way.” (Prov. xxix. 27.)
Sinners cannot bear the sight of the man who lives ac
cording to the Gospel, because his life is a continual
censure on their disorderly conduct; and therefore they
say: “Let us lie in wait for the just; because he is
not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and
upbraideth us with transgressions of the law/ (Wis. ii.
12.) The proud man, who seeks revenge for every insult
which he receives, would wish that all should avenge
the offences that may be offered to him. The avaricious,
who grow rich by injustice, wish that all should imitate
their fraudulent practices. The drunkard wishes to see
others indulge like himself in intoxication. The im
moral, who boast of their impurities, and can scarcely
utter a word which does not savour of obscenity, desire
that all should act and speak as they do ; and those
who do not imitate their conduct, they regard as mean,
clownish, and intractable as men without honour and
education. ” They are of the world, therefore of the
world they speak/ (1 John iv. 5.) Worldlings can
speak no other language than that of the world. Oh !
how great is their poverty and blindness ! She has
blinded them, and therefore they speak so profanely.
” These things they thought, and were deceived ; for
their own malice blinded them.” (Wis. ii. 21.)

6. But I say again, that there is no remedy. All, as
St. Paul says, who wish to live in union with Jesus Christ
must be persecuted by the world. “And all that will
live godly in Christ, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. iii.
12.) All the saints have been persecuted. You say: I
do not injure any one ; why then am I not left in
peace ? What evil have the saints, and particularly the
martyrs, done ? They were full of charity ; they loved
all, and laboured to do good to all ; and how have they
been treated by the world ? They have been flayed
alive ; they have been tortured with red-hot plates of
iron; and have been put to death in the most cruel
manner. And whom has Jesus Christ the saint of saints
injured ? He consoled all ; he healed all. ” Virtue
went out from him, and healed all.” (Luke vi. 19.)
And how has the world treated him ? It has persecuted
him, so as to make him die through pain on the infamous
gibbet of the cross.

7. This happens because the maxims of the world are
diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ.
What the world esteems, Jesus Christ regards as folly.
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
(1 Cor. iii. 19.) And what is foolish in the eyes of the
world that is, crosses, sickness, contempt, and ignomi
niesJesus Christ holds in great estimation. ” For the
word^of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolish
ness.” (1 Cor. i. IS.) How, says St. Cyprian, can a man
think himself to be a Christian, when he is afraid to be
a Christian ? ” Christianum se putat si Christianurn
esse veretur p” (Ser. v. de Lapsis.) If we are Christians,
let us show that we are Christians in name and in truth;
for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he will be ashamed
of us, and cannot give us a place on his right hand on
the last day. ” For he that shall be ashamed of me and
my words, of him the Son of Man shall be ashamed
when he shall come in his majesty.” (Luke ix. 2G.) On
the day of judgment he shall say: You have been
ashamed of me on earth : I am now ashamed to see you
with me in Paradise. Begone, accursed souls; go into
hell to meet your companions, who have been ashamed
of me. But mark the words ” he that shall be ashamed
of me and of my words.” St. Augustine says, that some
are ashamed to deny Jesus Christ, but do not blush to
deny the maxims of Jesus Christ. ” Erubescunt negare
Christum, et non erubescunt negare verba Christi.”
(Serm. xlviii.) But you may tell me, that, if you say
you cannot do such an act, because it is contrary to the
Gospel, your friends will turn you into ridicule, and
will call you a hypocrite. Then, says St. John Chry-
sostom, you will not suffer to be treated with derision
by a companion, and you are content to be hated by
God ! JX”on vis a conserve derideri, sed odio haberi a
Deo tuo ?” (Horn. xci. in Act. xix.)

8. The Apostle, who gloried in being a follower of
Christ, said : ” The world is crucified to me, and I to
the world.” (Gal. vi. 14.) As I am a person crucified to
the world an object of its scoffs and injustice, so the
world is to me an object of contempt and abomination.
It is necessary to be convinced, that if we do not trample
on the world, the world will trample on our souls. But
what is the world and all its goods ? ” All that is in
the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the con
cupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John
ii. 16.) To what are all the goods of this earth reduced?
To riches, which are hut dung ; to honours, which are
only smoke ; and to carnal pleasures. But what shall
all these profit us, if we lose our souls ? ” “What doth
it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer
the loss of his soul ?” (Matt. xvi. 26.)

9. He that loves God and wishes to save his soul
must despise the world and all human respect ; and to
do this, everyone must offer violence to himself. St.
Mary Magdalene had to do great violence to herself, in
order to overcome human respect and the murmurings
and scoffs of the world, when, in the presence of so
many persons, she cast herself at the feet of Jesus
Christ, to wash them with her tears, and dry them with
her hair. But she thus became a saint, and merited
from Jesus Christ pardon of her sins, and praise for her
great love. ” Many sins are forgiven her because she
hath loved much.” (Luke vii. 47.) One day, as St.
Francis Borgia carried to certain prisoners a vessel of
broth under his cloak, he met his son mounted on a fine
horse, and accompanied by certain noblemen. The saint
felt ashamed to show what he carried under his cloak.
But what did he do in order to conquer human respect ?
He took the vessel of broth, placed it on his head, and
thus showed his contempt for the world. Jesus Christ,
our Head and Master, when nailed to the cross, was
mocked by the soldiers. ” If thou be the Son of God,
come down from the cross.” (Matt, xxvii. 40.) He was
mocked by the priests, saying : ” He saved others; him
self he cannot save.” (Ibid., v. 42.) But he remained
firm on the cross ; he cheerfully died upon it, and thus
conquered the world.

10. ” I give thanks to God,” says St. Jerome, ” that I
am worthy to be hated by the world.” (Epis. ad Asellam.)
The saint returns thanks to God for having made him
worthy of the hatred of the world. Jesus Christ pro
nounced his disciples blessed when they should be hated
by men. ” Blessed shall you be when men shall hate
you.” (Luke vi. 22.) Christians, let us rejoice ; for, if
worldlings curse and upbraid us, God at the same time
praises and blesses us. “They will curse, and thou
wilt bless.” (Ps. cviii. 28.) Is it not enough for us to be
praised by God, to be praised by the queen of heaven,
by all the angels, by all the saints, and by all just men ?
Let worldlings say what they wish ; but let us continue
to please God, who will give us, in the next life, a
reward proportioned to the violence we shall have done
to ourselves in despising the contradictions of men.
Each of you should figure to himself, that there is no
one in the world but himself and God. When the
wicked treat us with contempt, let us recommend to
God these blind and miserable men, who run in the
road to perdition ; and let us thank the Lord for giving
to us the light which he refuses to them. Let us con
tinue in our own way : to obtain all, it is necessary to
conquer all.

Second Point. On the means of overcoming human
respect.

11. To overcome human respect, it is necessary to fix
in our hearts the holy resolution of preferring the grace
of God to all the goods and favours of this world, and
to say with St. Paul: “Neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, . . . .nor any other
creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of
God.” (Rom. viii. 38, 39.) Jesus Christ exhorts us not
to be afraid of those who can take away the life of the
body ; but to fear him only who can condemn the soul
and body to hell. ” And fear you not them that kill the
body ; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul
and body into hell.” (Matt, x. 28.) We wish either to
follow God or the world ; if we wish to follow God we
must give up the world. ” now long do you halt
between two sides ?” said Elias to the people. ” If the
Lord be God, follow him.” (3 Kings xviii. 21.) You
cannot serve God and the world. He that seeks to
please men cannot please God. ” If,” says the Apostle,
“I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of
Christ/ (Gal. i. 10.)

12. The true servants of God rejoice to see them
selves despised and maltreated for the sake of Jesus
Christ. The holy apostles ” went from the presence of
the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy
to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts v. 41.)
Moses could have prevented the anger of Pharaoh by not
contradicting the current report that he was the son of
Pharaoh s daughter. But he denied that he was her
son, preferring, as St. Paul says, the opprobrium of
Christ to all the riches of the world. * Choosing rather
to be afflicted with the people of God;. .. .esteeming
the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure
of the Egyptians.” (Heb. xi. 25, 26.)

13. Wicked friends come to you and say : What ex
travagances are those in which you indulge ? Why do
you not act like others ? Say to them in answer : My
conduct is not opposed to that of all men ; there are
others who lead a holy life. They are indeed few ; but
I will follow their example; for the Gospel says: “Many
are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. xx. 16.) “If,”
says St. John Climacus, ” you wish to be saved with the
few, live like the few.” But, they will add, do you not
see that all murmur against you, and condemn your
manner of living ? Let your answer be : It is enough
for me that God does not censure my conduct. Is it
not better to obey God than to obey men ? Such was
the answer of St. Peter and St. John to the Jewish
priests : ” If it be just in the sight of God to hear you
rather than God, judge ye.” (Acts iv. 19.) If they ask
you how can you bear an insult ? or how, after submit
ting to it, can you appear among your equals ? answer
them by saying that you are a Christian, and that it is
enough for you to appear well in the eyes of God. Such
should be your answer to all those satellites of Satan:
you must despise all their maxims and reproaches.

And when it is necessary to reprove those who make little of
God s law, you must take courage and correct them
publicly. ” Them that sin, reprove before all.” (1 Tim.
v. 20.) And when there is question of the divine
honour, we should not be frightened by the dignity of
the man who offends God ; let us say to him openly :
This is sinful ; it cannot be done. Let us imitate the
Baptist, who reproved King Herod for living with his
brother s wife, and said to him: “It is not lawful for
thee to have her.” (Matt. xiv. 4.) Men indeed shall
regard us as fools, and turn us into derision ; but, on the
day of judgment they shall acknowledge that they have
been foolish, and we shall have the glory of being num
bered among the saints. They shall say : ” These are
they whom we had sometime in derision. .. .We fools
esteemed their life madness, and their end without
honour. Behold how they are numbered among the
children of God, and their lot is among the saints.”
(Wis. v. 3, 4, 5.)