WE MUST PLACE ALL OUR HOPES IN THE MERITS OF JESUS CHRIST.
Jesus Crucified is our only Hope in all our Wants.
There is no salvation in any other.1 St. Peter says that all our salvation is in Jesus Christ, who, by means of the cross, where he sacrificed his life for us, opened us a way for hoping for every blessing from God, if we would be faithful to his commands.
Let us hear what St. John Chrysostom says of the cross: “The cross is the hope of Christians, the staff of the lame, the comfort of the poor, the destruction of the proud, the victory over the devils, the guide of youth, the rudder of sailors, the refuge of those who are in danger, the counsellor of the just, the rest of the afflicted, the physician of the sick, the glory of martyrs.”2 The cross, that is, Jesus crucified, is—
The hope of the faithful, because if we had not Jesus Christ we should have no hope of salvation.
It is the staff of the lame, because we are all lame in our present state of corruption. We should have no strength to walk in the way of salvation except that which is communicated to us by the grace of Jesus Christ.
It is the comfort of the poor, which we all are, for all we have we have from Jesus Christ.
It is the destruction of the proud, for the followers of the Crucified cannot be proud, seeing him dead as a malefactor upon the cross.
It is victory over the devils, for the very sign of the cross is sufficient to drive them from us.
It is the instructor of the young, for admirable is the teaching which they who are beginning to walk in the ways of God learn from the cross.
It is the rudder of mariners, and guides us through the storms of this present life.
It is the refuge of those in danger, for they who are in peril of perishing, through temptations of strong passions, find a secure harbor by flying to the cross.
It is the counsellor of the just, for how many saints learn wisdom from the cross, that is, from the troubles of this life.
It is the rest of the afflicted, for where can they find greater relief than in contemplating the cross, on which a God suffers for love of them?
It is the physician of the sick, for when they embrace it, they are healed of the wounds of the soul.
It is the glory of martyrs, for to be made like Jesus Christ, the King of Martyrs, is the greatest glory they can possess.
In a word, all our hopes are placed in the merits of Jesus Christ. The Apostle says, I know how to be humbled, and I know how to abound; how to be satisfied, and how to hunger; how to abound, and how to suffer poverty. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.3 (In the Greek text, In Christ who is strengthening me.4) Thus St. Paul, instructed by the Lord, says, I know how I ought to conduct myself: when God humbles me, I resign myself to his will; when he exalts me, to him I give all the honor; when he gives me abundance, I thank him; when he makes me endure poverty, still I bless him; and I do all this not by my own strength, but by the strength of the grace which God gives me. For he that trusts in Jesus Christ is strengthened with invincible power.
The Lord, says St. Bernard, makes those who hope in him all-powerful.5 The saint also adds that a soul which does not presume upon its own strength, but is strengthened by the Word, can govern itself, so that no evil shall have power over it;6 and that no force, no fraud, no snare can cast it down.7
The Apostle prayed thrice to God that the impure temptations which troubled him might be driven away, and he was answered, My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is accomplished in weakness.8 How is this that the virtue of perfection consists in weakness? St. Thomas, with St. Chrysostom, explains it, that the greater our weakness and inclination to evil, the greater is the strength given us by God. Therefore, St. Paul himself says, I will gladly, therefore, glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.9
For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to those who are saved it is the power of God.10 Thus St. Paul warns us not to follow after worldly men, who place their trust in riches, in their relatives and friends in the world, and account the saints fools for despising those earthly helps; yet men ought to place all their hopes in the love of the cross,—that is, of Jesus crucified, who gives every blessing to those who trust in him. We must further remark that the power and strength of the world is altogether different from that of God; it is exercised in worldly riches and honors, but the latter in humility and endurance. Wherefore St. Augustine says that our strength lies in knowing that we are weak, and in humbly confessing what we are.11 And St. Jerome says, that this one thing constitutes the perfection of the present life, that we should know that we are imperfect.12 For then we distrust our own strength, and abandon ourselves to God, who protects and saves those who trust in him. He is the protector of all who hope in Him, says David. Thou savest those who hope in Thee.13 He that trusts in the Lord is like the Mount Sion, which is never removed.14 Therefore St. Augustine reminds us that, when we are tempted, we must hasten and abandon ourselves in Jesus Christ, who will not suffer us to fall, but will embrace and hold us up, and thus remedy our weakness.15
When Jesus Christ took upon himself the weaknesses of humanity, he merited for us a strength which conquers our weakness: For in that He Himself hath suffered and been tempted, He is powerful to help those who are tempted.16 How is this, that the Saviour in being himself tempted, became able to strengthen us in our temptations? It is meant that Jesus Christ, by being afflicted by temptations, became more ready to feel for us and help us when we are tempted. To this corresponds that other text of the same Apostle, We have not a High Priest who cannot feel compassion for our infirmities; but was in all things tempted like us, though without sin. Therefore let us go with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in the help we need.17
Jesus himself, in enduring fears, weariness, and sorrows, as the Evangelists bear witness, speaking especially of the afflictions that he endured in the garden of Gethsemani the night before he suffered,18 has merited for us a courage to resist the threats of those who would corrupt us, a strength to overcome the weariness we experience in prayer, in mortifications, and other devout exercises, and a power of enduring with peace of mind that sadness which afflicts us in adversity.
We must also know that he himself in the garden, at the sight of all the pains and the desolate death that he was about to endure, chose to suffer this human weakness. The spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak;19 and he prayed to his divine Father that, if it were possible, the cup might pass from him.20 But immediately he added, Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.21 And for the whole time that he continued praying in the garden, he repeated the same prayer, Thy will be done; and the third time he prayed, saying the same thing. With those words, Thy will be done,22 Jesus Christ merited and obtained for us resignation in all adversity, and gained for his martyrs and confessors a strength to resist all the persecutions and torments of tyrants. “This word,” says St. Leo, “inflamed all the confessors, it crowned all the martyrs.”23
Thus also by the horror that he experienced through our sins, which caused him to fall into a bitter agony in the garden,24 he merited for us contrition for our sins. By the abandonment by the Father which he suffered on the cross, he merited for us strength to retain our courage in all desolations and darknesses of spirit. By bowing his head in death upon the cross, in obedience to the will of the Father,25 he merited for us all the victories which we gain over passions and temptations; and patience in the pains of life, and especially in the bitternesses and straits which we endure in death. In a word, St. Leo writes that Jesus Christ came to take our infirmities and distresses, in order to communicate to us his strength and constancy.26
St. Paul says, that though he was the Son of God, he learned obedience in the things that he suffered;27 from which we are to understand, not that Jesus in his Passion learned the virtue of obedience, and did not know it beforehand, but, as St. Anselm says, he learned not only by the knowledge which he had before, but by actual experience, how grievous was the death he endured in order to obey his Father. And at the same time he experienced how great is the merit of obedience, for by this he obtained for himself the utmost height of glory, which is the seat at his Father’s right hand, and eternal salvation for us. Therefore the Apostle adds, Being perfected, He became Me cause of eternal life to all them that obey Him.28 He says, being perfected, because, having completely fulfilled all obedience, by suffering patiently what he endured in his Passion, Jesus Christ became the cause of eternal life to all those who obediently suffer with patience the troubles of this present life.
By this patience of Jesus Christ the holy martyrs were animated and strengthened to embrace with patience the most cruel torments that the cruelty of tyrants could devise; and not only with patience, but with joy and desire to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ. In the celebrated letter which St. Ignatius the martyr wrote to the Romans after he had been condemned to be thrown to the wild beasts, and before he went to the place of his martyrdom, we read, “Suffer me, my children, to be ground down by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may become corn for my Redeemer. I seek only him who died for me. He who is the only object of my love was crucified for me, and the love I bear to him makes me desire to be crucified for him.” St. Leo29 writes of St. Laurence the martyr, that when he lay upon the gridiron, the flames which burned him without were less hot than the fire that burned within him. Eusebius30 and Palladius31 relate of St. Potamena, a virgin of Alexandria, that when she was condemned to be thrown in a caldron of boiling pitch, that she might suffer the more for the love of her crucified Spouse, she prayed the tyrant to have her thrust in little by little, that her death might become more torturing; and she had her desire, for they began by thrusting her feet into the pitch, so that she was for three hours in this torment, and did not die till the pitch reached her neck. Such was the patience, such the fortitude which the martyrs gained from the Passion of Jesus Christ.
It was this courage which the Crucified infuses into those who love him, that made St. Paul say, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or hunger, or nakedness, or perils, or persecution, or the sword?32 And at the same time he says, In all these things we are conquerors through Him who loved us.33 The love of the martyrs for Jesus Christ was unconquerable, because it gained its strength from him who is unconquerable, who strengthened them to suffer. And let us not imagine that the torments of the martyrs were miraculously deprived of their power of torturing, or that their heavenly consolations lulled the pains of the torments; this perhaps may sometimes have happened, but ordinarily they truly felt all their pains, and many through weakness yielded to the pangs; so that in the case of those who were constant in suffering, their patience was entirely the gift of God, who gave them their strength.
The first object of our hopes is eternal blessedness, that is, the blessedness of God,—the fruition of God, as St. Thomas teaches.34 And all the means which are necessary for obtaining this salvation, which consists in the enjoyment of God,—such as the pardon of our sins, final perseverance in divine grace, and a good death,—we must hope for, not from our own strength, nor our good resolutions, but solely from the merits and grace of Jesus Christ. That our confidence, therefore, may be firm, let us believe with infallible certainty that we must look for the accomplishment of all these means of salvation only from the merits of Jesus Christ.
The Hope that We have in Jesus Christ that He will pardon our Sins.
And first, in speaking of the pardon of sins, we must remember that for this very end our Redeemer came upon earth, that he might pardon sinners: The Son of Man came to save that which was lost.35 Therefore the Baptist, when he showed to the Jews that their Messiah was already come, said, Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.36 As it was foretold by Isaias, As a sheep before her shearers, He shall be dumb;37 and also by Jeremias, I am as a lamb that is carried to be a victim.38 And first, he was foreshadowed by Moses in the paschal lamb, and by the sacrifice of a lamb to God under the law every morning, and by other evening sacrifices. All these lambs, however, could not take away a single sin; they served only to represent the sacrifice of the divine Lamb Jesus Christ, who with his blood would wash our souls, and thus free them both from the stain of sin and from the eternal punishment of sin, for this is implied by the words take away; taking upon himself the duty of satisfying the divine justice for us by his death, according to what Isaias wrote, The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.39 Wherefore St. Cyril writes, “One is slain for all, and the whole human race is restored to God the Father.”40 By dying, Jesus desired to regain for God all mankind who were lost.
Oh, how great is the debt we owe to Jesus Christ! If a criminal condemned to death were already standing at the gibbet with the rope around his neck, and a friend were to come and take the rope, and bind it round himself, and die in place of the guilty man, how great would be his obligation to love him! This is what Jesus Christ has done; He has been willing to die on the cross to deliver us from eternal death.
Jesus bore our sins, says St. Peter, in His body on the tree, that, being dead to sin, we might live to justice; by whose stripes we were healed.41 “What can be more wonderful,” cries St. Bonaventure, “than that wounds should heal, and death give life?”42 St. Paul says that God has graced us in His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which have superabounded in us.43 And this resulted from the covenant made by Jesus Christ with his divine Father, that he would pardon us our offences, and receive us into his favor for the sake of the Passion and death of his Son.
And in this sense the Apostle called Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Testament. In the Holy Scriptures the word Testament has two senses; that of a covenant, or an agreement between two parties formerly disagreed; and that of a promise, or disposition by will, by which the testator leaves an inheritance to his heirs; and this testament is not valid until the testator’s death. We have formerly spoken of the Testament as a promise; we now speak of it as a covenant, in the sense in which the Apostle uses it when he calls Jesus Christ the Mediator of the New Testament.44
Man, by reason of his sin, was a debtor to the divine justice, and an enemy of God; the Son of God came on earth and took man’s flesh; and thus, being God and man, he became a mediator between God and man, acting on behalf of both; and in order that he might bring about peace between them, and obtain for man the divine grace, he offered himself to pay with his blood and his death the debt due by man. This was the reconciliation prefigured in the Old Testament by all the sacrifices and symbols ordained by God, such as the tabernacle, the altar, the veil, the candlestick, the censer, the ark, wherein were contained the rod and the tables of the law. All these things were signs and figures of the promised redemption; and because this redemption was to be accomplished by the blood of Jesus Christ, therefore God appointed that all the sacrifices should be offered with the pouring-forth of the blood of the animals (which was a figure of the blood of the Lamb of God), while all the instruments above named were sprinkled with the blood: Wherefore, not even the Old Testament was dedicated without blood.45
St. Paul says that the first Testament—that is, the first alliance, covenant, or mediation—which was accomplished by the old law, and which prefigured the mediation of Jesus Christ under the old law, was celebrated with the blood of goats and calves; and that with this blood were sprinkled the book, the people, the tabernacle, and all the sacred vessels: When the commandment of the law of Moses was read to all the people, the priest taking the blood of calves and goats with water and with scarlet wool46 (the scarlet wool signified Jesus Christ, for as wool is by nature white, and becomes red by being dyed, thus Jesus, who was white by nature and innocence, appeared on the cross all red with blood, being condemned as a malefactor, and thus fulfilled in himself the words of the Spouse in the Canticles, My beloved is white and is ruddy)47 and with hyssop (a lowly herb, which expressed the humility of Jesus Christ), sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded; and in like manner he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of ministration with blood.48 For all things are purged with blood according to the law, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.49 The Apostle repeats the word blood several times, in order to fix in the hearts of the Jews, and of all men, that without the blood of Jesus Christ we have no hope of pardon for our sins. As, then, in the old law, by the blood of the victims the outward defilement of sin was taken away, and the temporal punishment due to them was remitted; so, in the new law, the blood of Jesus Christ washes away the inward stain of sin, according to St. John’s words, He loved us, and washed us with His own blood.50
St. Paul thus explains the whole truth in the same chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Christ being a High Priest of coming good things, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats, but by His own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.51 The high-priest entered by the tabernacle into the Holy of Holies, and, by sprinkling the blood of animals, purged sinners from their outward defilement and from temporal punishment; for in order to the pardon of the sin, and for their liberation from eternal punishment, contrition, faith, and hope in the coming Messiah, who was about to die to obtain pardon for them, were absolutely necessary for the Jews. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, by means of his own body (which was the greater and more perfect tabernacle spoken of by the Apostle), which was sacrificed on the cross, entered into the Holy of Holies of heaven, which was closed to us, and opened it to us by means of this redemption.
Therefore St. Paul, in order to encourage us to hope for the pardon of all our sins, by trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ, goes on to say: If the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on the unclean, sanctifies to the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, by the Holy Spirit, offered Himself without stain to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God!52 This he says because Jesus offered himself to God without shadow of sin, for otherwise he would not have been a worthy mediator, fit to reconcile God with sinful man, nor would his blood have had virtue to purge our consciences from dead works—that is, from sins, from the works without merit, and deserving of eternal punishment, to serve the living God. God pardons us for no other end than that for the rest of our life we should devote it wholly to loving and serving him.
Finally, the Apostle concludes, Therefore He is the mediator of the new covenant. Because our Redeemer, through the boundless love he bore us, was willing by the price of his blood, to deliver us from eternal death, therefore he obtained for us from God pardon, grace, and eternal blessedness, if we are faithful to love him until death. This was the mediation or covenant accomplished between Jesus Christ and God, by the terms of which pardon and salvation are promised us.
This promise of pardon for our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ was confirmed to us by Jesus himself the day before his death, when, leaving to us the sacrament of the Eucharist, he said, This is My blood of the new covenant, which shall be poured forth for many for the remission of sins.53 He says, poured forth, because in the sacrifice which was at hand he was about to shed not only a part, but the whole of his blood, to satisfy for our sins, and obtain pardon for us. Therefore he desired that the sacrifice should be renewed every day at every Mass that is celebrated, in order that his blood might continually plead in our favor. And therefore he is called a priest after the order of Melchisedech: Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedech.54 Aaron offered sacrifices of animals, but Melchisedech offered bread and wine, which was a figure of the sacrifice of the altar, in which our Saviour, under the species of bread and wine, offered at his last supper his body and blood to God, as he was about to sacrifice it on the following day in his Passion; and which he constantly offers by the hands of his priests, renewing by them the sacrifice of the cross. Therefore David called Jesus Christ an eternal priest, as St. Paul explains it, saying, He that remaineth forever hath an eternal priesthood.55 The ancient priests came to an end by their death, but Jesus, being eternal, has an eternal priesthood. But how does he exercise his priesthood in heaven? The Apostle explains this, adding, Wherefore he is able to save forever those who come to God by Him, ever living to intercede for us.56 The great sacrifice of the cross, represented still in that of the altar, has power forever to save those who, by means of Jesus Christ (being rightly prepared by faith and good works), approach to God; and this sacrifice, as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine write, Jesus, as man, continues to offer to the Father for our benefit, performing there, as he did on earth, the office of our advocate and mediator, and also of our priest, which is to intercede for us.
St. John Chrysostom says that the wounds of Jesus Christ are so many mouths,57 which continually implore from God pardon for us sinners. Oh, how much better, says St. Paul, does the blood of Jesus Christ plead for us in calling down the divine mercy than the blood of Abel,58 which called for vengeance against Cain! In the revelations of St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi it is recorded that one day God spoke to her as follows: “My justice is changed into mercy through the vengeance that was taken upon the innocent flesh of Jesus Christ. The blood of my Son does not call for vengeance like the blood of Abel, but for mercy only, and at this voice my justice is necessarily appeased. The blood binds my hands, so that they cannot move to take that revenge upon sins which they would otherwise have taken.”
St. Augustine writes that God has promised us the remission of our sins and eternal life, but he has done more than he promised.59 To give us pardon and paradise cost Jesus Christ nothing, but to redeem us cost him his blood and his life. The Apostle St. John exhorts us to flee from sin; and, in order that we may not despair of pardon for the sins we have committed, if we have a firm resolution not to commit them again, he gives us courage to hope for pardon, saying that we have to do with Jesus Christ, who not only died to pardon us, but, since his death, is become our advocate with the divine Father.60 To our sins were due disgrace with God and eternal damnation; but the Passion of our Saviour has acquired for us grace and eternal salvation; and justice itself requires this, since, on account of his merits, the Eternal Father has promised to pardon and save us, if we are only disposed to receive his grace and to obey his commands, as St. Paul writes, Being made perfect, He is the cause of eternal salvation to-all that obey Him.61 Wherefore the Apostle exhorts us to run with patience the race that is before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith; who, for the sake of the joy that was before him, endured the cross, and despised shame.62
O precious blood! Thou art my hope. O blood of the innocent one! wash the stains of the guilty.63 O my Jesus! my foes having betrayed me into offending Thee, now tell me that I have no more hope of salvation in Thee; many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God.64 But I trust in Thy blood that Thou hast shed for me. I will say with David, Thou, O Lord, wilt lift me up.65 My foes terrify me, and say that if I go to Thee, after so many sins, Thou wilt drive me from Thee; but I read in St. John Thy promise, that him who cometh to Thee, Thou wilt not cast out.66 To Thee, therefore, I come, full of confidence. We pray Thee, help Thy servants, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.67 Thou, O my Saviour, who hast poured forth all Thy blood in such agonies, and with such love, that Thou mightest not see me perish, do Thou have mercy on me, pardon me, and save me.
The Hope that we have in Jesus Christ that He will grant us Final Perseverance.
To obtain perseverance in good, we must not trust in our resolutions and in the promises we have made to God; if we trust in our own strength, we are lost. All our hope of preserving the grace of God must be placed in the merits of Jesus Christ, and thus, trusting in his help, we shall persevere till death, though we were attacked by all our enemies in earth and hell. Sometimes we find ourselves so cast down in mind, and so assaulted by temptations, that we seem almost lost; let us not then lose courage, nor abandon ourselves to despair; let us go to the Crucified, and he will hold us up.
The Lord permits his saints sometimes to find themselves in tempests and fears. St. Paul says that the afflictions and terrors which he suffered in Asia were so overpowering that he became weary of life;68 meaning that he was so, so far as he depended on his own strength, in order to teach us that God, from time to time, leaves us in desolations, in order that we may know our misery, and, distrusting ourselves, may humbly have recourse to his goodness, and gain from him strength not to fall.69 More clearly he expresses the same in another place, We are cast down, but we perish not.70 We find ourselves oppressed with sadness and passions, but do not abandon ourselves to despair; we are tossed about on the water, but do not sink, because the Lord, by his grace, gives us strength against our enemies. But the Apostle exhorts us ever to bear before our eyes that we are weak, and prone to lose the treasure of divine grace, and that all our strength for preserving it comes not from ourselves but from God: We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the loftiness of the power may be of God, and not of ourselves.71
Let us, then, be firmly persuaded that in this life we must ever beware of placing any confidence in our own works. Our strongest armor with which we shall ever win the victory over the assaults of hell is prayer. This is the armor of God of which St. Paul speaks: Put on the armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places. Therefore, take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one; and take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God), by all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the Spirit.72
Let us pause and weigh well these various expressions.
Stand, having your loins girl about with truth.73 There the Apostle alludes to the military girdle with which soldiers gird themselves as a token of the fidelity which they have sworn to their sovereign. The girdle which the Christian must put on is the possession of the truth of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, in accordance with which we must repress all inordinate passions, especially those of impurity, which are the most dangerous of all.
Having on the breastplate of justice.74 The Christian’s breastplate is a good life, without which he will have little strength to resist the assaults of his foes.
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.75 The military shoes which the Christian ought to wear, in order that he may go speedily where it is necessary, unlike those whose feet are bare, and who walk slowly, is the possession of a mind prepared to embrace in practice, and to teach by example, the holy maxims of the Gospel.
In all things taking the shield of faith.76 The shield with which the soldier of Christ must defend himself against the fiery darts (that is, darts which pierce like fire) of the enemy is a steady faith, strengthened with holy hope, and especially with divine charity. The helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.77 The helmet, as St. Anselm teaches us, is the hope of eternal salvation; and, lastly, the sword of the Spirit, our spiritual sword, is the divine word, by which God repeatedly promises to hear those who pray to him. Seek, and it shall he given you.78 He that seeketh, receiveth.79 Call to Me, and I will hear thee.80 Call Me, and I will deliver thee.81
Wherefore the Apostle continues, By all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints.82 Thus, prayer is the most powerful of the arms with which the Lord gives us victory over our evil passions and the temptations of hell; but this prayer must be made in the spirit; that is, not with the mouth only, but with the heart. Moreover, it must last through our life,—“at all times;” for as the struggle endures, so must our prayers. It must be urgent and repeated; if the temptation does not yield at the first prayer, we must repeat it a second, third, or fourth time; and if it still continues, we must add sighs, tears, importunity, vehemence, as if we would do violence to God, that he may give us the grace of victory. This is what the Apostle’s words, “with all instance and supplication,” mean. The Apostle adds, “for all saints,” which means that we are not to pray for ourselves alone; but for the perseverance of all the faithful who are in the grace of God, and especially of priests, that they may labor for the conversion of unbelievers and all sinners, repeating in our prayers the words of Zacharias, To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.83
It is of great use for resisting our enemies in spiritual combats, to anticipate them in our meditations, by preparing ourselves to do violence to them to our utmost power, on all occasions when they may suddenly come upon us. Thus the saints have been able to preserve the greatest mildness, or at least not to reply by a single word, and not to be disturbed when they have received a great injury, a violent persecution, a severe pang in body or in mind, the loss of property of great value, the death of a much-loved relative. Such victories are ordinarily not acquired without the aid of a life of long discipline, without frequenting sacraments, and a continual exercise of meditation, spiritual reading, and prayer. Therefore these victories are with difficulty obtained by those who have not taken great heed to avoid dangerous occasions, or who are attached to the vanities or pleasures of the world, and practise very little the mortification of the senses; by those, in a word, who live a soft and easy life. St. Augustine says that in the spiritual life, “first, pleasures are to be conquered, then pains;”84 meaning that a person who is given to seek the pleasures of the senses will scarcely resist a great passion or temptation which assails him; a man who loves too much the esteem of the world will scarcely endure a grave affront without losing the grace of God.
It is true that we must look for all our strength to live without sin, and to do good works, not from ourselves, but from the grace of Jesus Christ; but we must take great care not to make ourselves weaker than we are by nature through our own fault. The defects of which we take no account will cause the divine light to fail, and the devil will become stronger against us. For example, a desire to display to the world our learning, rank, or vanity in dress, or the seeking of any superfluous pleasure, or resentment at every inattentive word or action, or a wish to please every one, though at the loss of our spiritual profit, or neglect of works of piety through the fear of man, or little acts of disobedience towards our Superiors, little murmurings, trifling but cherished aversions, trivial falsehoods, slight attacks upon our neighbor, loss of time in gossip, or the indulgence of curiosity,—in a word, every attachment to earthly things, and every act of inordinate self-love, can serve as a help to our enemy to drag us over some precipice; or, at least, this defect deliberately consented to will deprive us of that abundance of divine help without which we may find ourselves fallen into ruin.
We grieve when we find ourselves so dry in spirit and desolate in prayer, in Communions, and in all our devout exercises; but how can God make us enjoy his presence and loving visits while we are thus niggardly and inattentive to him? He that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly.85 If we cause him so much displeasure, how can we expect to enjoy his heavenly consolations? If we do not detach ourselves in everything from earth, we shall never wholly belong to Jesus Christ, and where shall we go to protect ourselves? Jesus, by his humility, merited for us the grace of conquering pride; by his poverty he merited strength for us to despise earthly goods; and by his patience, constancy in overcoming slights and injuries. “What pride,” writes St. Augustine, “could have been healed, if not healed by the humility of the Son of God? what avarice, except by the poverty of Christ? what anger, except by the Saviour’s patience?”86 But if we are cold in the love of Jesus Christ, and neglect to pray continually to him to help us, and nourish in our hearts any earthly affection, with difficulty shall we persevere in a good life. Let us pray, let us pray always. With prayer we shall obtain everything.
O Saviour of the world! O my only hope! by the merits of Thy Passion, deliver me from every impure desire which may hinder me from loving Thee as I ought. May I be stripped of all desires that savor of the world; grant that the only object of my desires may be Thyself, who art the sovereign good, and the only good that is worthy of love. By Thy sacred wounds heal my infirmities, give me grace to keep far from my heart every love which is not for Thee, who deservest all my love. O Jesus, my love! Thou art my hope. O sweet words! sweet consolation! Jesus, my love, Thou art my hope!
The Hope that we have in Jesus Christ that He will grant us Eternal Happiness.
And therefore He is the mediator of Me New Testament, that by means of His death . . . they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.87 Here St. Paul speaks of the New Testament not as a covenant, but as a promise, or testamentary disposition, by which Jesus Christ left us heirs of the kingdom of heaven. And because a testament is not in force until the death of the testator, therefore it was necessary that Jesus Christ should die, that we might become his heirs, and enter into the possession of paradise. Wherefore the Apostle adds, For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must of necessity come in. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is as yet of no strength whilst the testator liveth.88
Through the merits of Jesus Christ our mediator we have received grace in baptism to become the sons of God; unlike the Jews, who, under the old covenant, though they were the elect, were yet all servants. Whence the Apostle writes, For there are two covenants, of which one on Mount Sina engendereth to bondage.89 The first mediation was made with God by Moses on Mount Sina, when God, through Moses, promised to the Jews the abundance of temporal blessings, if they observed the laws which he gave them; but this mediation, says St. Paul, only produced servants, unlike the mediation of Jesus Christ, which produces sons: We, brethren, like Isaac, are the children of promise.90 If, then, being Christians, we are the sons of God, by consequence, says the Apostle, we are also heirs;91 for a portion of the father’s inheritance is given to all sons, and this is the inheritance of eternal glory in paradise, which Jesus Christ has merited for us by his death.
St. Paul nevertheless adds, in the same place, If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him.92 It is true that, by our sonship to God, which Jesus Christ has obtained for us by his death, we have acquired a right to paradise; but this is on the supposition that we are faithful to correspond to the divine grace by our good works, and especially by holy patience. Therefore the Apostle says that in order to obtain eternal glory, as Jesus Christ has obtained it, we must suffer upon earth as Jesus Christ suffered. He goes before, as our captain, with his cross; under this standard we must follow him, each bearing his own cross, as the same Lord admonishes us, He that will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.93
St. Paul also exhorts us to suffer with courage, strengthened by the hope of paradise, reminding us that the glory which will be given us in the next life will be infinitely greater than all our sufferings, if we suffer here with good will, in order to fulfil the divine pleasure: I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.94 What beggar would be so foolish as not to give gladly all his rags for a great kingdom? We do not as yet enjoy this glory, because we are not yet saved, not having finished our life in the grace of God; but hope in the merits of Jesus Christ, says St. Paul, will save us: We are saved by hope.95 He will not fail to give us every help to save us, if we are faithful to him, and continue to pray; and the promise of Jesus Christ assures us that he hears every one who prays: Every one that seeketh, receiveth.96 Some one will say, I fear, not that God will refuse to hear me, if I pray to him, but I fear for myself, that I should not know how to pray as I ought. No, says St. Paul, fear not this, for when we pray, God himself aids our weakness, and makes us pray so as to be heard. The Spirit helpeth our infirmity, and asketh for us.97 He asks, explains St. Austin, that is, he helps us to ask.98
The Apostle would still further increase our confidence; he says, We know that all things work together for good to those that love God.99 By this he teaches us that shame, sickness, poverty, persecutions, are not evils, as men of the world account them; for God turns them all into blessings and glory for those who suffer with patience. Finally, he says, Those whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.100 With these words he would persuade us that, if we would be saved, we must resolve to suffer everything rather than lose the divine grace, for no one can be admitted to the glory of the blessed, unless at the day of judgment his life be found conformed to the life of Jesus Christ. And that sinners may not, through these words, abandon themselves to despair on account of their guilt, St. Paul encourages them to hope for pardon, telling them that for this end the Eternal Father has not spared his own son, who was offered to satisfy for our sins, but gave him up to death,101 that he might pardon us sinners; and still further to increase the hope of penitent sinners, he says, Who is he that shall condemn? Is it Jesus Christ who died?102 as though he had said, Sinners, you who detest your sins, why do you fear to be condemned to hell? Tell me who is your judge,—who is to condemn you? Is it not Jesus Christ? How, then, can you fear that you will be condemned to death by this loving Redeemer, who, that he might not condemn you, has been willing to condemn himself to die as a malefactor upon the infamous gibbet of the cross? He speaks, indeed, of those sinners who, being contrite, have washed their souls in the blood of the Lamb, according to the words of St. John.103
O my Jesus! if I look at my sins, I am ashamed to seek for paradise, after the many times that I have openly renounced Thee, for the sake of short and miserable pleasures; but looking to Thee upon this cross, I cannot cease to hope for paradise, knowing that Thou hast been willing to die upon this tree to atone for my sins, and to obtain for me this paradise which I had despised. O my sweet Redeemer! I hope, through the merits of Thy death, that Thou hast already pardoned me the sins I have committed against Thee, for which I repent, and now I would rather die for grief of them; and yet, O my God, I see that, with all that Thou bast pardoned me, it will ever be true, that, in my ingratitude, I have had the heart to cause Thee so much displeasure, who hast so much loved me. But what is past is past. At least for the rest of my life, O my Lord, I would love Thee with all my powers; I would live only for Thee; I would be wholly Thine; wholly, wholly, wholly Thine. But Thou must accomplish this. Detach me from every earthly thing, and give me light and strength to seek Thee alone, my only good, my love, my all.
O Mary, hope of sinners! thou must help me with thy prayers. Pray, pray for me, and cease not to pray, until thou seest me wholly given to God.
1“Non est in alio aliquo salus.” – Acts, iv. 12.
2“Crux, Spes Christianorum, clandorum Baculus, Consolatio pauperum, Destructio superborum, contra dæmones Triumphus, adolescentum Pædagogus, navigantium Gubernator, periclitantium Portus, justorum Consiliarius, tribulatorum Requies, agrotantium Medicus, martyrum Gloriatio.” – Hom. de Cruce.
3“Scio et humiliari, scio et abundare (ubique et in omnibus institutus sum); et satiari, et esurire; et abundare, et penuriam pati: omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” – Phil. iv. 12.
4“Omnia possum in corroborante me Christo.”
5“Omnipotentes facit omnes qui in se sperant.”
6“Ita animus, si non præsumat de se, sed confortetur a Verbo, poterit dominari sui, ut non dominetur ei omnis iniquitas.”
7“Ita Verbo innixum nulla vis, nulls fraus, nulls illecebra, poterit stantem dejicere.” – In Cant. s. 85.
8“Sufficit tibi gratia mea; nam virtus in infirmitate perficitur.” – 2 Cor. xii. 9.
9“Libenter igitur gloriabor in infirmitatibus meis, ut inhabitet in me virtus Christi. Propter quod placeo mihi in infirmitatibus meis, in contumeliis, in necessitatibus, in persecutionibus, in angustiis pro Christo; cum enim infirmor, tunc potens sum.” – Ibid. 9, 10.
10“Verbum enim crucis pereuntibus quidem stultitia est; iis autem qui salvi fiunt, id est nobis, Dei virtus est.” – 1 Cor. i. 18.
11“Fortidudo nostra est infirmitatis in veritate cognitio et in humilitate confessio.”
12“Hæc hominibus sola perfectio, si imperfectos esse se noverint.” – Epist. 43. E. B.
13“Protector est omnium sperantium in se. – Qui salvos facia sperantes in te.” – Ps. xvii. 31; xvi. 7.
14“Qui confidunt in Domino, sicut mons Sion; non commovebitur in æternum, qui habitat in Jerusalem.” – Pi. cxxiv. 1.
15“Projice te in eum; non se subtrahet, ut cades; excipiet et sanabit te.” – Conf. l. 8, c. 11.
16“In eo enim, in quo passus est ipse et tentatus, potens est et eis, qui tentantur. auxiliari.” – Heb. ii. 18.
17“Non enim habemus Pontificem qui non possit compati infirmitatibus nostris; tentatum autem peromni a pro similitudine absque peccato. – Heb. iv. 15. — Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportuno.” – Ibid. 16.
18“Cœpit pavere, et tædere,—contristari et mœstus esse.” – Mark, xiv. 33; Matt. xxvi. 37.
19“Spiritus quidem promptus est, caro autem infirma.” – Matt. xxvi. 41.
20“Pater mi! si possibile est, transeat a me calix iste.”
21“Verumtamen, non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” – Matt. xxvi. 39.
22“Fiat voluntas tua! . . . Et oravit tertio, eundem sermonem dicens.” – Ibid. 44.
23“Hæc vox (Fiat) omnes Confessores accendit, omnes Martyres coronavit.” – De Pass. s. 7.
24“Factus in agonia, prolixius orabat.” – Luke, xxii. 43.
25“Factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.” – Phil. ii. 8.
26“Venit nostra accipiens, et sua retribuens.” – De Pass. s. 3.
27“Et quidem cum esset Filius Dei, didicit, ex iis quæ passus est, obedientiam.” – Heb. v. 8.
28“Et consummatus, factus est omnibus obtemperantibus sibi causa salutis æternæ.” – Heb. v. 9.
29S. in fest. S. Laur.
30Hist. Eccl. l. 6. c. 5.
31Hist. Laus, c. 3.
32“Quis ergo nos separabit a charitate Christi? tribulatio? an angustia? an fames? an nuditas? an periculum? an persecutio? an gladius?” – Rom. viii. 35.
33“Sed in his omnibus superamus propter eum qui dilexit nos.” – Ibid. 37.
34“Fruitio Dei.” – 2. 2, q. 17, a. 2.
35“Venit enim Filius hominis salvare quod perierat.” – Matt. xviii. 11.
36“Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi.” – John, i. 29.
37“Et quasi agnus coram tondente se, obmutescet.” – Isa. liii. 7.
38“Et ego quasi agnus mansuetus, qui portatur ad victimam.” – Jer. xi. 19.
39“Posuit Dominus in eo iniquitatem omnium nostrum.” – Isa. liii. 6.
40“Unus pro omnibus occiditur, ut omne genus hominum Deo Patri lucrifaciat.”
41“Qui peccata nostra ipse pertulit in corpore suo super lignum, ut, peccatis mortui, justitiæ vivamus; cujus livore sanati sumus.” – 1 Pet. ii. 24.
42“Quid mirabilius quam quod mors vivificet, vulnera sanent?” – Stim. div. am. p. 1, c. 1.
43“Gratificavit nos in dilecto Filio suo, in quo habemus redemptionem per sanguinem ejus. remissionem peccatorum, secundum divitias gratiæ ejus, quæ superabundavit in nobis.” – Eph. i. 6.
44“Et ideo Novi Testamenti Mediator est.” – Heb. ix. 15.
45“Unde nec primum quidem (Testamentum) sine sanguine dedicatum est.” – Heb. ix. 18.
46“Lecto enim omni mandato Legis a Moyse universo populo, accipiens sanguinem vitulorum et hircorum cum aqua et lana coccinea et hyssopo. . . .” – Heb. ix. 19.
47“Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus.” – Cant. v. 10.
48“Ipsum quoque librum et omnem populum aspersit, dicens: Hic sanguis Testamenti quod mandavit ad vos Deus.” – Heb. ix. 19, 20.
49“Et omnia pene in sanguine secundum Legem mundantur; et sine saxiguinis effusione, non fit remissio.” – Ibid, 22.
50“Lavit nos a peccatis nostris in sanguine suo.” – Apoc. i. 5.
51“Christus autem assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis, neque per sanguinem hircorum aut vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem, introivit semel in Sancta, æterna redemptione inventa.” – Heb. ix. 11, 12.
52“Si enim sanguis hircorum et taurorum, et cinis vitulæ aspersus, inquinatos sanctificat ad emundationem carnis; quanto magis sanguis Christi, qui per Spiritum Sanctum semetipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo, emundabit conscientiam nostram ab operibus mortuis, ad serviendum Deo viventi!” – Ibid. 13, 14.
53“Hic est enim Sanguis meus Novi Testamenti, qui pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum.” – Matt. xxvi. 28.
54“Tu es Sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.” – Ps. cix. 4.
55“Hic autem, eo quod maneat in æternum, sempiternum habet sacerdotium.” – Heb. vii. 24.
56“Unde et salvare in perpetuum potest accedentes per semetipsum ad Deum, semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis.” – Ibid. 25.
57“Tot vulnera, tot ora.”
58“Accessistis ad . . . Mediatorem Jesum, et sanguinis aspersionem melius loquentem, quam Abel.” – Heb. xii. 22.
59“Plus fecit, quam promisit.” – Enarr. in Ps. cxlviii.
60“Filioli mei, hæc scribo vobis ut non peccetis; sed et si quis peccaverit, Advocatum habemus apud Patrem, Jesum Christum justum” – 1 John, ii. 1.
61“Et consummatus, factus est omnibus obtemperantibus sibi causa salutis æternæ.” – Heb. v. 49.
62“Per patientiam curramus ad propositum nobis certamen, aspicientes in Auctorem fidei et Consummatorem Jesum, qui, proposito sibi gaudio, sustinuit crucem, confusione contempta.” – Ibid. xii. 1.
63“O Sanguis Innocentis! lava sordes pœnitentis.”
64“Multi dicunt animæ meæ: non est salus ipsi in Deo ejus.” – Ps. iii. 3.
65“Tu autem, Domine, susceptor meus es.” – Ibid. 4.
66“Eum, qui venit ad me, non ejiciam foras.” – John, vi. 37.
67“Te ergo quæsumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.”
68“Supra modum gravati sumus supra virtutem, ita ut tæderet nos etiam vivere.” – 2 Cor. i. 8.
69“Ut non simus fidentes in nobis, sed in Deo, qui suscitat mortuos.” – Ibid. 9.
70“Aporiamur, sed non destituimur; . . . dejicimur, sed non perimus.” – Ibid. iv. 8.
71“Habemus autem thesaurum istum in vasis fictilibus, ut sublimitas sit virtutis Dei, et non ex nobis.” – 2 Cor. iv. 7.
72“Induite vos armaturam Dei, ut possitis stare adversus insidias diaboli. Quoniam non est nobis colluctatio adversus carnem et sanguinem, sed adversus principes et potestates.” – Eph. vi. 11-15.
73“State ergo succincti lumbos vestros in veritate.” – Ibid. 14.
74“Et induti loricam justitiæ.”
75“Et calceati pedes in præparatione Evangelii pacis.”
76“In omnibus sumentes scutum fidei, In quo possitis omnia tela nequissimi ignea extinguere.” – Eph. vi. 16.
77“Et galeam salutis assumite, et gladium spiritus, quod est verbum Dei.” – Ibid. 17.
78“Petite et dabitur vobis.” – Matt. vii. 7.
79“Omnis enim qui petit, accipit.” – Luke, xi. 10.
80“Clama ad me, et exaudiam te.” – Jer. xxxiii. 3.
81“Invoca me . . ., eruam te.” – Ps. xlix. 15.
82“Per omnem orationem et obsecrationem orantes omni tempore in spiritu, et in ipso vigilantes in omni instantia et obsecratione pro omnibus sanctis.” – Eph. vi. 18.
83“Illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent.” – Luke, i. 79.
84“Primo vincendæ stint delectationes, postea dolores.” – Serm. 335. E. B.
85“Qui parce seminat, parce et metet.” – 2 Cor. ix. 6.
86“Qua superbia sanari potest, si humilitate Filii Dei non sanatur? quæ avaritia, si paupertate Filii Dei non sanatur? quæ iracundia, si patientia Filii Dei non sanatur?” – De Ag. Chr. c. 11.
87“Et ideo Novi Testamenti Mediator est, ut, morte intercedente, . . . repromissionem accipiant, qui vocati sunt, æternæ hereditatis.” – Heb. ix. 15.
88“Ubi enim Testamentum est, mors necesse est intercedat testatoris Testamentum enim in mortuis confirmatum est; alioquin, nondum valet, dum vivit qui testatus est.” – Ibid. 16, 17.
89“Hæc enim sunt duo Testamenta: unum quidem in monte Sina in servitutem generans.” – Gal. iv. 24.
90“Nos autem, fratres, secundum Isaac, promissionis filii sumus.” – Gal. iv. 28.
91“Si autem filii, et hæredes; hæredes quidem Dei, cohæredes autem Christi.” – Rom. viii. 17.
92“Si tamen compatimur, ut et conglorificemur.” – Ibid.
93“Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me.” – Matt. xvi. 24.
94“Existimo enim quod non sunt condignæ passiones hujus temporis ad futuram gloriam, quæ revelabitur in nobis.” – Rom. viii. 18.
95“Spe enim salvi facti sumus.” – Rom. viii. 24.
96“Omnis enim qui petit, accipit.” – Luke, xi. 10.
97“Spiritus adjuvat infirmitatem nostram, . . . postulat pro nobis.” – Rom. viii. 26.
98“ ‘Postulat,’ id est, postulare facit.” – Ep. 194, c. 4. E. B.
99“Scimus autem quoniam, diligentibus Deum, omnia cooperantur in bonum.” – Rom. viii. 28.
100“Nam quos præscivit, et prædestinavit conformes fieri imaginis FIlii sui.” – Ibid. 29.
101“Qui etiam proprio Filio suo non pepercit, sed pro nobis omnibus tradidit illum.” – Rom. viii. 32.
102“Quis est qui condemnet? Christus Jesus, qui mortuus est.” – Ibid. 34.
103“Hi sunt qui . . . laverunt stolas suas et dealbaverunt eas in sanguine Agni.” – Apoc. vii. 14.