While we live in this life, we are so many pilgrims who wander up and down upon the earth, far from our country, which is heaven, where the Lord awaits us, that we may rejoice forever in his glorious countenance. While we are in the body, writes the apostle, we are absent from the Lord.1 If, then, we love God, we ought to have a continual desire to leave this place of exile, by being separated from the body, that we may go and see him. It was for this that St. Paul ever sighed, as he said, We are confident, and have a good will to be absent rather from the body, and to be present with the Lord.2
Before the common redemption of us miserable sons of Adam, the way of approach to God was closed up; but Jesus Christ, by his death, has obtained for us the grace of having it in our power to become the sons of God;3 and thus has opened to us the gates by which we can have access, as children, to our Father, Almighty God.4
On this account St. Paul says, Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow-citizens with the saints and the domestics of God.5 Thus, so long as we are in the grace of God, we enjoy the citizenship of paradise, and belong to the family of God, St. Augustine says, "Nature corrupted with sin produces citizens of an earthly city; but grace, which frees our nature from sin, makes us citizens of a heavenly country, and vessels of mercy."6
This made David say, I am a stranger on earth; hide not Thy commandments from me.7 O Lord! I am a pilgrim upon this earth, teach me to keep Thy precepts, which are the road by which I may reach my country in heaven. It is not wonderful that the wicked should wish to live forever in this world, for they justly fear that they shall pass from the pains of this life to the eternal and infinitely more terrible pains of hell; but how can he who loves God, and has a moral certainty that he is in a state of grace, desire to go on living in this vale of tears, in continual bitterness, in straits of conscience, in peril of perishing? How can he help sighing to depart at once to unite himself to God in a blessed eternity, where there is no danger of his destroying himself? Oh, how souls that love God groan continually while they live, and cry out with David, Woe is me, for my banishment is prolonged!8 Unhappy is he who must continue to live a long time in this world, in the midst of so many perils to his salvation! Therefore it is that the saints have continually had this prayer upon their lips, Thy kingdom come.9 Quickly, O Lord! quickly carry us to Thy kingdom. Let us make speed, then, as the apostle exhorts us, to enter that kingdom, where we shall find perfect peace and contentment: Let us hasten to enter into that rest.10 Let us hasten, I say, with desire, and not cease to walk onwards till we come to that blessed harbor which God prepares for them that love him.
"He that runs," says St. John Chrysostom, "pays not heed to the spectators, but to the crown of victory; he stands not, but hastens on his course."11 Therefore the saint argues that the longer has been our life, the more we should hasten with good works to win the palm. Thus, our one constant prayer for the relief of the troubles and trials which we endure in this life ought to be this: Thy kingdom come.12 Lord, may Thy kingdom speedily come, where, united eternally with Thee, and seeing Thee face to face with all our powers, we shall no longer know fear, or danger of falling away. And when we find ourselves afflicted with the labors or dishonors of the world, let us comfort ourselves with the great reward that God prepares for those who suffer for the love of him: Rejoice in that day, and be glad; for behold, your reward is great in heaven.13 St. Cyprian said that with good reason our Lord wills that we should rejoice in labors and persecutions, because then the true soldiers of God are proved, and crowns are distributed to the faithful.14
Behold, O my God! my heart is ready;15 behold me prepared for every cross that Thou givest me to endure. No, I desire not delights or pleasures in this life; he who has offended Thee and deserves hell, deserves not pleasures. I am ready to suffer all the infirmities and adversities that Thou sendest me; I am ready to embrace all the slights of men; I am content, if it pleases Thee to deprive me of all bodily and spiritual consolations; it is enough that Thou dost not deprive me of Thyself, and of the eternal love of Thee. This I deserve not, but I hope for it, through the blood that Thou hast shed for me. I love Thee, O my God, my love, my all! I shall live forever, and I shall love Thee forever, as I hope; and my paradise will ever be to rejoice in Thy infinite joy, which Thou dost truly merit, through Thine infinite goodness.
1"Dum sumus in corpore, peregrinamur a Domino." -- 2 Cor. v. 6.
2"Audemus autem, et bonam voluntatem habemus magis peregrinari a corpore et præsentes esse ad Dominum." -- 2 Cor. v. 8.
3"Dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri," -- John, i. 12.
4"Quoniam per ipsum habemus accessum ambo in uno spiritu ad Patrem." -- Eph. ii. 18.
5"Ergo jam non estis hospites et advenæ, sed estis cives Sanctorum et domestici Dei." -- Eph. ii. 19.
6"Cives terrenæ civitatis parit peccato vitiata natura, qui sunt vasa iræ; cives vero cœlestis patriæ parit a peccato naturam liberans gratia, qui sunt vasa misericordiæ." De Civ. D. l. 15.
7"Incola ego sum in terra, non abscondas a me mandatatua." -- Ps. cxviii. 19.
8"Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est." -- Ps. cxix. 5.
9Adveniat, adveniat regnum tuum.
10"Festinemus ergo ingredi in illam requiem." -- Heb. iv. 11.
11"Qui currit, non ad spectatores, sed ad palmam attendit; non consistit, sed cursum intendit." -- In Ep. ad Heb. hom. 7.
12Adveniat regnum tuum.
13"Gaudete in illa die, et exsultate; ecce enim merces vestra multa est in cœlo." -- Luke, vi. 23.
14"Gaudere nos et exsultare voluit in persecutionibus Dominus, quia tunc dantur coronæ fidei, tune probantur milites Dei." -- Epist. ad Thibar.
15"Paratum cor meum." -- Ps. lvi. 8.