Thursday, 15 April 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XVI

The Mercy of God.
“Mercy exalteth itself above judgment.” – St. James, ii. 13.
God Waits for the Sinner.
Good is naturally diffusive—that is, inclined to communicate its good even to others. But God, who is by nature infinite goodness, as St. Leo expresses himself,1 has an infinite desire to impart his own felicity to us; and therefore his inclination is, not to chastise, but to show mercy to all. To punish is, according to Isaias, a work opposed to the inclination of God. He shall be angry . . . that he may do His work, His strange work: His work is strange to Him.2 And when the Lord chastises in this life, he does it in order to show mercy in the next. O God . . . Thou hast been angry, and hast had mercy on us.3 He appears angry that we may enter into ourselves and detest our sins. Thou hast shown Thy people hard things; Thou hast made us drink the wine of sorrow.4 And when he sends us any chastisement, he does it because he loves us, and wishes to deliver us from eternal punishment. Thou hast given a warning to them that fear Thee, that they may flee from before Me bow, that Thy beloved may be delivered.5 And who can sufficiently admire and praise the mercy of God toward sinners in waiting for them, in calling them, and in receiving them when they return Oh! how great is the mercy of God in waiting for our repentance! My brother, when you offended God, he could have struck you dead; but he waited for you, and instead of chastising you, he conferred favors upon you, he preserved your life, and provided for you. He pretended not to see your sins, that you might repent. Thou overlookest the sins of men for the sake of penance.6 But, O Lord, how does it happen that Thou canst not bear to behold a single sin, and beholdest so many of them in silence? Thou canst, not look on iniquity; why lookest Thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest Thy peace?7 Thou beholdest the blasphemer, the unchaste, the vindictive man, multiplying iniquities from day to day; and Thou dost not chastise him: and why so much patience. Therefore the Lord waiteth that He may have mercy on thee.8 God waits for sinners, that they may amend, and that thus he may pardon and save them.
St. Thomas says, that all creatures, fire, the earth, air, water, by a natural instinct, would wish to punish and to take vengeance on the injuries done to their Creator.9 But God in his mercy restrains them. But, O Lord! Thou waitest for these impious wretches, that they may see their wickedness: but dost not Thou see that they ungratefully take advantage of Thy mercy to offend Thee still more? Thou hast been favorable to the nation: Thou hast been favorable to the nation: art Thou glorified?10 And why so much patience? Because God wills not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.11 O patience of God! St. Augustine goes so far as to say that God, were he not God, would be unjust on account of his excessive patience toward sinners.12 To wait for those who abuse patience to become more insolent, appears to be an injustice to the divine honor. “We sin,” continues the holy Doctor, “we adhere to sin.”13 Some make peace with sin, and sleep in sin for months and years. “Gaudemus de peccato”—We rejoice at sin; others go so far as to boast of their wickedness; and Thou art appeased.14 We provoke Thee to anger—Thou invitest us to mercy.15 We appear to be engaged with God in a contest in which we labor to provoke him to chastise our guilt; and he invites us to pardon.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Lord! I know that I deserve to be at this moment in hell. Hell is my house.16 But through Thy mercy, I am not now in that place of woe, but I am here at Thy feet, and feel that Thou wishest and commandest me to love Thee. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.17 I hear Thee tell me that Thou wilt pardon me if I repent of the injuries I have done Thee. Yes, my God: since Thou wishest me, a miserable rebel against Thy majesty, to love Thee, I love Thee with my whole heart, and I feel more regret for the outrages I have offered to Thee, than for any evil that could have befallen me. Ah! enlighten me, O infinite Goodness; make me sensible of the wrongs I have done Thee. I will no longer resist Thy calls. I will give no more displeasure to a God who has loved me so tenderly, who has pardoned me so often and with so much love. Ah! that I had never offended Thee, my Jesus; pardon me, and grant that, from this day forward, I may love nothing but Thee: that I may live only for Thee, who didst die for me; that I may suffer for Thy love, since Thou hast suffered so much for the love of me. Thou hast loved me from eternity; Grant that for eternity I may burn with Thy love. I hope for all things, O my Saviour, through Thy merits; I trust also in thee, O Mary; save me by thy intercession.
God Calls the Sinner.
Consider, moreover, the mercy of God in calling the sinner to repentance. When Adam rebelled against the Lord, and hid himself from his face, behold, God, having lost Adam, goes in search of him, and calls him as it were with tears. Adam, where art thou?18 “These,” says Father Pereira in his commentary on this passage, “are the words of a father seeking a lost son.”19 My brother, God has often done the same to you. You fled from God, and he sought after you, calling you at one time by his inspiration, at another by remorse of conscience, now by sermons, again by tribulations, and by the death of your friends. Speaking of you, Jesus appears to say: I have labored with crying: my jaws are become hoarse.20 My son, I have almost lost my voice in calling you to repentance. Remember, O sinners, says St. Teresa, that that Lord who will one day be your judge, is now calling you to return to him.
Dearly beloved Christian, how often have you been deaf to the calls of God? You deserved that he should call you no more; but your God has not ceased to call you, because he wishes to make peace with you, and to save you. Who was it that called you? A God of infinite majesty. And what were you but a miserable fetid worm! Why did he call you? For no other purpose than to restore to you the life of grace which you had lost? Return ye and live.21 To acquire the divine grace, it would be but little to live in a desert during your entire life. God offered to give you his grace at each moment, if you wished to obtain it by making an act of contrition, and you refused. And after all this, God has not abandoned you, he has gone in search of you, as it were weeping, and saying: Son, why will you bring yourself to perdition? And why will you die, O house of Israel?22 When man commits a mortal sin, he banishes God from his soul. The wicked have said to God, Depart from us.23 But what does God do? He places himself at the door of that ungrateful heart. Behold, I stand at the gate and knock.24 He even appears to entreat the soul to allow him to enter. Open to Me, my sister.25 He grows weary praying for admission. I am weary of entreating thee.26 Yes, says St. Denis, the Areopagite, God follows sinners like a despised lover, entreating them not to destroy their souls.27 And this precisely the Apostle meant when he wrote to his disciples. For Christ, I beseech you to be reconciled to God.28 In explaining this passage, St. John Chrysostom makes a beautiful reflection “Christ himself entreats you; but what does he entreat you to do? To be reconciled to God; for it is not God that acts like an enemy, but you.”29 The saint’s meaning is, that the sinner has not to labor in order to move God to make peace with him; for he, and not God, refuses peace.
Ah! this good Lord goes every day in search of so many sinners, continually saying to them: Ungrateful souls, do not fly away any longer; tell me why you fly away from me? I love your welfare, and desire nothing else than to make you happy. Why will you destroy yourselves? But, O Lord, what is it Thou dost? Why so much patience and so much love toward these rebels? What good dost Thou expect from them? It redounds but little to Thy honor to show such an excess of love for the miserable worms that fly away from Thee. What is a man, that Thou shouldst magnify him? or why dost Thou set Thy heart upon him.30
Affections and Prayers.
Behold, O Lord! at Thy feet an ungrateful soul, imploring mercy. Father, forgive me. I call Thee Father, because Thou wishest me thus to call Thee. My Father, pardon me. I do not deserve pity, for I have treated Thee with ingratitude because Thou bast been bountiful to me. Ah, my God! through that goodness which did not allow Thee to abandon me when I fled from Thee, receive me, now that I return to Thee. Give me, O my Jesus! a great sorrow for the offences I have offered to Thee, and give me the kiss of peace. I am sorry above all things for the injuries I have done Thee; I detest and abhor them, and I unite this hatred and abhorrence to that which Thou, O my Redeemer! didst feel for them in the garden of Gethsemane. Ah! pardon me through the merits of that blood which Thou hast shed for me in the garden. I promise firmly never more to depart from Thee, and to banish from my heart every affection which is not for Thee. My Jesus, my love! I love Thee above all things: I wish always to love Thee, and love Thee alone: give me strength to execute this good will, make me all Thine. O Mary, my hope after Jesus! thou art the Mother of mercy: pray to God for me, and have pity on me.
God Receives the Sinner with Kindness.
The princes of the earth disdain even to look at the rebel who comes to ask pardon; but God acts not in this manner with us: He will not turn away His face from you, if you return to Him.31 God cannot turn away his face from those who return and cast themselves at his feet: no; for he himself invites them, and promises to receive them as soon as they come. Return to Me, saith the Lord, and I will receive thee.32 Turn to Me . . . and I will turn to you, saith the Lord of Hosts.33 Oh! with what love and tenderness does God embrace the sinner that returns to him. This love and tenderness Jesus Christ wished to give us to understand by the parable of the sheep, which the shepherd, when he found it, placed on his shoulders. Doth he not lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing; and coming home, call together his friends and neighbors, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.34 The Redeemer adds: There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance.35 This tenderness the Saviour declared more fully in the parable of the prodigal son; in which he tells us that he is the father who, when he saw his lost son returning, runs to meet him, and before his son utters a word, embraces and kisses him, and in embracing him, almost swoons away through tenderness of consolation. And running to him he fell upon his neck and kissed him.36
The Lord promises that, if sinners repent, he will even forget their sins, as if they had never offended him. If the wicked do penance . . . living he shall live. . . . I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done.37 He even goes so far as to say, Come and accuse Me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow.38 As if he said: Sinners, come and accuse Me; if I do not pardon you, reprove me, upbraid me with having been unfaithful to my promises. But no; God knows not how to despise an humble and contrite heart.
The Lord glories in showing mercy and granting pardon to sinners. And therefore shall He be exalted sparing you.39 And how long does he defer pardon? Not an instant: he grants it immediately. Weeping, says the Prophet Isaias, thou shalt not weep; He will surely have pity on thee.40 Sinners, exclaims the prophet, you have not long to weep; at the first tear the Lord will be moved to pity: At the voice of thy cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee.41 God does not treat us as we treat him: we are deaf to the calls of God: but as soon as he shall hear, he will answer thee; the very instant you repent and ask forgiveness, God answers and grants your pardon.
Affections and Prayers.
O my God! against whom have I rebelled? Against Thee, who art so good, against Thee that hast created me, and died for me. After so many acts of treason, Thee hast borne with me. Ah! the thought of the patience Thou hast had with me ought to make me live always on fire with Thy love. And who would have borne so long as Thou hast the injuries which I have done Thee? Miserable shall I be, should I ever again offend Thee, and condemn myself to hell! I already see that Thy mercy can bear with me no longer. I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having offended Thee. I love Thee with my whole heart: I am resolved to give Thee all the remainder of my life. Hear me, O Eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ: give me holy perseverance and Thy love: hear me, O my Jesus! for the sake of the blood which Thou hast shed for me. We therefore beseech Thee, assist Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.42 O Mary, my Mother look upon me, “turn thy eyes of mercy to us,” and draw me entirely to God.

1Deus cujus natura bonitas.
2“Irascetur, ut faciat opus suum, alienum opus ejus . . . peregrinum est opus ejus ab eo.” – Isa. xxviii. 21.
3Deus, iratus es, et misertus es nobis.” – Ps. lix. 3.
4“Ostendisti populo tuo dura; potasti nos vino compunctionis.” – Ps. lix. 5.
5“Dedisti metuentibus te significationem, ut fugiant a facie arcus, ut liberentur dilecti tui.” – Ps. lix. 6.
6“Dissimulas peccata hominum propter pœnitentiam.” – Wis. xi. 24.
7“Respicere ad iniquitatem non poteris; quare respicis super iniqua agentes, et taces?” – Habac. i. 13.
8“Propterea expectat Dominus, ut misereatur vestri.” – Isa. xxx. 18.
9“Creatura enim tibi Factori deserviens, exardescit in tormentum adversus injustos.” – Wisd. xvi. 24.
10“Indulsisti genti, Domine, indulsisti genti; numquid glorificatus es?” – Isa. xxvi. 15.
11“Nolo mortem impii, sed ut convertatur et vivat.” – Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
12“Deus meus, pace tua dicam: nisi quia Deus es, injustus esses.” – De Vis. inf. l. 1. c. 5.
13Nos peccavimus, inhæremus peccato.
14Et tu placatus es?
15Nos te provocamus ad iram, tu autem conducis nos ad misericordiam.
16“Infernus domus mea est.” – Job, xvii. 13.
17“Diliges Dominum Deum tuum.” – Deut. vi. 5.
18“Adam, ubi es?” – Gen. iii. 9.
19Sunt verba patris quærentis filium suum perditum.
20“Laboravi clamans, raucæ factæ sunt fauces meæ.” – Ps. lxviii. 4.
21“Revertimini, et vivite.” – Ezek. xviii. 32.
22“Et quare tnoriemini, domus Israel?” – Ezek. xviii. 31.
23“Dixerunt Deo: Recede a nobis.” – Job, xxi. 14.
24“Ecce sto ad ostium, et pulso.” – Apoc. iii. 20.
25“Aperi mihi, soror mea.” – Cant. v. 2.
26“Laboravi rogans.” – Jer. xv. 6.
27“Deus etiam a se aversos amatorie sequitur, et deprecatur ne pereant,” – Ad Demoph.
28“Obsecramus pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo.” – 2 Cor. v. 20.
29Ipse Christus vos obsecrat. Quid autem obsecrat? Reconciliamini Deo. Non enim ipse inimicitias gent, sed vos.
30“Quid est home qua magnificas eum? aut quid apponis erga eum cor tuum?” – Job, vii. 17.
31“Non avertet faciem suam a vobis, si reversi fueritis ad eum.” – 2 Par. xxx. 9.
32“Revertere ad me, dicit Dominus, et ego suscipiam te.” – Jer. iii. 1.
33“Convertimini ad me, . . et convertar ad vos, dicit Dominus.” – Zac. i. 3.
34“Imponit in humeros suos gaudens. Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni ovem meam quæ perierat.” – Luke, xv. 5.
35Gaudium erit in cœlo super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente.
36“Accurrens cecidit super collum ejus et osculatus est eum.” – Luke, xv. 20.
37“Si impius egerit pœnitentiam . . . vita vivet . . . omnium iniquitatum ejus . . . non recordabor.” – Ezek. xviii. 21.
38“Venite et arguite me, dicit Dominus: si fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum, quasi nix dealbabuntur.” – Isa. i. 18.
39“Exaltabitur parcens vobis.” – Isa. xxx. 18.
40“Plorans nequaquam plorabis; miserans miserebitur tui,” – Isa. xxx. 19.
41“Ad vocem clamoris tui, statim ut audierit, respondebit tibi.” – Ibid.
42Te ergo quæsumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.

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