Friday, 25 June 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXI

Unhappy Life of the Sinner: and Happy Life of him who loves God.
“There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.” – Isa. xiviii. 22.
“Much peace have they that love Thy law.” – Ps. cxviii. 165.
The World cannot make us Happy.
In this life all men seek after peace. The merchant, the soldier, the man who goes to law, labor with the hope of making a fortune, and of thus finding peace, by worldly fortune, by a more exalted post, by gaining a lawsuit. But poor worldlings seek from the world that peace which the world cannot give. God alone can give us peace. The holy Church prays in the following words: “Give to Thy servants that peace which the world cannot give.”1 No; the world with all its goods cannot content the heart of man: for he was created not for them, but for God alone; hence God alone can make him happy and content. Brute animals, that have been made for sensual delights, find peace in earthly goods. Give to an ox a bundle of hay, and to a dog a piece of flesh, and they are content, they desire nothing more. But the soul that has been created for no other end than to love God, and to live in union with him, will never be able to find peace or happiness in sensual enjoyments: God alone can make it perfectly content.
The Son of God gave the appellation of fool to the rich man who, after having reaped a rich harvest from his fields, said to himself: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy rest, eat, drink, and make good cheer.2 “Miserable fool!” says St. Basil, have you the soul of a swine, of a brute, that you expect to make it happy by eating, drinking, or by sensual delights?”3 A man may be puffed up, but he cannot be satisfied by the goods of this world. On the words of the Gospel, behold we have left all things.4 St. Bernard writes, that he saw different classes of fools laboring under different species of folly. All had a great thirst for happiness: some were satiated with the goods of the earth, which is a figure of the avaricious; others with wind, the figure of the ambitious, who seek after empty honors: others seated round a furnace, swallowing the sparks that were thrown from it; these were the passionate and vindictive: others, in fine, drank putrid waters from a fetid lake: and these were the voluptuous and unchaste. Hence, turning to them, the saint exclaims: O fools! do you not see that these things increase, rather than diminish your thirst! The goods of the world are but apparent goods, and therefore they cannot satisfy the heart of man. You have eaten, says the Prophet Aggeus, but have not had enough.5 Hence, the more the avaricious man possesses, the more he seeks to acquire. “The possession of great wealth,” says St. Augustine, “does not close, but rather extends, the jaws of avarice.”6 The more the unchaste man wallows in the mire of impurity, the greater is his disgust, and, at the same time, his desire for such beastly pleasures; and how can dung and carnal filthiness content the heart? The same happens to the ambitious man, who wishes to satisfy his desires by smoke; for he always attends more to what he wants than to what he possesses. After having acquired many kingdoms, Alexander the Great wept, because he had not dominion over other countries. If worldly goods could content the human heart, the rich and the monarchs of the earth would enjoy complete happiness; but experience shows the contrary. Solomon tells us that he refused no indulgence to his senses. Whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not.7 But after all his sensual enjoyments what did he say? Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.8 That is, everything in this world is mere vanity, a pure lie, pure folly.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! what now remains of all the offences I have offered to Thee, but pain, bitterness, and merits for hell? I am not sorry for the pain and remorse which I now feel; on the contrary, they console me, because they are the gift of Thy grace, and make me hope that, since Thou inspirest these sentiments, Thou wishest to pardon me. What displeases me is the pain I have given Thee, my Redeemer, who loved me so tenderly. I deserved, O my Lord! to be abandoned by Thee; but, instead of abandoning me, I see that Thou offerest me pardon, and that Thou art the first to ask for a reconciliation. O my Jesus! I wish to make peace with Thee, and desire Thy grace more than every earthly good. I am sorry, O infinite Goodness! for having offended Thee: I would wish to die of sorrow for my offences. Ah! through the love which Thou didst entertain for me when Thou didst expire on the cross, pardon me, receive me into Thy heart, and change my heart, so that henceforth I may please Thee as much as I have hitherto offended Thee. I now renounce, for Thy sake, all the pleasures that the world can give me, and I resolve to forfeit my life rather than lose Thy grace. Tell me what I must do in order to please Thee; I wish to do it. What pleasures, what honors, what riches can I seek? I wish only for Thee, my God, my joy, my glory, my treasure, my life, my love, my all. Give me, O Lord! strength to be faithful to Thee. Give me the grace to love Thee, and then do with me what Thou pleasest. Mary, my Mother and my hope! take me under Thy protection, and obtain for me the grace to belong entirely to God.
Interior Torments of the Sinner.
But, according to Solomon, the goods of this world not only do not content the heart, but they are even a source of pain and affliction of spirit. And behold all is vanity and affliction of spirit.9 Poor sinners! they seek for happiness in their sins, but they find nothing but bitterness and remorse. Destruction and happiness in their way; and the way of peace they have not known.10 What peace? What peace? There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.11 In the first place, sin brings with it a dread of divine vengeance. The man that is beset with powerful enemies neither eats nor sleeps in peace. And can he who has God for his enemy enjoy repose? Fear to them that work evil.12 When the man who is in the state of sin hears the roaring of thunder; oh! how does he tremble! Every leaf that moves excites terror. The sound of dread is always in his ears.13 He is always flying away though no one pursues him. The wicked man fleeth when no man pursueth.14 He is pursued by his on sin. After having killed his brother Abel, Cain said: Every one therefore that findeth me, shall kill me.15 God assured him that no one should injure him. And the Lord said to him: No; it shall not be so.16 But, notwithstanding this assurance, Scripture tells us that Cain dwelt a fugitive on the earth.17 He was always flying from one place to another. And who, but his own sin, was the persecutor of Cain?
Sin also brings with it remorse of conscience, that cruel worm which unceasingly gnaws the soul. If the miserable sinner go to a festivity, to a comedy, to a place of amusement, his conscience will say to him, you are the enemy of God: should you die in your sin, where will you go? The torture of remorse of conscience is so great even in this life, that to free themselves from it, some have committed suicide. It is related of a certain man, who had killed an infant, that, in order to get rid of the stings of remorse, he entered into a monastery; but finding no peace even there, he went before a judge, confessed his crime, and was condemned to death.
What is a soul without God? The Holy Ghost compares it to a sea agitated by the tempest. The wicked are like the raging sea, which cannot rest.18 Were a person brought to a musical exhibition, or to a ball, and obliged to remain suspended by a cord, with his head downward, could he enjoy the entertainment? Such is the state of a man who lives in the enjoyment of worldly goods, but without God: his soul is as it were turned upside down. He may eat and drink and dance, he may wear costly apparel, and may acquire honors, dignities, and possessions; but he never will have peace. There is no peace to the wicked.19 God alone imparts peace; but he gives it to his friends, not to his enemies.
“The goods of this earth,” says St. Vincent Ferrer, “do not enter the soul. They are waters which do not penetrate where there is thirst.’20 The sinner may wear embroidered robes and the richest jewels, he may indulge the palate as much as he pleases; but his poor soul will be full of thorns and gall; and therefore with all his riches, pleasures, and amusements, you will see him always unhappy and ready to fly into a rage and fury at every contradiction. He who loves God resigns himself to the divine will in adversity, and enjoys peace; but he who lives in opposition to the divine will, cannot conform to it, and therefore he has no means of tranquillizing the soul. The miserable man serves the devil, he serves a tyrant who repays him with gall and bitterness. Ah! the word of God can never fail. Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness, thou shalt serve the enemy in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things.21 What do not the vindictive suffer after they have gratified their resentment? the unchaste, after they have attained their wicked object? What do not the ambitious, the avaricious, endure? Oh, how many are there, who, if they suffer for God as much as they suffer to bring themselves to their own damnation, would become great saints?
Affections and Prayers.
O my lost life! O my God if to serve Thee I had suffered the pains which I have endured in order to offend Thee, how many merits should I now find treasured up for Paradise! Ah, my Lord! for what have I abandoned Thee, and lost Thy grace? For poisoned and momentary pleasures, which, as soon as they were indulged, disappeared, and left my soul full of thorns and bitterness. Ah, my sins, I detest you, I curse you a thousand times. I bless Thy mercy, O my God! which has borne with me so patiently. I love Thee, O my Creator and Redeemer! who hast given Thy life for me; and because I love Thee, I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee. My God, my God! why have I lost Thee? for what have I exchanged Thee? I now know the evil I have done; and I resolve to lose everything, even life, rather than lose Thy love. Give me light, O Eternal Father! for the sake of Jesus Christ: make known to me Thy greatness, and the nothingness of the goods which the devils present to me in order to make me lose Thy grace. I love Thee but I desire to love Thee with greater ardor. Grant that Thou alone may be my only thought, my only desire, my only love. I hope for all from Thy goodness, through the merits of Thy Son. Mary, my Mother! through the love which thou bearest to Jesus Christ, I entreat thee to obtain for me light and strength to serve him and to love him till death.
Happiness of the Just on Earth.
Then all the goods and delights of this world cannot content the human heart. Who can satisfy all its desires? God alone. Delight in the Lord and He will give thee the requests of thy heart.22 The heart of man is always in search of goods that will make him happy. He enjoys riches, pleasures, honors, and he is not content; for these are finite goods, and he was created for an infinite good. But, let him seek God, let him unite himself to God, and behold he is content, all his desires are satiated. Delight in the Lord and He will give thee the requests of thy heart.23 During all the time which St Augustine spent in sensual delights, he never found peace. This he afterward confessed when he gave himself to God. “Our heart is restless till it rests in thee.”24 My God I know that all is vanity and affliction, and that Thou alone art the true peace of the soul. “All things are hard, and thou alone repose.”25 Hence he afterward wrote: “What do you seek, O miserable man? seek one good, in which are all goods.”26 While he was in sin, David went to his gardens, and indulged in the pleasures of the table and all other royal entertainments; but the table, the gardens, and the creatures in which he took delight, said to him: David, do you expect that we shall make you happy? it is not in our power to content your heart. Where is your God? Go and find your God; he alone can satisfy the cravings of your soul. Hence, in the midst of all his enjoyments, David wept continually. My tears have been my bread day and night, while it is said to me daily: Where is thy God?27
But, oh! how content and happy does God make the faithful souls that love him! After having left all for God, without shoes, almost naked, and dead from cold and hunger, St. Francis, of Assisi enjoyed a paradise in saying “My God. and my all.” After he had become a religious, St. Francis Borgia was Obliged; in travelling, often to lie on a bed of straw; but so abundant were the consolations which he experienced, that he could not sleep. When St. Philip Neri left all things, he used, after going to rest, to receive so much consolation from God, that he would say: O my Jesus, allow me to sleep. Father Charles of Lorraine, who was descended from the princes of Lorraine, and entered the Society of Jesus, began sometimes to dance through joy in his poor cell. In the plains of India, St. Francis Xavier would uncover his breast and exclaim: “Enough, O Lord.” No more consolation: my heart can bear no more. St. Teresa used to say that a single drop of heavenly consolation gives more content than all the pleasures and amusements of the world can give. Ah! God cannot but fulfil his promises to give peace and happiness to all who renounce worldly goods for his sake. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall possess life everlasting.28
What then do we seek after? Let us go to Jesus Christ, who calls us, saying: Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.29 Ah! the soul that loves God enjoys that peace which surpasses all the pleasures and gratifications which the world and the senses can give. It is true that in this life, even the saints have to submit to pains and crosses: for this earth is a place of merit, and it is impossible to merit without suffering. But, according to St. Bonaventure, divine love, like honey, renders things the most bitter, sweet and amiable: He that loves God, loves the will of God, and therefore he rejoices in sorrows, because in embracing them he knows that he gives delight and pleasure to his God. “We see the cross,” says St. Bernard, “but not the unction.”30 We behold only the mortifications which the lovers of God endure, and the pleasures from which they abstain; but we do not see the spiritual delights with which the Lord consoles them. Oh! if sinners tasted the peace enjoyed by a soul that wishes for nothing but God! O, taste and see, says David, that the Lord is sweet.31 My brother, begin to make meditation every day, to communicate frequently, to converse with God; and you will find that during the short time which you spend with him, he will give you greater consolation than the world, with all its amusements, has ever given you. O, taste and see! He who has not tasted, cannot understand how God contents the soul that loves him.
Affections and Prayers.
My dear Redeemer! how have I been hitherto so blind as to abandon Thee, who art an infinite good, and the fountain of all consolation, for the miserable and momentary gratification of the senses? I am astonished at my blindness, but I am still more astonished at Thy mercy, which has so bountifully borne with me. I thank Thee for making me now sensible of thy folly, and of my obligation to love Thee. I love Thee, O my Jesus! with my whole soul, but I desire to love Thee with greater fervor. Increase my desire and my love. Enamor my soul of Thee. who art infinitely amiable—of Thee; who hast left nothing undone to gain my love; of Thee, who so ardently desirest my love. If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.32 Ah, my dear Redeemer, purify my heart from all impure affections, which hinder me to love Thee as I would wish! It is not in my Power to inflame my Whole heart with the love Of Thee, and to make it love nothing but Thee. This requires the power of Thy grace, which can do all things. Detach me from every creature, banish from my soul every affection that is not for Thee, make me all Thine. I am sorry above all things for all the displeasure I have given Thee. I resolve to consecrate all the days of my life to Thy holy love; but it is only Thy grace that can make me fulfil this resolution. Grant me, O Lord, this grace for the sake of the blood which Thou didst shed for me with so much pain, and so Much love. Let it be the glory of Thy power to make my heart, which was once full of earthly affections, now become all flames of love for Thee, O infinite Good! O mother of fair love, O Mary! by thy prayers make my whole soul burn, as thine did, with the charity of God.

1Da servis tuis illam, quam mundus dare non potest, pacem.
2“Anima, habes multa bona posita in annos plurimos; requiesce, comede, bibe.” – Luke, xii. 19.
3Numquid animam porcinam habes?
4“Ecce nos reliquimus omnia.” – Matt. xix. 27.
5“Comedistis, et non estis satiati.” – Agg. i. 6.
6“Major pecunia avaritim fauces non claudit sed extendit.” – Serm. 50, E. B.
7“Et omnia quæ desideraverunt oculi mei, non negavi eis.” – Eccles. ii. 10.
8“Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas.” – Ibid. i. 2.
9“Ecce universa vanitas, et afflictio spiritus.” – Eccles. i. 14.
10“Contritio et infelicitas in viis eorum, et viam pacis non cognoverunt.” – Ps. xiii. 3.
11“Non est pax impiis.” – Isa. xlviii. 22.
12“Pavor iis qui operantur malum.” – Prov. x. 29.
13“Sonitus terroris semper in auribus illius.” – Job, xv. 21.
14“Fugit impius, nemine persequente.” – Prov. xxviii. 1.
15“Omnis igitur qui invenerit me, occidet me.” – Gen. iv. 14.
16“Dixitque ei Dominus: Nequaquam ita fiet.” – Ibid. ver. 15.
17“Habitavit profugus in terra.” – Ibid.
18“Impii autem quasi mare fervens, quad quiescere non potest.” – Isai. lvii. 20
19Non est pax impiis.
20Sunt aquæ, quæ non intrant illuc, ubi est sitis.
21“Eo quod non servieris Domino Deo tuo in gaudio . . . servies inimico tuo . . . in fame, et siti, et nuditate, et omni penuria.” – Deut. xxviii. 47, 48.
22“Delectare in Domino, et dabit tibi petitiones cordis tui.” – Ps. xxxvi. 4.
24“Inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.” – Conf: l. 1. c. 1.
25“Dura sunt omnia, et tu solus requies.” – Conf. l. 6. c. 16.
26“Cur per multa vagaris, homuncio, quærendo bona? Ama unum bonum, in quo sunt omnia bona “ – Manual. c. 34.
27“Fuerunt mihi lacrymæ meæ panes die ac nocte, dum dicitur mihi quotidie. Ubi est Deus tuus? “ – Ps. xli. 4.
28“Qui reliquerit domum, vel fratres . . . propter nomen meum centuplum accipiet, et vitam æternam possidebit.” – Matt. xix. 29.
29“Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos.” – Matt. xi. 28.
30“Crucem videntes, sed non etiam unctionem.” – In Dedic. Eccl. s. 1.
31“Gustate, et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus.” – Ps. xxxiii. 9.
32“Si viS, potes me mundare.” – Matt. viii. 2,

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