Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XX

The Folly of the Sinner.
“For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.” – 1 Cor. 111. 19.
The Large Number of Fools.
The Venerable John Avila would have divided the world into two prisons, one for the incredulous, the other for Christians who live in sin at a distance from God. The prison of the latter he would have called the prison of fools. But the greatest misery and misfortune is, that these miserable men esteem themselves wise and prudent, though they are the most foolish and imprudent of mortals. And unfortunately they are exceedingly numerous. The number of fools is infinite.1 Some are foolish through love of honors; some for the sake of pleasures; and others from attachment to the miserable goods of this earth. And great as their folly is, they have the temerity to call the saints fools, because they despise the goods of this life in order to gain eternal salvation and the possession of God, who is the true and supreme good. They deem it folly to embrace contempt, and to pardon injuries; folly to abstain from sensual pleasures, and to practise mortification; folly to renounce honors and riches, to love solitude and an humble and hidden life. But they never reflect that the Lord has called their wisdom folly. For, says the apostle, the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.2
Ah! they will one day confess their folly; but when? When there will be no remedy for it. They will then say in despair: We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honor.3 Ah! fools that we have been! we regarded the lives of the saints as folly; but now we know that we have been miserably foolish. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot among the saints.4 Behold how they have obtained a place among the happy number of the children of God, and have secured their lot among the saints—an eternal lot, which will make them happy for eternity; and we are among the number of the slaves of the devil, condemned to burn in this pit of torments for all eternity. Therefore we have erred, thus they shall conclude their lamentation, from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us.5 Then we have erred by shutting our eyes to God’s light; and what renders our condition still more forlorn is, that for our error there is no remedy, and there will be none as long as God will be God.
How great then the folly of sinners, who, for a worthless gain, for a little smoke, for a transient delight, lose the grace of God! What would not a vassal do in order to gain the favor of his sovereign? O God! for a miserable gratification, to lose God, the supreme Good! to lose paradise! to forfeit peace in this life, by bringing into the soul the monster sin, which, by its remorse, will torture it unceasingly! and to condemn yourself voluntarily to everlasting woe! Would you indulge in that forbidden pleasure if, in punishment, your hand was to be burned? or if you were to be shut up for a year in a grave? Would you commit that sin, if after consenting to it, you should forfeit a hundred crowns? And still you believe and know that in yielding to sin, you lose heaven and God, and that you are condemned to eternal fire: and after all you transgress the divine law.
Affections and Prayers.
O God of my soul! what should be my lot at this moment, if Thou hadst not shown me so many mercies? I should be in hell among the number of the foolish to which I have belonged. I thank Thee, O my Lord! and I entreat Thee not to abandon me in my blindness. I feel that Thou tenderly callest and invitest me to ask pardon, and to hope for great graces from Thee, after the insults I have offered to Thee. Yes, my Saviour! I hope Thou wilt admit me among Thy children: I am not worthy to be called Thy child, after having so often insulted Thee to Thy face. Father, I am not worthy to be called Thy child: I have sinned against heaven and before thee.6 But I know that Thou goest in search of the strayed sheep, and that Thou feelest consolation in embracing Thy lost children. My dear Father! I am sorry for having offended Thee. I cast myself at Thy feet, and embrace them; I will not depart till Thou pardon and bless me.
I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.7 Bless me, O my Father! and let the fruit of Thy benediction be: a great sorrow for my sins, and a great love for Thee. I love Thee, O my Father! I love Thee with my whole heart. Do not permit me ever more to depart from Thee. Deprive me of all; but do not strip me of Thy love. O Mary! If God is My Father, thou art my Mother. Do thou also bless me. I do not deserve to be thy son: accept me for thy servant; but make Me a servant who will always love thee tenderly and always confide in thy protection.
Great Folly.
Poor sinners! they labor and toil for the attainment of worldly sciences, or the art of gaining the goods of this life, which will soon end, and neglect the goods of the next life, which is everlasting! They lose their reason to such a degree, that they become not only fools, but senseless beasts; for, living like brute animals, they attend not to what is lawful or unlawful, but only follow the beastly instincts of the senses, and embrace what is pleasing to the flesh, without ever reflecting on what they lose, or on the eternal ruin which they bring upon themselves. To live in this manner is, to act not like a man, but like a senseless beast. St. John Chrysostom says: “We call him a man who preserves intact the image of man; but what is this image of man: To be rational.”8 To be a man is, to be rational—that is, to act according to reason, and not according to the sensual appetite. Were beasts to receive from God the use of reason, and to act according to its dictates, we should say that they acted like men; and, on the other hand, when a man follows the impulse of the senses in opposition to reason, it must be said he acts like a beast.
O that they would be wise, and would understand, and would provide for their last end.9 He who acts according to the rules of prudence, looks to the future—that is, to what must happen at the end of life—to death and judgment, and after judgment, hell or heaven. Oh! how much wiser is the peasant who saves his soul, than the monarch who brings himself to hell. Better is a child who is poor and wise, than a king that is old and foolish, who knoweth not to foresee hereafter.10 O God! would not all pronounce the man to be a fool, who, in order to gain a shilling, would risk his entire property? And will he not be considered foolish, who, for a momentary gratification, forfeits the grace of God, and exposes his soul to the danger of eternal perdition? The care of present, and the total neglect of eternal goods and evils, is the ruin of the immense multitude of the damned.
God has certainly not placed us in this world to become rich, or acquire honors, or to indulge our senses, but to gain eternal life. But the end life everlasting.11 And nothing but the attainment of this end is of importance to us. One thing is necessary.12 But there is nothing that sinners despise more than this end: they think only of the present; they each day walk toward death, and approach the gate of eternity, but know not whither they are going. “What would you think,” says St. Augustine, “of a pilot, who, when asked where he is going should answer, that he did not know? Would not all exclaim, that he is bringing the ship to ruin? Such,” adds the saint, “is the man who runs out of the Way.”13 Such are the wise of the world, who know how to acquire wealth, to indulge in amusements, to gain posts of honor and emolument, but know not how to save their souls. The rich glutton knew how to lay up wealth; but he died, and was buried in hell.14 Alexander the Great knew how to acquire many kingdoms; but in a few years he died, and was lost forever. Henry VIII. knew how to preserve his throne by rebelling against the Church; but seeing at death that he lost his soul, he exclaimed: We have lost all. How many miserable sinners now weep and cry out in hell: What hath pride profited us? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? all those things are passed away like a shadow.15 Behold, they exclaim, for us all the goods of the world have passed away like a shadow, and nothing remains but eternal wailing and everlasting torments.
Before man is life and death, that which he shall choose shall be given him.16 Beloved Christian, God places before you in this world, life and death—that is, the voluntary privation of forbidden pleasure, by which you will gain eternal life; or the indulgence of them, by which you merit everlasting death. What do you say? What choice do you make? In making the choice, act like a man, and not like a senseless beast. Act like a Christian who believes in the Gospel and says: What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?17
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! Thou hast given me reason, Thou hast given me the light of faith, and I have acted like a senseless beast, by losing Thy grace for the miserable pleasure of the senses, which have passed away like air and now I find nothing but remorse of conscience, and debts to Thy divine justice. Enter not into judgment with Thy servant.18 Ah, Lord! judge me not according to my merits, but treat me according to Thy mercy. Give me light, give me sorrow for the offences that I have committed against Thee, and pardon me. “I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost: seek thy servant.” I am a lost sheep: and unless Thou seek after me, I shall be lost forever. Have pity on me for the sake of that blood which Thou hast shed for me. I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having left Thee, and for having voluntarily renounced Thy grace. I would wish to die of sorrow, but give me an increase of sorrow. Bring me to heaven that there I may sing Thy mercies. Mary; my Mother! thou art my refuge; pray to Jesus for me: beg of him to grant me pardon and holy perseverance.
True Wisdom.
Let us be persuaded that the truly wise are they who know how to acquire the divine grace, and the kingdom of heaven; and let us incessantly implore the Lord to give us the science of the saints, which he gives to all who ask it from him.19 Oh! what a precious science to know how to love God, and to save our souls! This Science consists in knowing how to walk in the way of salvation, and to adopt the means of attaining eternal life. The affair of salvation is of all affairs the most necessary. If we know all things, and know not how to save our souls, our knowledge will be unprofitable to us, and we shall be forever miserable: but on the other hand; though we should be ignorant of all things, we shall be happy for eternity, if we know how to love God. “Blessed is the man,” says St. Augustine, “who knows Thee though he be ignorant of other things.”20 One day, Brother Giles said to St. Bonaventure: Happy you, Father Bonaventure, who are so learned. I am a poor, ignorant man, who knows nothing. You can become more holy than I can. “Listen,” replied the saint: “If an ignorant old woman love God more than I do, she shall be more holy than I am.” On hearing this, Brother Giles began to exclaim: O poor old woman! poor old woman! listen, listen: if you love God, you can become more holy than Father Bonaventure.
“The unlearned rise up,” says St.. Augustine: “and bear away the kingdom of heaven.”21 How many rude and illiterate Christians, who, though unable to read, know how to love God and are saved! And how many of the learned of this world are damned! But the former, not the latter, are truly wise. Oh! how truly wise were St. Paschal, St. Felix the Capuchin, St. John of God, though unacquainted with human sciences! Oh! how truly wise were so many holy men, who, abandoning the world, shut themselves up in the cloister, or spent their lives in the desert! How truly wise were St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Louis of Toulouse, who renounced the throne! Oh! how truly wise were so many martyrs, so many tender virgins, who refused the hand of princes, and suffered death for the sake of Jesus Christ! That true wisdom consists in despising the goods of this life, and in securing a happy eternity, even worldlings know and believe: hence of persons who give themselves to God, they say: Happy they, who are truly wise, and save their souls! In fine, they who renounce the goods of the world to give themselves to God, are said to be undeceived. What then should we call those who abandon God for worldly goods? We should call them deluded men.
Brother, to what class do you wish to belong? In order to make a good choice, St. Chrysostom tells you to visit the sepulchres of the dead.22 The grave is the school in which we may see the vanity of earthly goods, and in which we may learn the science of the saints. “Tell me,” says St. Chrysostom, “are you able there to discover who has been a prince, a noble, or a man of learning? For my part,” adds the saint, “I see nothing but rottenness, worms, and bones. All is but a dream, a shadow.”23 Everything in this world will soon have an end, and will vanish like a dream or a shadow. But, dearly beloved Christians, if you wish to be truly wise, it is not enough to know your end, it is necessary to adopt the means of attaining it. All would wish to be saved and to be saints; but because they do not employ the means, they never acquire sanctity, and are lost. It is necessary to fly from the occasions of sin, to frequent the sacraments, to practise mental prayer, and above all, to impress on the heart the following maxims of the Gospel: What doth it profit a Man if he gain the whole world?24 He that loveth his life, shall lose it.25 That is, we must even forfeit our life in order to save the soul. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.26 To follow Jesus Christ it is necessary to refuse to self-love the pleasures which it seeks. Life is His good will.27 Our salvation consists in doing the will of God. These, and other similar maxims, should be deeply impressed on the soul.
Affections and Prayers.
O Father of mercies! behold my miseries, and have pity on me; give me light, make me sensible of my past folly, that I may bewail it; and make known to me Thy infinite goodness, that I may love it. My Jesus! do not deliver up to beasts the souls that confess to Thee.28 Thou hast expended Thy blood for my salvation: do not permit me ever more to be, as I have hitherto been, the slave of the devils. I am sorry, O my Sovereign Good! for having abandoned Thee. I curse all the moments in which I voluntarily consented to sin; and I embrace Thy holy will, which desires nothing but my welfare. Eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ, give me strength to do all that is pleasing to Thee. Strike Me dead rather than permit me to oppose Thy holy will. Assist me by Thy grace to banish from my heart every affection which does not tend to Thee. I love Thee, O God of my soul! I love Thee above all things: and from Thee I hope for every good: for pardon, for perseverance in Thy love, and for paradise, that there I may love Thee for eternity. O Mary! ask these graces for me. Thy Son refuses thee nothing. My hope! I trust in thee.

1“Et stultorum infinitus est numerus.” Eccles. i. 15.
2“Sapientia enim hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum.” – 1 Cor. iii. 19.
3“Nos insensati vitam illorum æstimabamus insaniam, et finem illorum sine honore.” – Wis. v. 4.
4“Ecce quomodo computati sunt inter filios Dei, et inter sanctos sors illorum est.” – Wis. v. 5.
5“Ergo erravimus a via veritatis, et justitia lumen non luxit nobis.” – Wis. v. 6.
6“Pater, peccavi in cœlum et coram te: jam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus.” – Luke, xv. 18.
7“Non dimittam te, nisi benedixeris mihi.” – Gen. xxxii. 26.
8“Hominem illum dicimus, qui imaginem hominis salvam retinet: quæ autem est imago hominis? Rationalem esse,” – In Gen. hom. 23.
9“Utinam saperent, et intelligerent. et novissima providerent!” – Deut. xxxii. 29.
10“Melior est puer pauper et sapiens, rege sene et stulto, qui nescit prævidere in posterum.” – Eccles. iv. 13.
11“Finem vero vitam æternam.” – Rom. vi. 22.
12“Porro unum est necessarium.” – Luke, x. 42.
13“Fac hominem perdidisse quo tendit, et dicatur ei: Quo is? Et dicat: Nescio. – Nonne iste navem ad naufragium perducit? Talis est qui currit præter viam.” – In Ps. 31, enarr. 2.
14“Mortuus est, . . . et sepultus est in inferno.” – Luke, xvi. 22.
15“Quid nobis profuit superbia, aut divitiarum jactantia? Transierunt omnia illa tamquam umbra.” – Wis. v. 8.
16“Ante hominem vita et mors . . .; quod placuerit ei, dabitur illi.” – Ecclus. xv. 18.
17“Quid prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur animæ vero suæ detrimentum patiatur?” – Matt. xvi. 26.
18“Non intres in judicium cum servo tuo.” – Ps. cxlii. 2.
19“Dedit illi scientiam sanctorum.” – Wis. x. 10.
20“Beatus, qui te scit, etiam si alia nesciat.” – Conf. l. 5, c. 4.
21“Surgunt indocti, et cœlum rapiunt.” – Conf. l. 8, c. 8.
22Proficiscamur ad sepulchra.
23“Nihil video, nisi putredinem, ossa, et vermes. Omnia somnium, umbra.” – In Matth. hom. 77.
24“Quid prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur?” – Matt. xvi. 26.
25“Qui amat animam suam, perdet eam.” – John, xii. 25.
26“Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum.” – Matt. xvi. 24.
27“Vita in voluntate ejus.” – Ps. xxix. 6.
28“Ne tradas bestiis animas confitentes tibi.” – Ps. lxxiii. 10.

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP