Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXIII

The Delusions which the Devil Puts into the Minds of Sinners.
(Although the preceding considerations contain many of the sentiments contained in this, it will be useful to collect them all together, in order to dissipate the usual illusions by which the devil succeeds in inducing sinners to relapse.)
I will Go to Confession. – I cannot Resist.
Let us imagine a young man who has fallen into grievous sins, which he has already confessed, and who is restored to the friendship of God. The devil again tempts him to relapse: the young man resists for a while; but, in consequence of the delusions suggested by the enemy, he begins to vacillate. Tell me, young man, I say to him, what will you do? Will you now, for this miserable pleasure, forfeit the grace of God, which you have just acquired, and which is more valuable than the whole world? Will you, yourself, write the sentence of eternal death, and condemn yourself to burn forever in hell? No, you answer, I do not wish to damn myself, I wish to be saved: If I commit this sin, I will afterward confess it. Behold the first delusion of the devil! Then you say that you will afterward confess it; but in the mean time you lose your soul. Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying, I will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it? You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire), and say: I. hope to recover it by a good confession. But should you not recover it, what will be the consequence? To recover the divine grace, true repentance, which is the gift of God, is necessary. Should God not give you the grace of repentance; should death overtake you, and not allow you time to go to confession, what will become of you?
You say that you will go to confession before the lapse of a week. And who promises you that you will live for a week? You then say that you will go to confession to-morrow. And who promises you to-morrow? St. Augustine says: “God has not promised to-morrow: perhaps he will give it, and perhaps he will not.” Perhaps he will deny it to you, as he has denied it to so many others who have gone to bed in good health, and have been found dead in the morning. How many have been struck dead in the act of sin, and sent to hell? And should the same happen to you, how will you be able to repair your eternal ruin? Be assured that by this delusion—I will afterward go to confession—the devil has brought thousands and thousands of Christians to hell. It is difficult to find a sinner so abandoned to despair as to wish for his own damnation. In committing sin, all sinners hope to repent and go to confession; it is thus that so many miserable souls are lost: and now there is no remedy for their damnation.
But you say: At present I cannot resist this temptation. Behold the second delusion of the devil, who makes it appear to you that at present you have not strength to resist your passions. First, it is necessary to know that, as the Apostle says, God is faithful, and never permits us to be tempted above our strength.1 Moreover, I ask, if you are unable to resist your passions, how will you be able to resist them hereafter? After you have yielded to one temptation, the devil will tempt you to other sins, and by your consent to sin he will have gained an increase of strength against you, and you will have become weaker. If, then, you are now unable to extinguish the flame of passion, how can you expect to extinguish it when it has grown stronger? You say: God will give me his aid. But this aid he gives you at present. Why, then, do you not correspond with his grace and conquer your passion? Perhaps you expect that God will give you more abundant helps and graces after you have multiplied sins. If at present you wish for greater help and strength, why do you not ask them from God? Ask, and it shall be given, you.2 God cannot violate his promise. Have recourse to him, and he will give you the strength which you require in order to resist every temptation. God does not command impossibilities; but by his commands he admonishes us to do what we can with the actual aid which he gives us; and when this aid is not sufficient to enable us to resist temptations, he exhorts us to ask additional help, which he gives, whenever we pray, for it.
Affections and Prayers.
Then, my God why hast Thou been so bountiful to me, and I so ungrateful to Thee? We have been engaged in a mutual contest. I fled away from Thee, and Thou didst seek after me. Thou didst confer benefits on me, and I offered insults to Thee. Ah, Lord! the goodness alone which Thou hast shown me ought to enamor me of Thee; for, when I multiplied sins, Thou didst multiply Thy graces. And when have I merited the light which Thou now givest me? My Lord I thank Thee for it with my whole heart, and I hope to thank Thee for it eternally in heaven. I hope in Thy blood for eternal salvation, and I hope for it with certainty, since Thou hast treated me with so much mercy. I hope that Thou wilt give me grace never more to betray Thee. I purpose, with Thy grace, to die a thousand times rather than ever again offend Thee. I have offended Thee sufficiently. During the remainder of my life I wish to love Thee. And how can I but love a God who, after having died for me, has waited for me with so much patience, in spite of the numberless injuries I have done him. O God of my soul! I repent of all my sins with my whole heart; I would wish to die of sorrow for them. But if I have hitherto turned my back upon Thee, I now love Thee above all things; I love Thee more than myself. Eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ, assist a miserable sinner, who wishes to love Thee. Mary, my hope! assist me; obtain for me the grace always to have recourse to thy Son and to thee, as often as the devil tempts me to offend God again.
God is Merciful.
God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin, and thus are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But great as is his mercy, how many does he send to hell every day? God is merciful; but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him.3 But he executes justice on those who despise him, and abuse his mercy to insult him the more. God pardons Sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. St. Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of afterward repenting; is not a penitent, but a mocker of God’s majesty. But the Apostle tells us that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked.4 It would be a mockery of God to insult, him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven.
But as God has shown me so many mercies hitherto, so I hope he will treat me with mercy hereafter. Behold the fourth delusion! Then, must the Lord, because he has had compassion on you, show mercy forever, and never chastise you? No: the greater have been his mercies to you, the more you have reason to fear that, if you offend him again, he will pardon you no more, but will take vengeance on your sins. Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? for the Most High is a patient rewarder.5 Say not: I have sinned, and have not been punished; for though God endures, he will not do so forever. When the number of mercies which he has resolved to show to the sinner is exhausted, he then punishes all his sins together. And the longer God has waited for his repentance, the more severe will be his punishment, says St. Gregory.6
If then, O my brother, you see that you have often offended God, and that he his not sent you to hell, you should say: The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed.7 Lord! I thank Thee, for not having sent me to hell, as I deserved. Consider how many have been damned for fewer sins than you have committed, and labor to atone, by penance and other good works, for the offences you have offered to God. The patience which he has had with you, and the great mercies which he has shown to you, and not to others, ought to animate you not to offend him again, but to serve and love him.
Affections and Prayers.
My crucified Jesus, my Redeemer and my God! behold a traitor at Thy feet. I am ashamed to appear before Thee. How often have I mocked Thee! How often have I promised to offend Thee no more! But my promises have been so many treasons: for when the occasion of sin was presented to me I have forgotten Thee, and have again turned my back upon Thee. I thank Thee that I am not now in hell, but at Thy feet, where Thou enlightenest me, and callest me to Thy love, Yes; I wish to love Thee, my Saviour and my God! and I wish never more to despise Thee. Thou hat borne with me long enough. I see that Thou canst bear with me no longer. Unhappy me, if after so many graces, I offend Thee again! Lord, I sincerely wish and resolve to change my life: I wish to love Thee as much as I have offended Thee. It consoles me to have to deal with Thee, who art infinite goodness: but I am sorry above all things for having so much despised Thee, and I promise Thee all my love for the future. Pardon me through the merits of Thy Passion; forget the injuries I have done Thee, and give me strength to be faithful to Thee during the remainder of my life. I love Thee, O my Sovereign Good! and I hope to love Thee forever. My dear God! I will never more abandon Thee. O Mary, Mother of God! bind me to Jesus Christ, and obtain for me the grace never again to depart from his feet. In Thee I trust.
I am Young—Perhaps.
But I am young. God compssionates youth. I will hereafter give myself to God. We are now at the fifth delusion. But do you not know that God counts, not the years, but the sins of each individual? You are young! But how many sins have you committed? There are many persons of very advanced age who have not been guilty of the tenth part of the sins which you have committed. And do you not know that God has fixed the number and measure of sins which he will pardon each? The Lord waiteth patiently, says, Holy Scripture, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fulness of their sins.8 That is, God has patience, and waits for a certain time; but when the measure of the sins which he has resolved to pardon is filled up, he pardons no more, but chastises the sinner by sending him a sudden death while in the state of damnation, or he abandons him in his sin—a chastisement worse than death. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted.9 If you had encompassed a field with a hedge, and cultivated it many years, and found that after all your labor and expense it produced no fruit, what would you do with it? Would you not take away the hedge and abandon it? Tremble, lest God should treat you in a similar manner. If you continue to offend him, you will gradually lose remorse of conscience—you will cease to think of eternity, or of the salvation of your soul—you will lose all light and fear: behold the hedge taken away: behold your soul already abandoned by God.
Let us come to the last delusion. You say: It is true that If I commit this sin, I shall lose the grace of God, and shall be condemned to hell; it may be that in punishment of it I shall be damned; but it may also happen that I shall afterward make a good confession, and save my soul. Yes, it may, I admit, happen that you will be saved; for I am not a prophet, and therefore I cannot say for certain, that, if you commit this sin, God will show you no more mercy. But you cannot deny that, if, after the great graces God has bestowed upon you, you offend him again, you will expose yourself to very great danger of being lost forever. Attend to the language of Scripture. A hard heart shall fare evil at the last.10 Evil-doers shall be cut off.11 The wicked will in the end be cut off by divine justice. What things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap.12 He that sows sins, will reap nothing but pains and torments. I called and you refused. . . . I will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared.13 I have called you, says the Lord, and you have mocked me; but I will mock you at the hour of death. Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.14 To me belongs the punishment due to sins: I will inflict it when the time of vengeance arrives. Such are the threats of the Scriptures against obstinate sinners; such is the chastisement which reason and justice demand. You say: It may happen, after all, that I shall be saved. I again admit that this may happen; but is it not the height of folly to trust the eternal salvation of your soul to a perhaps?—to a possibility of escaping hell when your salvation is so very improbable? Is eternal life an affair to be exposed to such imminent danger.
Affections and Prayers.
My dear Redeemer! prostrate at Thy feet, I thank Thee for not having abandoned me after I had committed so many sins. How many who have offended Thee less than I have will never receive the light which Thou now givest me! I see that Thou earnestly desirest my salvation, and I wish to be saved, principally for the sake of pleasing Thee. I wish for heaven that there I may eternally sing the mercies which Thou hast shown me. I hope that Thou hast already pardoned me. But should I still be Thy enemy in consequence of not repenting as I ought of the offences I have offered to Thee, I am now sorry for them with my whole soul; they displease me above all things. Pardon me for Thy mercy’s sake, and increase continually my sorrow for having offended Thee, who art so good a God. Give me sorrow—give me love. I love Thee above all things, but I love Thee too little. I wish to love Thee ardently. This love I ask and hope for from Thee. Hear me, O my Jesus! Thou hast promised to hear all who pray to Thee. O Mary, Mother of God! all tell me that thou never allowest a soul that recommends itself to thee to go away disconsolate. I trust in thee; recommend me to thy Son, and obtain for me eternal life.

1“Fidelis autem Deus est, qui non patietur vos tentari supra id quod potestis.” – 1 Cor. x. 13.
2“Petite, et accipietis.” – John, xvi. 24.
3“Corroboravit misericordiam suam super timentes se. . . Misertus est Dominus timentibus se.” – Ps. cii. 11, 13.
4“Nolite errare, Deus non irridetur.” – Gal. vi. 7.
5“Ne dixeris: Peccavi, et quid mihi accidit triste? Altissimus enim est patiens redditor.” – Ecclus. v. 4.
6“Quos diu tolerat, durius damnat” – In Evang. hom. 13.
7“Misericordiæ Domini, quia non Sumus consumpti.” – Lam. iii. 22.
8“Dominus patienter expectat, ut eas (nationes), cum judicii dies advenerit in plenitudine peccatorum puniat.” – 2 Mach. vi. 14.
9“Auferam sepem ejus, et erit in direptionem.” – Isa. v. 5.
10“Cor durum habebit male in novissimo.” – Ecclus. iii. 27.
11“Qui malignantur, exterminabuntur.” – Ps. xxxvi. 9.
12“Qua seminaverit homo, hæc et metet.” – Gal. vi. 8.
13“Vocavi, et renuistis; . . . ego quoque, in interitu vestro, ridebo et subsannabo.” – Prov. i. 24.
14“Mea est ultio, et ego retribuam in tempore.” – Deut. xxxii. 33.

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