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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

LENT: TRIFLING WITH GOD

TRIFLING WITH GOD
by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893


"He who is not with me is against me."--St. Luke xi. 23.


A Holy writer, commenting upon this Gospel, says that the seven devils spoken of are the relapsing sinner's sevenfold wickedness in his contempt of the seven gifts of grace from the Holy Ghost which wrought his former conversion. 


To relapse into sin is to sin against the special light which one always receives in the hour of conversion. It adds to the new sin the sin of ingratitude, and the breaking of one's solemn promise made to God, when in confession, to avoid the occasions of sin in the future and to amend one's life. After a good absolution one goes forth not only with a clear conscience, but with a clearer mind. He sees things in a new light, as we say, and wonders how he could ever have been either so wicked or so foolish as to commit the sins he has just confessed.

And yet he can be more wicked and more foolish than ever before. With the suggestion and aid of one devil he committed his former sins. Now he opens the door of his heart to seven devils more wicked than the first, to help him do worse than he ever dreamed he would dare do. That is because he is now sinning against the light. When he resolved before to abandon sin it was precisely because he thought more of God and of the value of his soul, and thus became enlightened to see his sins in their true character and fearful consequences.

One hears a sermon. It has not spoken of every truth, nor exhorted to every virtue: but it seems to have had a strange effect. It has been like a hand to remove all doubts and difficulties, and to tear away the dark veil that separated him from God. And what divine peace it promises too, and how deeply he is moved to go in haste and obtain it! Everything is clear to him now, so clear that if all the world knew his past sins no one would condemn him so severely as he condemns himself.

More light, more responsibility. He is sinning now against more light, and that is why a relapsing sinner plunges himself into greater spiritual darkness than he ever was in before, and his last state has become worse than the first. Finding himself in a state of renewed opposition to God, defying all warnings and impending punishment, he begins to harden his heart. That is the new danger. Those who keep on falling back into sin learn to harden their hearts. Alas! where now is that sharp sting in the conscience, the remorse, the shame, the wretchedness of soul that used to come after sins, even the very same sins, in former days? They have hardened their hearts, and now the ever-offered grace of God makes little or no impression upon them.

Whose state have I been describing here to-day? Is it yours? If so, let me say a word to you, a word which I pray God to stamp deeply upon your heart, a word to ring in your ears all day, and haunt your thoughts at night; a word that I would have appear before your eyes in letters of fire as you go on from sin to sin: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God!" Stop now!

Go not on heaping up wrath against the day of wrath, fighting against God and rejecting His mercy. This is the season of penance, and especially the season of penance for you who relapse into sin.

Come quickly to confession, for you are in urgent need of God's mercy. You who are listening now to these words, and are not resolving to do penance and seek for absolution during this Lent, are the ones who need that mercy the most. Beware! You remember what the heedless man said in the Gospel: '' Soul, take thine ease; thou hast many good things laid up for enjoyment." And you also remember what the Lord added: '' In that self-same night his soul was required of him."





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HOW TO BE MASTERS OF OURSELVES

"Many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ; whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is their shame: who mind earthly things."--Phil. iii. 18.



Sensuality is the bane of man's existence. The dominion of the passions over reason is the source of his greatest misery. "Every passion," says St. Ambrose, "is a slavery,'' because it subjects man to an unjust and tyrannous bondage.

The present, or at least the ultimate, happiness of the creature is wrecked unless he resists the attacks of sensuality and frees himself from the control of the passions. The Spirit of God and the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil cannot exist together in the soul. Whoever seeks to serve at once God and mammon is of those "whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame," who are "the enemies of the Cross of Christ," because they strive to destroy a fundamental principle of the Christian religion, namely, self-denial.

"We must live in this world," says St. Francis of Sales, "as if our spirits were in heaven and our bodies in the tomb." We must live a dying life, and die a living and a life-giving death in the life of our King and most sweet Saviour! This we do by self-denial.

Yet the very word--self-denial--fills the mind of some with terror, with thoughts of long fasts and of scourgings, of mental suffering and of bodily misery. These are they "who mind earthly things." They cannot appreciate the necessity of self-denial because they are insensible to spiritual things. Their world is the region of the senses. They love their bodies and serve them with fidelity, they devote their time to the study of how they can get the most pleasure out of life, and they wander along through their probation wondering why they find so little comfort for their pains.

Self-denial does not consist in mere bodily mortifications, Fasting and other corporal austerities are but means by which the animal man is brought into subjection. The real end of selfdenial is that the soul may be the master of the man. St. John of the Cross tells us "that there is great reason to lament the ignorance of some who burden themselves with indiscreet penances and with many other disorderly exercises of their own self-will, putting all their confidence in such acts and believing that they become saints by means of them. If they would but use half the same diligence in mortifying their unruly appetites and passions they would make more advancement in a single month than in many whole years with all other exercises."

"Be assured," says St. Francis of Sales, "that the mortification of the senses in seeing, hearing, and speaking is far more profitable than wearing even sharp chains or hair-shirts. It ought to be our principal aim to conquer ourselves, and from day to day to go on increasing in spiritual strength and perfection. But above all it is necessary to overcome our little temptations to anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, duplicity, vanity, foolish attachments and so on, for by so doing we shall gain strength to resist more violent temptations."

A man's chief care, then, ought to be turned within himself, for a man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. 



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