"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]

Saturday, March 3, 2018

THE CARELESS CHRISTIAN by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

"He hath done all things well: he hath made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak."--St. Matt. vii. 31.

To be deaf and dumb is generally esteemed a great misfortune. The poor person thus afflicted is for the most part cut off from the means of getting a living, and has to be supported by charity. He communicates with difficulty with his fellowmen, and this deprives him of a great part of the pleasure of life. We pity such a one and thank God that this calamity has not befallen us. 

But to be deprived of the senses of hearing and of speech by the dispensation of the Almighty, who doeth all things well, without any fault of our own, is a mere nothing and unworthy of consideration in comparison with that spiritual deafness and dumbness which is our own fault; for this is a deliberate and obstinate wickedness on our part, which draws down upon us the anger of God, and which involves us in the deprivation of the society of God, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saints, and renders us poor and miserable for all eternity.

God is speaking to us always. He speaks to us by his Holy Church and by all her instructions, which were carefully taught us in our youth. He speaks to us by the voice of his priests, who preach his word and the Gospel of salvation. He speaks to us in all events of life: in the loss of our friends and relatives, in the deaths of our brothers, sisters, parents, and children. When such things happen we cannot help but realize the utter uncertainty and nothingness of all human things; that we must die also--when we cannot tell--and that it is the highest folly to live for the moment and forget eternity. He speaks to us in sending us sickness, and disappointment, and poverty.

Oftentimes God speaks in our inmost hearts, stirring us up strangely and unaccountably to attend to our salvation. O brethren! if we look honestly into our hearts, must we not confess that this is so; that God has never ceased to admonish us, or to be solicitous for our salvation? If we have sinned, even grievously, has He not excited sorrow and made us feel miserable so as to bring us back to His love and obedience? Has He not disgusted us with the filthy pleasures of the senses, made us feel that all such things are truly the husks unfit for any but swine to eat, and made us long for the peace and joy which accompany innocence and a virtuous life? It is with this love and earnestness and patience that God speaks to us and has spoken to us all our lives long.

And how have we responded to all this? Have we made ourselves deaf and dumb to his voice? When he has spoken loudly to us, so that we could not help hearing, have we not stopped our ears and just refused to listen? When we were indulging in sin and violating the laws of God, and we felt condemned and that we were doing wrong, and were urged to stop and repent, did we not say in our hearts, "My God, let me alone; I cannot listen now, for I will not quit my evil ways?" When remorse continued, did we not plunge into the distractions of business or of pleasure in order to stifle the voice of God in our hearts? And has this spiritual deafness induced in us also a spiritual dumbness? so that we could not open our mouths to confess, so that year after year has gone by without our caring or daring to darken the doors of the holy tribunal of penance, thus cutting ourselves off from the society of the faithful, from all the merits of holy purposes and good works, keeping ourselves in the power of the evil one, to listen to and follow his evil suggestions, hardening our hearts more and more and dragging ourselves down to eternal perdition.

Our Lord healed the deaf and dumbman apparently with difficulty. He did not merely speak the word and heal him at once, but he took him aside, he groaned over him, he put his fingers in his ears, and touched his tongue with spittle, before he said, Ephpheta--that is, be opened--when he was healed.

This he did to show us how dangerous and obstinate is the malady of spiritual deafness and dumbness. It requires a peculiar exertion of divine power to cure it. It admonishes us all of the peril of persisting in this horrible condition, and of the necessity of getting out of it without a moment's delay.

But difficult as the cure may be in itself, it is not difficult with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is ready and willing to cure us. Let us go to him in all sincerity and ask the grace of a cure, ask that we may be all alive and in earnest to hear the word of God and to keep it; that our tongues may be unloosed to make a good and sincere confession. Our Lord will hear us and grant our request, for he is the one who doeth all things well, who makes both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.



"And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell."--St. Matt. v. 29

Here, indeed, one would say, is a severe remedy to be applied in order to avoid giving offence; and yet it was uttered by Him who had pity for the sinner, and who knew well the difficulties and obstacles in the way of avoiding sin. But the severity of the remedy only emphasizes the importance, the grave necessity there is of our avoiding the immediate occasions of sin, and of cutting loose from whatever leads to it. And that, too, at whatever cost to our convenience and however dear to us the occasion may be; whether the bad book or newspaper, improper show or play, forbidden dance, bad company, grog-shop, or any other proximate occasion of mortal sin (* in modern times: internet, movies, television, music).

And yet in the face of such a command, in spite of such a warning, we find men falling continually into sins which could easily have been avoided if only the commonest precautions were observed. The man who will venture out on the ice when the red flag of danger stares him in the face is a simpleton; the man who carelessly enters a powder magazine with a lighted taper is a suicide; the man who trifles with a package of dynamite courts death and deserves no sympathy if he loses his life. You agree to all this, because all these things have been done; for paltry gain, to overcome some trifling inconvenience, to save a few moments of time, men are foolhardy enough to risk their lives.

So it is, brethren, with the life of our souls. Many of us have no conception of our obligation to avoid the occasion of sin, have no idea of the necessity we lie under of removing from our path the obstacles that prevent the life and growth of our soul. We come, indeed, to the feet of our Lord with sorrow for our past sins and with resolutions of amendment for the future, but we seldom give ourselves a thought about examining into the occasions of our former fall and of removing ourselves far from them. "I hate sin," one man will say; but in his heart does he hate that which led him into sin? "I despise myself for my past follies"; but does he shun the persons or places that made these possible? The child needs to be burnt but once, it will never put its hand into the fire a second time; but all the fire of this world and the next does not seem sufficient to teach some men that dangerous occasions are to be avoided. We cannot trifle with God; we cannot with one breath cry out, "Spare me, O Lord!" while with the very next we rush madly into that which past experience warns us shall bring about our fall--for he who loves the danger shall perish therein.

Now, brethren, there is no denying the fact that here and now, in a great city like this, to keep a custody over the eyes, to avoid in this respect the occasions of sin, is no easy task. It means a struggle, a hard battle morning, noon, and night. For our eyes, unless most zealously guarded, are offended at every step we take; the streets we walk in, the cars we ride in, the very stores we deal in are made the outlet for an unholy warfare against us.

There is a crying need for a new crusade against this outrage. You and I cannot, perhaps, put a stop to this entirely, but we can do much to prevent its spread. We can begin this crusade at home--in our own hearts, by schooling ourselves to a greater custody of the eyes; in our houses, by banishing those suggestive and sometimes filthy pictures. We can resolve never to stand on the streets or before the show-windows, gazing at and gloating over those abominable prints that are defiling the minds of young and old. Don't visit the play or show that tries to attract you in this way. Don't buy goods that have to make use of such foul means to secure your trade. Don't deal with the man who insults your modesty as a Christian by exhibiting such things in his store. The authors of this unholy traffic are not fools; they can learn a lesson soon and profit by it.

If you love your own souls, if you cherish the purity of your children, you will ponder seriously over these words to-day and resolve accordingly.