"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]

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893
  "Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites?"--St. Matt, xxii. 18.
What was it in the conduct of these Pharisees that made our Lord send them away unanswered and unsatisfied? If we listen to their words, there is nothing in what they said but what was most true and appropriate. They told our Lord that they knew that He was a true speaker, that He taught the way of God in truth, that He cared for no man and did not regard the person of men. Could anything be better said than that? And yet He who came to be the light of men dismissed these fine talkers still wrapped in darkness and ignorance. What is the reason for this treatment--a treatment so different to that which our Lord generally gave to those who came to Him? 

The reason is plain. These words of theirs were only on their lips, not in their hearts; they did not mean what they said nor wish to mean what they said. In fact it was all put on. They came to our Lord to ensnare Him, to get Him into difficulties. In one word, they came to Him as tempters. But He who not only hears the words of men but sees their hearts detected their dishonesty and insincerity, and measured out to it fitting punishment. The Saviour of mankind left these hypocrites, so far as we are told, unforgiven and unsaved.

And now how does this apply to ourselves? Very closely and practically. Far and away the most important thing for all of us is that we should receive from God the forgiveness of the sins which we have committed. In order to obtain this forgiveness, we have, each one, to go in person to God, as really as these Pharisees went to our Lord, and we have to make to Him certain professions of sorrow and contrition. We have to say that we are heartily sorry for all our sins, we declare that the reason why we are sorry is that those sins have offended Him who is infinitely good and worthy of all love, or at least that the loss of heaven or the danger of everlasting punishment makes us detest those sins; above all, we have to declare that our mind is made up not to commit mortal sin again, nor willingly to expose ourselves to the dangerous occasions of sin. These are the professions which we have all made to Almighty God over and over again. If they are sincere and genuine, they will, through the Most Precious Blood of our Lord, secure to us the remission of our sins, however many and great those sins may have been.

But the important point is that these professions should be sincere and genuine. How, then, are we to know that they are sincere and genuine? Well, of course, if we know that we don't mean what we say, that we don't intend to make any change in our life and conduct,, those expressions are plainly hypocritical and will bring down upon us a curse instead of forgiveness. This is so plain that it only needs to be mentioned to see the result. But there are many people who intend to do right and yet make a mistake about the act of contrition. They think that its sincerity and goodness depend on their feelings. They think that they ought to be able, if they are truly sorry, to shed tears for their sins, or at least to have profound emotions.

Now, no one will deny that it would be a good thing to be able to shed sincere tears of sorrow for our sins. The saints have done so, and have instructed us that we should pray for the grace to be able to do so. But the act of contrition may be and generally is sincere arid true if--but mark the condition--we have made up our minds not to sin again, and also to avoid dangerous occasions of sin.

This is the test of a real good act of contrition, and it is a good test, for every one must know his own mind on the point. If we have that full and sincere determination, an act of contrition is good, however dry and cold may be our feelings; but if we have not got that determination, if we have not resolved to avoid bad company; if, on the contrary, we intend going on much as before, then, although we might deluge the confessional with floods of tears, our lord's words to the Pharisees would be appropriate to us: "Why tempt you me, you hypocrites ?''

This, then, dear brethren, is a very important application of to-day's Gospel to ourselves: that we must take great care not to approach Almighty God with words which we do not mean, and especially, in coming to Confession, that we must come with a real, true determination to avoid all grievous sin in the future.