THE FOLLY OF POOR SINNERS.
The Blessed John of Avila would have wished to divide the world into two great prisons — one for those who do not believe and the other for those who do believe and yet live in sin! The prison for these last he would call the prison for fools.
The Blessed John of Avila would have wished to divide the world into two prisons: one for those who do not believe, and the other for those who believe and yet live in sin at a distance from God — the prison for these last he would call the prison for fools. But the great misery and misfortune of these unhappy men is that they imagine themselves wise and prudent, whereas they are the most foolish and the most stupid people in the world; and the worst is, that they are innumerable: The number of fools is infinite (Eccles. i. 15). Some are mad for the honours of this world, some for its pleasures, some for the filthy things of this earth. And such as these presume to designate as mad the Saints who despise the goods of this world to gain eternal salvation and the only true Good, which is God. They call it madness to embrace contempt, and to pardon injuries; madness to deprive themselves of sensual pleasures and to embrace mortifications: madness to renounce honours and riches and to love solitude and a humble and hidden life. But they do not reflect that their wisdom is called folly by the Lord: The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. iii. 19).
Ah, my Jesus, I am not worthy to be called Thy child because I have so often insulted Thee to Thy face: Father, I am not worthy to be called thy son: I have sinned against heaven and before thee. But I know that Thou goest in search of the lost sheep, and Thy consolation is to embrace Thy lost children. My beloved Father, I grieve for having offended Thee; I cast myself at Thy feet and embrace Thee; I will not depart until Thou dost pardon and bless me: I will not let thee go except thou bless me. Bless me, O my Father, and may Thy blessing give me a great sorrow for my sins, and a great love for Thee. I love Thee, O my Father; I love Thee with all my heart. Do not permit me again to separate myself from Thee. Deprive me of all; but deprive me not of Thy love. O Mary, if God is my Father, thou art my Mother. Do thou likewise bless me. I do not deserve to be thy child; accept me for thy servant; but grant that I may be a servant who always tenderly loves thee, and always confides in thy protection.
Sinners will surely one day confess their folly — but when? When there will be no remedy, and they will say in despair: We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour (Wis. v. 4). Ah, fools that we have been, we regarded the lives of the Saints as folly; but now we know that we ourselves have been the fools: Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the Saints (Wis. v. 5). Behold, how they are already placed amongst the happy number of the children of God, and have secured their lot with the Saints — an eternal lot, which will render them happy for ever; and we remain 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 will they conclude their lamentation) from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us (Wis. v. 6). We have erred, and have chosen to shut our eyes against the Divine light; and that which will render us most miserable is that our error will be without remedy as long as God shall be God.
What madness, then, for a vile interest, for a passing vapour, for a brief pleasure, to lose the grace of God! What does a subject not do to obtain the favour of his prince! O God, for a wretched gratification to lose the Sovereign Good, which is God! To lose Heaven! To lose even peace in this life, giving entrance into the soul to sin, which by its remorse will unceasingly torment it, and voluntarily to condemn oneself to everlasting misery!
Would you indulge in that forbidden pleasure if for it you were afterwards to have your hand burnt, or to be shut up for a year in a tomb? Would you commit that sin if after it you were to lose a hundred crowns? And yet you believe and know that by sinning you lose Heaven and God, and are for ever condemned to the fire of hell — and yet you sin!
O God of my soul, what would have been my lot at this moment if Thou hadst not shown so many mercies to me! I should have been in hell, in that abode of fools like myself. I thank Thee, O Lord; and I beseech Thee not to abandon me to my blindness. I deserved to be deprived of Thy light; but I perceive that Thy grace has not yet forsaken me. I feel that it tenderly calls me, and invites me to ask pardon of Thee, and to hope for great things from Thee, notwithstanding my grievous offences against Thee. Yes, my Saviour, I hope to be accepted by Thee as a child.