“AH, THAT THEY WOULD BE WISE!”
Poor sinners! They labour, they spare not themselves in order to acquire worldly knowledge, and the art of gaining the good things of this life which is so soon to end! And these very men neglect the riches of the life that never ends! Oh, that they would be wise!
Poor sinners! They labour, they spare not themselves in order to acquire worldly knowledge and the art of gaining the good things of this life which is so soon to end! And these very men neglect the riches of the life which never ends. They lose their reason to such a manner that they become not only madmen but brute beasts; for, living as such, they do not consider what is good and what is evil, but follow only the brutal instincts of sense, embracing that which at the moment is pleasing to the flesh, without reflecting upon what they lose, and the eternal ruin they draw down upon themselves. And thus they act, not as men but as brute beasts. St. John Chrysostom says: “We call him a man who preserves intact the image of man; but what is this image of man? To be rational.” To be man is to be rational, that is, to act according to reason; not according to the sensual appetite. If God were to give to a beast the use of reason, and it were to act according to reason, we should say that it acted like a man; so, on the contrary, when a man acts according to the senses, and contrary to reason, we must say that the man acts like a beast.
Ah, my God, Thou hast given me understanding, Thou hast given me the light of Faith; and I have hitherto acted like a brute beast, losing Thy grace for the wretched pleasures of sense, which have passed away as a breath of air; and now nothing remains of them but remorse of conscience, and a long account to render to Thy Divine justice. Ah, Lord, do not judge me according to my deserts, but according to Thy mercy! Give me light, give me sorrow for my offences against Thee, and pardon me. I am the lost sheep; and if Thou seekest me not I shall be for ever lost. Have pity on me for the sake of that Blood which Thou hast shed for the love of me.
Oh, that they would be wise, and would understand, and would provide for their last end! (Deut. xxxii. 29). He who acts with prudence, and according to reason, looks to the future, that is, to what must happen to him at the end of life; to Death, Judgment, and after that, Hell or Heaven. Oh, how much more wise is the peasant who saves his soul than the monarch who loses it! Better is a child that is poor and wise, than a king that is old and foolish, who knoweth not to foresee for hereafter (Eccles. iv. 13). O my God, would not that man be universally considered mad, who, to gain a small sum at the present moment, should risk the loss of all his possessions! And shall we not consider him as such, who, for a momentary gratification imperils his soul and incurs the risk of losing it forever? The ruin of so many souls who are now lost was their caring only for present goods and ills, and not thinking upon those that are eternal.
God most certainly has not placed us in this world to become rich, to acquire honours, or to gratify our senses, but to gain eternal life: And the end life everlasting (Rom. vi. 22); and to attain this end is all we ought to care for: One thing is necessary (Luke x. 42). But this end is just what sinners most despise; they think only of the present; they hasten forward to death; they approach the entrance to eternity, and they know not where they go! What would you think of a pilot, says St. Augustine, who, when asked where he was going, should answer that he did not know? Is he not bringing his ship to destruction? Such are those wise ones of the world, who know how to acquire wealth, to amuse themselves, to obtain high places; but know not how to save their souls. The glutton in the Gospel was well versed in the art of becoming rich; but he died and was buried in hell. Alexander the Great knew well how to conquer numerous kingdoms; but in a few years he died and all was lost to him. Henry VIII knew how to maintain his throne by rebelling against the Church; but in the end he himself, seeing that his soul was lost, confessed: “We have lost all!” How many wretches now weep and cry out in hell: What hath pride profited us, or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things have passed away like a shadow (Wis. v. 8). Behold, for us all the goods of the world have passed as a shadow, and nothing remains of them but tears and eternal suffering.
Before man is life and death; … that which he shall choose shall be given him (Ecclus. xv. 18). My brother, life and death are placed before you in this world: that is, to deprive yourself of forbidden pleasures, and gain eternal life; or to accept them, and with them eternal death. What say you? Which do you prefer? Choose as a man, and not as a beast. Choose as a Christian who has Faith, and says: What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?
O my sovereign Good, I repent of having left Thee, and of having voluntarily renounced Thy grace. I wish I could die of grief; but do Thou give me greater sorrow. Grant that I may gain Heaven, and there sing Thy mercies. O Mary, my Mother, thou art my refuge; pray to Jesus for me; pray that He may pardon me, and may give me holy perseverance.