TO PLEASE GOD WE MUST ABANDON SIN.
The man sick of the palsy besought Jesus Christ to restore the health of his body; but before doing so the Lord first restored health to his soul. Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee. (Matt. ix. 2). The pain will not be removed till the thorn has been taken out.
God commanded Jonas to go and preach to Ninive. Instead of obeying God, Jonas fled by sea towards Tharsis. But, behold, a great tempest threatened to sink the ship; and Jonas knowing that the tempest was raised in punishment of his disobedience, said to the crew of the vessel: Take me up and cast me into the sea, and the sea shall be calm to you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you (Jon. i. 12). And they actually cast him into the sea, and the tempest ceased. And the sea ceased from raging (Jon. i. 15). If Jonas had not been thrown into the sea the tempest would not have ceased. What do we learn from all this? We may learn that if we do not cast sin out of our souls, the tempest, that is, the scourge of God, will not cease. The tempest is excited by our sins; the tempest which is hurrying us to destruction. Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Is. lxiv. 6). We may practise many external devotions, but to what purpose if we be not converted, if we do not rid our souls of sin? If we do not abandon our sins, we cannot please God.
It is said that the pain is not removed before the thorn has been plucked out. St. Jerome writes that God is never angered, since anger is passion, and passion is incompatible with God. He is always tranquil; and even in the act of punishing, His tranquillity is not in the least disturbed. But thou being master of power, judgest with tranquillity (Wis. xii. 18). But the malice of mortal sin is so great, that if God were capable of wrath and affliction, it would anger and afflict Him. This is what sinners do as far as in them lies, according to the words of Isaias: But they provoked to wrath, and afflicted the spirit of his holy One (Is. lxiii. 10). Moses writes, that when God was about to send the Deluge, He declared Himself to be so much afflicted by the sins of men as to be obliged to exterminate them from the earth. And being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, he said: I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth (Gen. vi. 6, 7).
St. John Chrysostom says that sin alone is the cause of all our sufferings and chastisements. Commenting upon these words in Genesis which the Lord spoke after the deluge: I will set my bow in the clouds (Gen. ix. 13), St. Ambrose remarks that God does not say: I will set My arrow, but My bow, in the clouds; giving us thereby to understand that it is always the sinner who fixes the arrow in the bow of God by provoking Him to chastise.
If we wish to please the Lord, we must remove the cause of His anger, which is sin. The man sick of the palsy besought Jesus Christ to restore the health of his body; but, before granting his request, our Lord first restored his soul’s health by giving him sorrow for his sins, and then saying to him: Be of good heart, son; thy sins are forgiven thee (Matt. ix. 2). St. Thomas says that the Redeemer first removed the cause of his infirmity — namely, his sins, and then freed him from the infirmity itself. “He asked for the health of the body, and the Lord gave him the health of the soul; because, like a good physician, He wished to remove the cause of the disease.” Sin is the root of every evil, and hence the Lord, after having healed him, warned him against sin in these words: Sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee (John v. 14). Ecclesiasticus had said the same: My son, in thy sickness … turn away from sin … and then give place to the physician (Ecclus. xxxviii. 9-11). You must first apply to the physician of the soul in order that he may free you from your sins, and then to the physician of the body that he may cure you of your disease.