Spiritual Reading for Wednesday – Eighteenth Week After Pentecost

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

“BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMBLED I WILL NOT DESTROY THEM.”

The Lord said to Jeremias: Speak to all the cities of Juda; if so be they will hearken and be converted every one from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil that I think to do unto them (Jer. xxvi. 2, 3).

Go, God says, and tell sinners that if they cease from their sins I will spare them from sentence of punishment. St. Jerome says: “God is wroth, not with us, but with our sins”; and St. John Chrysostom adds, that if we remember our sins God will forget them. He desires that we being humbled should reform, and crave pardon of Him. — Because they are humbled I will not destroy them (2 Par. xii. 7).

In order to amend, we must fear punishment, otherwise we shall never be brought to change our lives. True it is, God protects him who hopes in His mercy. He is the protector of all who trust in Him (Ps. xvii. 31). But he who hopes in the mercy of the Lord always fears His justice. They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: He is their helper and their protector (Ps. cxiii. 11). The Lord often speaks of the rigour of His judgment, and of hell, and of the great number who go thither. Be not afraid of them who kill the body … fear ye him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell (Luke xii. 4, 5). Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat (Matt. vii. 13). And why does God so often speak thus? In order that fear may keep us from vice, and from following our passions, and from occasions of sin; and that thus we may reasonably hope for salvation which is only for the innocent, and for the penitent who hope and fear.

Oh, what strength has not the fear of hell to hold us back from sin! To that end has God created hell. He created us, and redeemed us by His death, that we might be happy with Him. He has imposed upon us the obligation of hoping for eternal life, and on that account encourages us, by saying that all those who hope in Him shall be saved. For none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded (Ps. xxiv. 3). But it is His wish, too, and command that we should be in fear of eternal damnation. Some heretics hold, that all who are not in sin should consider themselves as justified and predestined; but these have with reason been condemned by the Council of Trent, because such a presumption is as perilous to salvation as fear is profitable. And let him be your dread, and he shall be a sanctification to you (Is. viii. 13, 14). The holy fear of God makes man holy. Wherefore David begged of God the gift of fear, in order that fear might destroy in him the inclinations of the flesh. Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear (Ps. cxviii. 120).

We should, then, fear on account of our sins, but this fear ought not to deject us: it should rather excite us to confidence in the Divine Mercy, as was the case with the Prophet himself. For thy name’s sake, O Lord, thou wilt pardon my sin; for it is great (Ps. xxiv. 11). How is this? Pardon me because my sin is great? Yes, because the Divine Mercy is most conspicuous where there is the greatest misery; and he who has been the greatest sinner is he who glorifies most the Divine Mercy, by hoping in God, Who promises to save all those who hope in Him. He will save them, because they have hoped in him (Ps. xxxvi. 40). For this reason Ecclesiasticus says: The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy and gladness and length of days (Ecclus. i. 12). Thus this very fear leads to the acquisition of a firm hope in God, which makes the soul happy: He that feareth the Lord shall tremble at nothing, and shall not be afraid, for he is his hope. The soul of him that feareth the Lord is blessed (Ecclus. xxxiv. 16, 17). Yes, blessed, because fear drives sin away from man. The fear of the Lord driveth out sin (Ecclus. i. 27), and at the same time infuses a great desire of observing the commandments: Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments (Ps. cxi. 1).

We must, then, persuade ourselves that God is not inclined by nature to punish. Because by His nature He is infinite goodness, says St. Leo, and has no other desire than to bless us, and to see us happy. When He punishes, He is obliged to do so in order to satisfy His justice, not to gratify His inclination. Isaias says that punishment is a work strange to the Heart of God. The Lord shall be angry … that he may do his work, his strange work; … his work is strange to him (Is. xxviii. 21). And therefore does the Lord say, that He sometimes almost feigns the intention of punishing us. And why does He do so? He does so for our reformation, and consequently to exempt us from the chastisement we deserve. God wishes to love us, but we force Him to condemn us. He calls Himself the Father of mercies, not of vengeance. Whence it comes that His tenderness all springs from Himself, and His severity from us.

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