“ONLY PRETENDING NOT TO SEE”
St. John Chrysostom says there are some who are only pretending not to see. They see the chastisements for sin, but pretend not to see them. There are others, says St. Ambrose, who fear not, because chastisements have not overtaken themselves. To all these it will happen, as it did to mankind, at the time of the Deluge. The Patriarch Noe foretold and announced to them the punishments God had prepared for their sins; but the sinners would not believe him, and notwithstanding that the Ark was being built before their eyes, they did not change their lives, but went on sinning until the punishment was upon them, until they were drowned in the Deluge. And they knew not until the flood came and took them all away (Matt. xxiv. 39). The same happened to the great Babylon, in the Apocalypse, who said: I sit a queen, … and sorrow I shall not see (Apoc. xviii. 7). She persevered in her impurity in the hope of not being punished, but the chastisement at length came as had been predicted. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning, and famine, and she shall be burnt with the fire (Ib. 8).
Who knows whether this is not the last call which God may give you? Our Lord says that a certain owner of a vineyard, finding a fig-tree for the third year without fruit, said: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and I find none. Cut it down, therefore, why cumbereth it the ground? (Luke xiii. 7). Then the dresser of the vine replied: Lord, let it alone this year also … and if happily it bear fruit — but if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down (Luke, xiii. 7-9). Let us enter into ourselves. For years has God been visiting our souls, and has found no other fruit than thorns and thistles, that is to say, sins. Hear how the Divine justice exclaims: Cut it down, therefore, why cumbereth it the ground? but Mercy pleads, Let it alone this year also. Let us give it one trial more; let us see whether it will not be converted at this other call. But tremble lest mercy may not have granted to justice that if you do not now amend, your life should be cut off, and your soul condemned to hell. Tremble and take measures that the mouth of the pit close not over you. Such was the prayer of David: Let not the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me (Ps. lxviii. 16). This is what sin does. It causes the mouth of the pit, that is, the state of damnation into which the sinner has fallen, to close over him by degrees. As long as that pit is not entirely closed, there is some hope of escape; but if it be once shut, what further hope remains? By the closing of the pit, I mean the sinner’s being shut out from every glimmer of grace, and he stops at nothing. Thus is accomplished what the wise man has said: The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth (Prov. xviii. 3). He despises the laws of God, admonitions, sermons, excommunications, threats — he despises hell itself! Such a man can be saved, but his salvation is morally impossible. Perhaps you have yourself come to despise the chastisements of God? If it be so, what should you do? Should you despair? No; you know what you have to do. Have recourse to the Mother of God. Although you should be in despair, and abandoned by God, remember that Mary is the hope of the despairing, and the succour of the most abandoned. St. Bernard says the same thing: “Let him who despairs hope in thee!” But if God wishes that I should be lost, what hope can there be for me? But God says: No, my son, I do not wish to see you lost: I desire not the death of the wicked (Ezech. xxxiii. 11). And what then do you desire, O Lord? I wish the sinner to be converted, and recover the life of My grace — that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ibid.). Fling yourself then at once at the feet of Jesus Christ; behold Him with His arms open to embrace you!