THE PATIENCE OF GOD IN WAITING FOR SINNERS TO RETURN TO HIM
Let us consider the Patience of God in waiting for sinners to return. That great Servant of God, Sancia Carillo, a penitent of Blessed John of Avila, used to say that the consideration of God’s patience with sinners made her wish to build a church, and entitle it “The Patience of God.” Ah, who could ever bear with what God has borne with from you? If the offences which you have committed against God had been offered to your best friends, they surely would have sought revenge. When you insulted the Lord He was able to chastise you; you repeated the insult, and He did not punish your guilt, but preserved your life, and provided you with sustenance. He, as it were, pretended not to see the injuries you offered to Him, that you might enter into yourself, and cease to offend. Thou overlookest the sins of men for the sake of repentance (Wis. xi. 24). But how, O Lord, does it happen, that Thou canst not behold a single sin, and yet Thou dost bear in silence with so many? Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity. Why lookest thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest thy peace? (Habac. i. 13).
All creatures — the earth, fire, air, water — because they all obey God, would, by a natural instinct, wish to punish the sinner, and to avenge the injuries he does to the Creator; but God, through His mercy, restrains them. For the creature serving thee the Creator is made fierce against the unjust (Wis. xvi. 24). But, O Lord, Thou waitest for the wicked that they may enter into themselves; and dost Thou not see that they abuse Thy mercy to offer new insults to Thy majesty? Thou hast been favourable to the nation, O Lord, thou hast been favourable to the nation: art thou glorified? (Is. xxvi. 15). Thou hast waited so long for sinners; Thou hast abstained from inflicting punishment; but what glory hast Thou reaped from Thy forbearance? They have become more wicked. Why so much patience with such ungrateful souls? Why dost Thou continue to wait for their repentance? Why dost Thou not chastise their wickedness? The same Prophet answers: The Lord waiteth that he may have mercy on you (Is. xxx. 18). God waits for sinners that they may one day repent, and that after their repentance He may pardon and save them. As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezech. xxxiii. 11).
St. Augustine goes so far as to say that the Lord, if He were not God, would be unjust on account of His excessive patience towards sinners. By waiting for those who abuse His patience to multiply their sins, God appears to do an injustice to the Divine honour. We sin, continues the Saint, we cling to sin, we glory in sin, and yet Thou art not angry! We provoke Thee to anger — Thou dost invite us to mercy! God and ourselves appear to be, as it were, engaged in a contest, in which we labour to provoke Him to chastise us, and He labours to bring us to repentance.
Lord, exclaimed holy Job, what is man, that Thou dost entertain so great an esteem for him? Why dost Thou love him so tenderly? What is a man that thou shouldst magnify him? or why dost thou set thy heart upon him?(Job. vii. 17). Ah, sinners, says St. Teresa, remember that He who now calls and seeks after you, is that God Who will one day be your Judge. If you are lost, the great mercies which He now shows you, will be the greatest torment you shall suffer in hell.