THE FAILURE TO SAVE ONE’S SOUL IS WITHOUT REMEDY.
An irreparable affair! No error can be compared with the error of neglecting one’s eternal salvation. For all other failures there is a remedy. If you lose your soul the loss is irreparable, for the soul, once lost, is lost for ever!
No error, says St. Eucherius, can be compared with the error of neglecting eternal salvation. For all other errors there is a remedy: if you lose property in one way, you may recover it in another; if you lose a situation, there may be some means of afterwards regaining it; if your life be but brief, provided your soul be saved, all is safe. But if you lose your soul, the loss is irreparable. Death happens but once; the soul, once lost, is forever lost. Nothing remains but to weep for all eternity with the other miserable wretches in hell, whose greatest torment is the conviction, that the time for repairing their ruin is gone forever. The summer is over, and we are not saved (Jer. viii. 20). Ask the worldly wise now in that pit of fire, what are their present sentiments; ask them if, condemned to that eternal prison, they feel happy at having made a fortune in this life. Listen to their wailing and lamentation: We have erred (Wis. v. 6). But of what use is it to know their error now, when there is no remedy for their eternal damnation? Should a man find his palace in ruins, how great would be his pains in reflecting on the impossibility of repairing the evil, when his loss is due only to his own neglect.
The greatest torment of the damned consists in the thought of having lost their souls and of being damned through their own fault. Destruction is thy own, O Israel (Osee xiii. 9). St. Teresa says that if a person loses a ring or even a trifle through his own fault, his peace is disturbed; he neither eats nor sleeps. O God! how great will be the torture of the damned Christian when, on entering hell and finding himself shut up in that dungeon of torments, he reflects on his misfortune, and sees that for all eternity there will be no relief, no mitigation of pain! He will say: “I have lost my soul! I have lost Paradise! I have lost my God! I have lost all — and all is lost forever! And why? Through my own fault.”
Ah my Jesus, remind me always of the death Thou hast suffered for me, and give me confidence. I tremble lest the devil should make me despair at death by bringing before my view the many acts of treason I have committed against Thee. How many promises have I made never more to offend Thee after the light Thou hast given me! and, after all my promises, I have, presuming on pardon, again turned my back upon Thee. Thus have I insulted Thee because Thou didst not chastise me! My Redeemer! give me a great sorrow for my sins before I leave this world. I ask of Thee sorrow and love.
But you will say — If I commit this sin why may I not hope to escape damnation? I may still be saved. Yes; but you may also be damned: and it is more likely that you will be damned, for the Scriptures threaten eternal woes to all obstinate traitors, such as you are in your present dispositions. Woe to you, apostate children, saith the Lord (Is. xxx. 1). Woe to them, for they have departed from me (Osee vii. 13). By committing this sin, you at least expose your eternal salvation to great danger. And is it an affair to be exposed to risk? There is no question of a house, of a villa, or of a situation. There is question, says St. John Chrysostom, of being sent into an eternity of torments, and of losing an eternity of glory. And will you risk this business of sovereign importance on a perhaps?
You say: Perhaps I shall not be lost: I hope that God will hereafter pardon me. But in the meantime what happens? You condemn yourself to hell. Tell me, would you cast yourself into a deep pool of water, saying: Perhaps I shall not be drowned? Surely you would not. Why then risk your eternal salvation on such a groundless hope, on a perhaps? Oh! how many has this accursed hope sent to hell! Do you realise that the hope of those who are obstinately determined to commit sin is not Hope, but an illusion and presumption which move God, not to mercy, but to greater wrath? If you say you are now unable to resist the temptation and passion to whose domination you submit, how will you resist them hereafter, when, by yielding to sin, your strength will not be increased, but greatly diminshed? For, on the one hand, your own malice will render you more blind and obdurate; and, on the other, Divine help will be withdrawn. Do you expect that the more you multiply your sins and insults against God, the more abundantly He will pour upon you His lights and graces?
I am sorry, O Sovereign Good, for having offended Thee. I promise to die a thousand times rather than abandon Thee. But make me in the meantime feel that Thou hast said to me what Thou didst say to Magdalen – Thy sins are forgiven thee – by giving me, before death, a great sorrow for all my iniquities, otherwise I fear my death will be troubled and unhappy. Be not thou a terror unto me; thou art my hope in the day of affliction (Jer. xvii. 17.). O my crucified Jesus! be not a terror to me in my last moments. If I die before I have wept over my sins and have loved Thee, Thy Wounds and Thy Blood will inspire me with fear rather than confidence. I do not ask of Thee consolations and earthly goods during the remainder of my life; I ask of Thee sorrow and love. O my dear Saviour, hear my prayer for the sake of that love which made Thee offer Thy life as a sacrifice for me on Calvary. Mary, my Mother, obtain for me these graces, along with holy perseverance till death.