“BE NOT DECEIVED, GOD IS NOT MOCKED.”
Oh, surely God is not mocked! (Gal. vi. 7). I never commanded you, God says, to perform those devotions and acts of penance: For I spoke not to your fathers … concerning the matter of burnt offering and sacrifices, but this thing I commanded them, saying: Hearken to my voice, and I will be your God (Jer. vii. 22-23). What I wish of you, says God, is that you hear My voice and change your life, and make good Confessions with real sorrow, for you must know yourselves, that your other Confessions, followed by so many relapses, have been worth nothing. I wish that you should do violence to yourselves in breaking with that danger, with that company. I wish that you should endeavour to restore that property, to make good to your neighbour such a loss. Hearken to my voice, and I will be your God. I will then be to you the God of mercy, such as you would have Me to be. Cardinal Hugo, in his commentary upon these words of our Lord, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (Matt. xi. 15): He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, says: “Some have ears, but not ears to hear.” How many attend sermons and receive admonitions from the confessor, in which they are told all that they must do in order to please God; but they leave the church only to live worse than before. How can God be appeased by such? or how can such be delivered from Divine chastisements? Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord (Ps. iv. 6) — says David. Honour God not in appearance, but by your deeds. It is that which is meant by “the sacrifice of justice”; honour God by bewailing your sins, by the frequentation of the Sacraments, by a change of life and then hope in the Lord. But to hope while you continue the state of sin, is not hope — it is rashness, it is a snare of the enemy, and renders you more odious in the sight of God, and more deserving of punishment.
You see that the Lord is angry, that He already has His hand lifted to strike with the scourge which threatens us. How do you think to escape? Who hath showed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruit worthy of penance (Matt. iii. 7, 8). Thus spoke St. John the Baptist, preaching to the Jews of his day. You must do penance, but penance deserving of pardon. It must be true and resolute. Your anger must be changed into meekness, by forgiveness of those who offend you; your intemperance must become abstinence, by observing the fasts of the Church, and by abstaining from the immoderate use of intoxicating drink which changes man into a beast. Therefore you must avoid the public house. Chastity must reign and all impurity be cast out. Resist evil thoughts; use no bad words, and flee from bad companions and dangerous conversation. Bring forth, therefore, fruit worthy of penance, and the bringing forth of such fruit implies also that you attend to the service of God, and endeavour to serve Him more than you have offended Him; For, as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity … so now yield your members to love justice (Rom. vi. 19). Thus did St. Mary Magdalen live after her conversion, and St. Augustine, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Margaret of Cortona who by their works of penance and sanctification rendered themselves more dear to God than others who had sinned less. St. Gregory says: “For the most part, a fervent life after sin is the more pleasing to God than a life which, though innocent, is tepid.” And thus does the Saint explain the following passage of the Gospel: There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance (Luke, xv. 7). This is understood of the sinner who, after having risen from sin, sets about serving God with greater fervour than others who have long been just.
This is truly to bring forth fruit worthy of penance. To content one’s self with hearing sermons and going to devotions in the church, without abandoning sin, or avoiding the occasion of it, is rather a mockery of God, and calculated to provoke His greater wrath. And, think not, as St. John the Baptist warned sinners, think not to say within yourselves: We have Abraham for our father (Matt. iii. 9). It will not do to say, we have the Mother of God to assist us, we have our Patron Saints to deliver us; because if we do not abandon our sins the Saints cannot help us. The Saints are the friends of God; hence they not only have no inclination, but they would even be ashamed to succour the obstinate. Let us tremble, because the Lord has already pronounced the sentence: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire (Matt. vii. 19). How many years have you been in the world? Tell me what fruit of good works have you hitherto borne, what glory have you rendered to God by your life? Sin, outrage, contempt, such are the fruit you have borne, such the glory you have rendered to God! God now in His mercy gives you time for penance, in order that you may bewail the injuries you have done Him, and love Him the remainder of your days. What have you resolved to do? Resolve at once to give yourself to God. What do you expect but that unless you turn at once to God, you shall be cut down and cast into the fire of hell?
Let those, then, tremble who have not yet resolved to change their lives. But, on the other hand, be joyful if you mean to turn in good earnest to God. Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (Ps. civ. 3), because God is all tenderness and love for those that seek Him. The Lord is good … to the soul that seeketh him (Lam. iii. 25). Neither does the Lord know how to reject a humble heart that is sorry for its offences. A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Ps. 1. 19). Let us be joyful, then, if we are determined to change our lives; and if, on seeing ourselves guilty of many sins before the Lord, we stand in fear of the Divine Judgments, let us have recourse to the Mother of Mercy, the most Holy Mary, who defends and screens from the Divine vengeance all those who take refuge under her mantle.