TO PERSEVERE WE MUST CONQUER THE WORLD.
Let us see how we must conquer the world. The devil is a great enemy of our salvation, but the world is a worse enemy. If the devil did not make use of the world and of wicked men (by whom we mean the world), he would not obtain the victories he gains. But, says Jesus Christ, beware of men (Matt. x. 17). Men are often worse than devils; for devils are put to flight when we pray and invoke the most holy Names of Jesus and Mary. But when a person gives a pious and becoming answer to wicked companions who tempt him to sin, they redouble their efforts, they treat him with ridicule, upbraiding him with vulgarity and want of education; and when they can say nothing else, they will call him a hypocrite who only pretends to sanctity. To escape such derision and reproach, certain weak souls miserably associate with these ministers of Lucifer, and return to the vomit. Be persuaded that if you wish to lead a holy life, you must expect the ridicule and contempt of the wicked. The wicked, says the Holy Ghost, loathe them that are in the right way (Prov. xxix. 27). He who lives in sin cannot bear the sight of those who live according to the Gospel. And why? Because their life is a continual reproach to him; and therefore to avoid the pain of remorse caused by the good example of others, he would wish that all should imitate his own wickedness. There is no remedy. The Apostle tells us that he who serves God will be persecuted by the world. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii. 12). All the Saints have been persecuted. Who was more holy than Jesus Christ? The world persecuted Him so as to cause Him to bleed to death on a Cross.
There is no help for this; for the maxims of the world are absolutely opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. iii. 19). And the world regards as folly what Jesus Christ has strongly recommended, — such as crosses, pains and contempt. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness (1 Cor. i. 18). But if the wicked revile and reproach us, let us console ourselves with the reflection that God blesses and praises us. They will curse, and thou wilt bless (Ps. cviii. 28). Is it not enough for us to be praised by God, by Mary, by the Angels, the Saints, and all good men? Let us, then, leave sinners to say what they please, and let us continue to please God Who is grateful and faithful to all who serve Him. The greater the opposition and difficulty we meet in doing good, the more we shall please God and treasure up merits for ourselves. Let us imagine that we are alone with God in this world. When the wicked treat us with derision, let us recommend them to the Lord; let us thank Him for giving us the light which He does not give to these miserable men, and let us pursue our way. We must not be ashamed to appear like Christians; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, He protests that He will be ashamed of us on the Day of Judgment. For he that shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when he shall come in his majesty (Luke ix. 26).
Henceforth, O my God, Thou shalt be my only Love, my only Good. O Eternal Father, through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask of Thee final perseverance in Thy grace and in Thy love. I know that Thou wilt grant it to me whenever I ask it. But who assures me that I shall be ever careful to ask this perseverance from Thee? Hence, O my God, I ask perseverance, and the grace to ask it always. O Mary, my advocate, my refuge, and my hope, obtain for me by thy intercession, the gift of constancy in always asking of God the grace of final perseverance. Through the love which thou bearest Jesus Christ, I ask thee to obtain for me this gift.
If we wish to save our souls, we must resolve to suffer, and to do violence to ourselves. How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life (Matt. vii. 14). The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away (Matt. xi. 12). He who does not violence to himself, will not be saved. There is no remedy, for if we wish to practise virtue, we must act in opposition to our rebellious nature. In the beginning, it is particularly necessary to do violence to ourselves in order to root out bad habits, and to acquire virtuous habits. When good habits are once acquired, the observance of the Divine law becomes easy and even sweet. Our Lord said to St. Bridget that when in the practice of virtue a person suffers the first prickings of the thorns with patience and courage, these thorns afterwards become roses. Be careful, then, beloved Christian; Jesus Christ now says to you what He said to the paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee (Jo. v. 14). Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you should have the misfortune to relapse into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than in your first fall. Woe, says the Lord, to them who begin to walk in the way of God and afterwards forsake it. Woe to you apostate children (Is. xxx. 1). Such sinners are punished as rebels against God’s light. They have been rebellious to the light (Job xxiv. 13). The chastisement of these rebels who have been favoured by God with great light, and have been afterwards unfaithful to Him, is to remain in blindness, and thus die in their sins. But if the just man turn himself away from his justice … shall he live? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered; in the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die, (Ezech. xviii. 24).
Ah, my God, such a chastisement I have often deserved, because I have, through the light which Thou gavest me, renounced sin, and have miserably returned to it. I thank Thy infinite mercy for not having abandoned me in my blindness by leaving me entirely destitute of light, as I have deserved. Great, then, O my Jesus, are my obligations to Thee, and great should be my ingratitude, were I again to turn my back upon Thee. No, my Redeemer, the mercies of the Lord I will sing forever. I hope that during the remainder of my life, and for all eternity, I will always sing and praise Thy mercies by loving Thee always, and never more seeing myself deprived of Thy graces. The great ingratitude with which I have hitherto treated Thee, and which I now hate and curse above every evil, will serve to make me weep bitterly over the injuries I have done Thee, and to inflame me still more with the love of Thee, Who, after I had given Thee so many grievous offences, hast bestowed upon me so many great graces. Yes, I love Thee, O my God, worthy of infinite love.