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doming this world, have already passed into the house of your eternity—that you have appeared before the judgment-seat, and have been condemned to the flames of purgatory. Hereupon examine yourself briefly.
1. When your soul shall have left your body, and, after abandoning everything, shall have arrived in the other world, how will you then regard the body, and those baubles which you prized so much? How will you then wish to have treated the former? and what value will you place upon the latter? What opinion will you form of honours, and of indifference to all things?
2. On your first entry into those flames, what estimate will you form of the malice of venial sin? of voluntary penance? and of the desire of perfection? Tell me, how will it avail you then to have enjoyed in this world all the conveniences of life, and thus to have increased the flames of your purgatory 1 On the other hand, what loss will it have been to you to have lived poor, despised, and afflicted, if thus you have escaped, or at least diminished those most bitter pains?
3. If, after death, you were permitted to return again to life, and your angel guardian were to announce to you, that at the expiration of a month you were to die a second time, what kind of life would yours be during that month? What kind of life! Consider these things a little; and, renewing your good resolutions, live, henceforward, as a man would who had returned to life, and who, having passed through the ordeal of judgment and purgatory, must die again at the end of a month. "Blessed is that servant whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. Amen, I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods" (a).
On the Prodigal Son.
(1) Consider how the prodigal son, having received the portion of his inheritance, travelled into a far-off land; and in connection with this fact three points demand our attention, viz.: 1. The place whence he sets out; 2. The place to which he goes; and, 3. The motives which impelled him to take this step. And, first of all, why does he abandon the best of fathers, who loved him with the most affectionate tenderness; his father's house, in which he enjoyed every comfort in abundance; his familiars and friends, by whom he was greatly respected and intensely loved? (2) Leaving all these he sets out for a far-off land, of which he knew nothing, and which was very distant from the country of his birth. (3) And this he did, actuated solely by pure petulance, folly, and waywardness; because he was unwilling to live any longer in that place, in that office, and in that state which his father had appointed for him ; that is, beneath the paternal roof, in the society of an obedient brother, and employed in domestic occupations. But, alas! how many calamities befell him because of this conduct!
(a) Matt. xxiv. 46, 47.
Apply this parable to yourself, and you will find it founded in fact; for every mortal sin is a separation and a withdrawal from God. Whenever, then, you have sinned mortally, you have abandoned God —God, your most loving, provident, and most liberal Father; the centre of all happiness and glory; the source of all tranquillity and sweetness; and you went, unhappy wretch! into the state of sin, than which there can be nothing farther removed from heaven, into the abyss of all disorder, and the centre of all misery. And this you did for ... .ah! shame forbids me to be more explicit. So, also, you abandoned your Creator every time that you fell from a state of fervour into one of tepidity; every time that, through the absence of the golden spirit of indifference, you have determined to live in another place, in another employment, in another state different from that which God your Creator had appointed for you. But, oh, how many afflictions and how many misfortunes have fallen to your lot because of having acted thus!
Ah ! Father of Mercy ! I, too, have reason to fear that you may say to me, as was said of old to the Israelites, "You have left me, and I have left you" (a). But remember that, though I have refused to be an obedient son to you, you nevertheless have not ceased to be my Father. Have mercy upon me then, and with the bonds of love draw back into your loving bosom me a prodigal.
Second Point. Consider the Prodigal Son going forth to herd the swine (b); 1. Poor and naked, "he began to be in
(a) 2 Paralip xii. 5. (b) Luke xv.
mrttj" 2. He is dying of starvation: "I here perish with hunger;" 3. Abandoned by all those on whom he had squandered his fortune, "he cleaved to one of the citizens of that country;" i. But this man also treated him cruelly, "and he sent him into his farm to feed swine ". Behold in all this the condition of that soul which abandons its Creator by mortal sin, and recedes from Him by venial sin, falling from its fervour into a state of tepidity.
For, such a soul also squanders its substance,
namely, grace, time, and talents, by living, if not
"riotously," at least in a manner far from religious.
Wherefore she, too, is (1) poor and naked: naked,
because despoiled of the robe of grace ; poor, because
deprived of the heavenly lights and assistance; and
she is, moreover, wounded by robbers from hell. (2.)
She, also, perishes with hunger: she feels a dislike
for the heavenly manna, namely, meditation and the
Holy Eucharist, which is the bread of angels; she
abhors those exercises of piety which maintain the
vigour of the soul, and prefers, instead, to be
nourished with vetches and acorns; that is, with
vile, sensual pleasures. (3.) She too, is abandoned,
scoffed at, and betrayed, by those very persons,
through love of whom she had offended her Creator;
by a just law of retribution, that she who abandoned
her Creator for the sake of creatures, is by them
abandoned in turn. (4.) Finally, she is cruelly
tyrannized over by those self-same passions which
she served so blindly. Nay, more, like the Prodigal
Son, "She would fain have filled herself with the
hush the swine did eat: and no man gave unto her;"
•o the pleasures through love of which she left the
Supreme Good, will in their turn deny themselves to that soul, or shall be withdrawn from her, or shall become bitter instead of sweet, either because of the nausea which a surfeit produces, or because of the remorse of conscience which accompanies them. 0 truly deplorable and unhappy state!
How much more happily in his father's house lived the son that was obedient, than did the spendthrift prodigal in his wanderings! The latter suffered much greater wretchedness in striving to live at his pleasure, and according to the dictates of his appetite, than he would have to endure under the paternal roof, in the service of his father. In the same manner, fervent souls who walk in the paths of virtue, obedient to grace, meet with far less trouble than falls to the lot of those lax persons who yield to the dictates of nature, and travel on the road of tepidity. "They that fear the hoary frost, the snow shall fall upon them" (a); and, "He shall flee from weapons of iron, and shall fall upon a bow of brass " (b).
Consider the Prodigal's return to his father. Three motives prompted him to take this step. 1. The remembrance of his past happiness, and of the abundance of his father's house: "How many hired servants," he says, "in my father's house abound with bread." 2. The picture of his present wretchedness, "/ here perish with hunger ". 3. The consideration of his excellent father's forgiving disposition : "I will arise, and will go to my father".
These three motives, if well considered, will persuade you also to return sincerely to God, and to walk in the path which conducts towards your last (a) Job vi. 16. (6) Job xx. 24.