The Sower - by Vincent Van Gogh
|And that which Fell among Thorns, are they who have Heard, and going their Way, are Choked with the Cares and Riches and Pleasures of this Life, and yield no-Fruit - Luke 8:14|
The Devil Deceives Sinners, and makes them Imagine, that by Indulging their Sensual Appetites, they shall Lead a Life-of Happiness, and shall enjoy Peace. But there is no Peace for those who Offend God. "There is no Peace to the Wicked, saith the Lord" - Isaiah 48:22. God declares that all His Enemies have led a Life-of Misery, and that they have not known the Way of Peace. "Destruction and Unhappiness in their Ways; and the Way of Peace, they have not known" - Psalm 13:3.
Brute Animals, that have been Created-for this World, enjoy Peace in Sensual Delights. Give a Dog a Bone, and he is Perfectly Content; give to an Ox a Bundle-of Hay, and he Desires nothing more. But Man, who has been Created-for God, to Love God, and to be United to Him, can be made Happy only by God, and not by the World, though it should Enrich him with all its Goods. What are Worldly Goods? They may be all Reduced-to Pleasures-of Sense, to Riches, and to Honors. "For all that is in the World", says Saint John, "is the Concupiscence of the Flesh" (Sensual Delights), "and the Concupiscence of the Eyes" (Riches), "and the Pride of Life" (Earthly Honors) - 1John 2:16. Saint Bernard says that a Man may be Puffed-up with Earthly Goods, but never be made Content or Happy by them. "Inflari potest, satiari non potest". And how can the 'Earth' and 'Wind' and 'Dung', Satisfy the Heart of Man? In his Comment-on these Words of Saint Peter, "behold, we have left all things", the same Saint says that he saw in the World, different Classes-of Fools. All had a Great Desire of Happiness. Some, such as the Avaricious, were Content-with Riches; others, Ambitious-of Honors and of Praise, were Satisfied-with 'Wind'; others, Seated-round a Furnace, Swallowed the Sparks that were Thrown-from it, - these were the Passionate and Vindictive; others, in 'Fine', drank Fetid Water from a Stagnant Pool, - these were the Voluptuous and Unchaste. O Fools! adds the Saint, do you not Perceive, that all these things from which you seek Content, do not Satisfy, but on the Contrary, Increase the Cravings of your Heart? "Haec potius famem provocant, quam extinguunt". Of this we have a Striking Example, in Alexander the Great, who, after having Conquered Half the World, Burst-into Tears, because he was not Master-of the Whole Earth.
Many expect to find Peace in accumulating Riches; but how can these Satisfy their Desires? "Major pecunia", says Saint Augustine, "avaritiae fauces non claudit, sed extendit". A Large Quantity of Money, does not 'Close', but rather 'Extends' the Jaws of Avarice; that is, the Enjoyment-of Riches 'Excites', rather than 'Satiates', the Desire-of Wealth. "Thou wast Debased, even to Hell. Thou hast been Wearied in the Multitude of thy Ways: yet thou saidst not: I will Rest" - Isaiah 57:9-10. Poor Worldlings! they Labor and Toil to Acquire an Increase-of Wealth and Property; but never Enjoy Repose; the more they Accumulate Riches, the Greater their Disquietude and Vexation. "The Rich have Wanted, and have Suffered Hunger: but they that Seek the Lord, shall not be Deprived of any Good" - Psalm 33:11. The Rich of this World are, of all Men, the most Miserable; because the more they Possess, the more they Desire-to Possess. They never Succeed-in Attaining all the Objects-of their Wishes, and therefore they are far Poorer than Men who have but a 'Competency', and seek God alone. These are Truly Rich; because they are Content with their Condition, and find in God every Good. "They that Seek the Lord, shall not be Deprived of any Good". To the Saints, because they Possess God, nothing is Wanting; to the Worldly Rich, who are Deprived-of God, all things are Wanting, because they want Peace. The Appellation-of Fool was therefore Justly given to the Rich Man in the Gospel (Luke 12:19), who because his Land brought-forth plenty-of Fruits, said to his Soul, "Soul, thou hast much Goods, Laid up for Many Years, take thy Rest; Eat, Drink, make Good Cheer" - (Luke 12:19). But, this Man was called a Fool. "Thou Fool, this Night do they Require thy Soul of thee: and whose shall those Things be, which thou hast Provided?" - (Luke 12:20). And why was he called a Fool? Because he Imagined, that by these Goods, by 'Eating' and 'Drinking', he should be Content, and should Enjoy Peace. Rest, he said, Eat, Drink. "Numquid", says Saint Basil of Seleucia, "animum porcinam habes?". Hast thou the Soul of a Brute, that thou expectest to make it Happy, by 'Eating' and 'Drinking'?
But perhaps Sinners, who Seek-after and Attain Worldly Honors are Content? All the Honors of this Earth, are but 'Smoke' and 'Wind' - "Ephraim feedeth on the Wind" - (Hosea 12:1); and how can these, Content the Heart of a Christian? "The Pride of them", says David, "ascendeth Continually" - Psalm 73:23. The Ambitious are not Satisfied by the Attainment-of Certain Honors; their Ambition and Pride, Continually Increase; and thus their Inquietude, their Envy, and their Fears are Multiplied.
They who Live-in the Habit of Sins of Impurity, feed, as the Prophet Jeremiah says, on 'Dung'. "Qui voluptuose vescebantur, amplexati sunt stercora". How can 'Dung' Content or give Peace to the Soul? Ah! what Peace, what Peace can Sinners at a Distance-from God, Enjoy? They may Posses the Riches, Honors, and Delights of this World; but they never shall have Peace. No, the Word of God cannot Fail; He has declared that there is no Peace for His Enemies, "There is no Peace to the Wicked, saith the Lord" - Isaiah 48:22. Poor Sinners! they, as Saint Chrysostom says, always carry-about with them, their own Executioner; that is, a Guilty Conscience, which continually Torments them. "Peccator conscientiam quasi carnificem circumgestat". Saint Isidore asserts, that there is no Pain more Excruciating, than that of a Guilty Conscience. Hence he adds, that he who Leads a Good Life is never Sad. "Nulla poena gravior poena conscientiae; vis nunquam esse tristis? bene vive".
In describing the Deplorable State of Sinners, the Holy Ghost compares them to a Sea, continually Tossed-by the Tempest. "The Wicked are like the Raging Sea, which cannot Rest" - Isaiah 57:20. Waves come-and-go, but they are all Waves-of Bitterness and Rancor; for every Cross and Contradiction, Disturbs and Agitates the Wicked. If a Person at a 'Ball' or 'Musical Exhibition', were Obliged-to remain Suspended-by a Chord, with his Head downwards, could he feel Happy at the Entertainment? Such is the State-of a Christian in Enmity with God; his Soul is, as-it-were, turned Upside-down; instead of being United with God, and Detached-from Creatures, it is United-with Creatures, and Separated-from God. But Creatures, says Saint Vincent Ferrer, are without, and do not enter, to Content the Heart, which God alone can make Happy. "Non intrant ibi est sitis". The Sinner is like a Man, Parched with Thirst, and standing-in the Middle-of a Fountain; because the Waters which surround him, do not Enter, to Satisfy his Thirst, he remains in the midst-of them, more Thirsty than before.
Speaking of the Unhappy Life which he led when he was in the State of Sin, David said: "My Tears have been my Bread, Day and Night, whilst it is said to me Daily: Where is thy God?" - Psalm 41:4. To Relieve himself, he went to his Villas, to his Gardens, to Musical Entertainments, and to various other Royal Amusements, but they all said to him: "David, if thou expectest Comfort from us, thou art Deceived. Where is thy God? Go and Seek thy God, Whom thou hast Lost; for He alone, can Restore thy Peace". Hence David Confessed, that in the Midst-of his Princely Wealth, he enjoyed no Repose, and that he Wept, Night and Day. Let us now Listen-to his Son, Solomon, who Acknowledged that he Indulged his Senses in whatever they Desired. "Whatsoever my Eyes Desired, I Refused them not" - Ecclesiastes 2:10. But after all his Sensual Enjoyments, he exclaimed: "Vanity of Vanities . . . I have seen all things that are done under the Sun, and Behold, all is Vanity and Vexation of Spirit" - Ecclesiastes 1:2,10. Mark! he declares that all the Pleasures of this Earth, are not only Vanity of Vanities, but also Affliction of Spirit. And this, Sinners well-know from Experience; for Sin brings with it, the Fear of Divine Vengeance. The Man who is Encompassed-by Powerful Enemies, never Sleeps-in Peace; and can the Sinner, who has God for an 'Enemy', enjoy Tranquility? "Fear to them that Work Evil" - Proverbs 10:29. The Christian who Commits a Mortal Sin, feels himself Oppressed-with Fear - every Leaf that moves, Excites Terror. "The Sound of Dread is always in his Ears" - Job 15:21. He appears to be always Flying-away, although no one Pursues him. "The Wicked Man Fleeth, when no Man Pursueth" - Proverbs 28:1. He shall be Persecuted, not by Men, but by his own Sin. It was thus with Cain, who after having Killed his Brother Abel, was seized-with Fear, and said: "Every one therefore that findeth me, shall Kill me" - Genesis 4:14. The Lord Assured him, that no one should Injure him: "And the Lord said to him: No, it shall not so be" - Genesis 4:15. But, notwithstanding this Assurance, Cain, Pursued-by his own Sin, was, as the Scripture attests, always Flying-from One Place, to another. "And Cain went out from the Face of the Lord, and dwelt as a Fugitive on the Earth" - Genesis 4:16.
Moreover, Sin brings with it, Remorse of Conscience; that Cruel Worm that 'Gnaws' Incessantly and never Dies. "Their Worm shall not Die" - Isaiah 66:24. If the Sinner goes to a Festival, to a Comedy, to a Banquet, his Conscience continually Reproaches him, saying: Unhappy Man! you have Lost God; if you were now to Die, what would become of you? The Torture, of Remorse of Conscience, even in the Present Life, is so Great, that to Free themselves from it, some Persons have put an End to their Lives. Judas, through Despair, Hanged himself. A certain Man who had Killed an Infant, was so much Tormented with Remorse, that he could not Rest. To Rid himself of it, he Entered-into a Monastery; but finding no Peace even there, he went before a Judge, Acknowledged his Crime, and got himself Condemned to Death.
God complains of the Injustice of Sinners in leaving Him, Who is the Fountain of all Consolation, to Plunge themselves into Fetid and Broken Cisterns, which can give no Peace. "For my People have done Two Evils. They have Forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Water, and have digged to themselves Cisterns, Broken Cisterns, that can hold no Water" - Jeremiah 2:13. You have, the Lord says to Sinners, Refused to Serve Me, your God, in Peace. Unhappy Creatures! you shall Serve your Enemies in Hunger, and Thirst, and Nakedness, and in Want of every kind. "Because thou didst not Serve the Lord thy God, with Joy and Gladness of Heart, for the Abundance of all things: Thou shalt Serve thy Enemy, whom the Lord will send upon thee, in Hunger, and Thirst, and Nakedness, and in Want of all things" - Deuteronomy 28:47-48. This is what Sinners experience every day. What do not the Vindictive endure after they have Satisfied their Revenge by the Murder of an Enemy? They Fly-continually from the 'Relations' of their Murdered Foe, and from the Minister of Justice. They Live as Fugitives, Poor, Afflicted, and Abandoned by all. What do not the Voluptuous and Unchaste Suffer, in order to Gratify their Wicked Desires? What do not the Avaricious Suffer, in order to Acquire the Possessions of Others? Ah! if they Suffered for God, what they Suffer for Sin, they would Lay-up Great Treasures for Eternity (∞), and would Lead a Life-of Peace and Happiness; but by Living-in Sin, they Lead a Life-of Misery here, to Lead a still more Miserable Life for Eternity (∞) hereafter. Hence they Weep continually in Hell saying: "We Wearied ourselves in the Way of Iniquity and Destruction, and have Walked through Hard Ways" - Wisdom 5:7. We have, they exclaim, Walked-through Hard Ways, through Paths covered-with Thorns. We Wearied ourselves in the Way of Iniquity; we have Labored Hard; we have Sweated Blood; we have led a Life Full-of Misery, of Gall, and of Poison. And why? To bring ourselves to a still more Wretched Life, in this Pit of Fire.
Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph