The Impenitent Prodigal Son - by HEMESSEN, Jan Sanders van - from Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
|The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Illustrates the Theme of Repentance, and the Infinite Nature of Divine Mercy. In the Foreground, is the Impenitent Prodigal Son, surrounded-by Women-of Easy Morals, and Abandoning himself to the Sins of the Senses: Lechery, Gluttony, Laziness. The Aging Pimp, with a Cupidinous and Revolting Grin; the Red-faced, Jeering Drunk; the Avid Gambler; and the Prostitute; Illustrate the "Occasions of Sin", referenced-by Saint Alphonsus, in this Sermon.|
And He was speaking these things unto them, Behold a certain Ruler came up,
and Adored Him, saying: Lord, my Daughter is even now Dead;
but come, lay Thy Hand upon her, and she shall Live - Matthew 9:18
But some Young Persons may say: I will Hereafter, give myself to God. Behold the False, Hope-of Sinners, which Leads them to Remain-in Sin, till Death, and from Death, Conducts them to Hell. Who are you, that say, you will Hereafter, Give yourself to God? But who, I ask, Promises you that you shall have Time, to Give yourself to God, and that you shall not Meet-with a Sudden-Death, which will Take you Out-of this World, before you Give yourself to Him? "He", says Saint Gregory, "Who has Promised Pardon to Penitents, has not Promised Tomorrow, to Sinners". The Lord has Promised Pardon, to all who Repent-of their Sins; but, to those who Wish-to Continue-in Sin, He has not Promised Time, for Repentance. Do you say Hereafter? But, Jesus Christ tells you that Time is in the Hand-of-God, and not under your Control. "It is not for you to Know the Times or Moments, which the Father hath put in His Own Power" - Acts 1:7. We Read-in the Gospel-of Saint Luke, that Jesus Christ, seeing a Fig Tree, which was Fruitless-for Three (3) Years, Ordered it to be Cut-down. "And He said to the Dresser of the Vineyard: Behold, for these Three Years, I come Seeking Fruit on this Fig Tree, and I find None. Cut it down therefore: why Cumbereth it the Ground?" - Luke 13:7. Tell me, you who say that you will Hereafter, Give yourself to God, for what Purpose does He Preserve your Life? Is it that you may Continue-to Insult Him, by Sin? No; He Gives you Life, that you may Renounce Sin, and Change your Conduct. "Knowest thou not, that the Benignity of God, Leadeth thee to Penance?" - Romans 2:4. But, you are Resolved not to Amend; and if you Wish-to Give yourself to God, only Hereafter, He will Say-of your Soul, to the Dresser-of His Vineyard: "Cut it down. Why Cumbereth it the Ground?" Why should such a Sinner be Allowed-to Remain-on Earth? Is it to Continue-to Offend Me? Cut-down this Fruitless Tree, and Cast it into the Fire. "For now the Axe is Laid to the Root of the Trees. Every Tree, therefore, that doth not Yield Good Fruit, shall be Cut-down, and Cast-into the Fire" - Matthew 3:10.
But, should God Hereafter give you Time-for Repentance, will you, if you do not now Repent, Return-to Him Hereafter? Sins, like so-many Chains, keep the Sinner in Bondage. "His own Iniquities, Catch the Wicked, and he is Fast Bound with the Ropes-of his own Sins" - Proverbs 5:22. My Brother, if you cannot now, Break the Cords by-which you are at-present Bound, will you be-able-to Break them Hereafter, when they shall be Doubled-by the Commission-of new-Sins? To give him an Idea-of the Degree-of Folly which Impenitent Sinners reach, our Lord showed, One-day, to the Abbot Arenius, an Ethiopian, who, not being able to Raise a Load-of Faggots, added-to their Weight, and thus became less-able, to-Raise it. Sinners, said the Savior to the Holy Abbot, Act-in a similar-manner. They Wish-to get Rid-of their Past Sins, and, at the same-time, commit New Ones. These New Sins, shall Lead them into-Others, more-Numerous and more-Enormous. Cain Sinned-against his Brother, First (1st), by-Envy; Then, by-Hatred; and Afterwards, by-Murder; Finally, he Despaired-of the Divine Mercy, saying: "And Cain said to the Lord: My Iniquity is Greater than, that I may Deserve Pardon" - Genesis 4:13. Judas also was First (1st), Guilty-of the Sin of Avarice; he Then, Betrayed Jesus Christ, and Afterwards, Hanged himself. Sins, Chain the Sinner, and make him their Slave, so that he Knowingly-brings himself to-Destruction. "His own Iniquities, Catch the Wicked, and he is Fast Bound, with the Ropes of his own Sins" - Proverbs 5:22.
Moreover, his Sins Weigh-down the Sinner to such-a-degree, that he no-longer Regards Heaven, nor his own Salvation. "There is no Peace for my Bones, because of my Sins", said David with Tears, "for my Iniquities are Gone over my Head: and as a Heavy Burden, are become Heavy upon me" - Psalm 37:4-5. Hence the Miserable Man loses Reason, thinks only-of Earthly Goods, and thus Forgets the Divine Judgments. "And they Perverted their own Mind, and Turned away their Eyes, that they might not Look unto Heaven, nor remember Just Judgments" - Daniel 13:9. He even Hates the Light, because he Fears that it will Interrupt his Criminal Pleasures. "For every one that doth Evil, hateth the Light, and cometh not to the Light, that his Works may not be Reproved" - John 3:20. Hence, he becomes Miserably Blind, and goes round-about continually, from Sin to Sin. "The Wicked, walk round-about" - Psalm 11:9. He then Despises Admonitions, Divine Calls, Hell, Heaven, and God. "The Wicked Man, when he is come into the Depths of Sins, contemneth" - Proverbs 18:3.
"He hath", says Job, "Torn me with Wound-upon-Wound, he hath Rushed in upon me, like a Giant" - Job 16:15. By Conquering One (1) Temptation, a Man acquires not-only Additional Strength to Repel Future Assaults, but also Diminishes the Power-of the Devil. And, on the other hand, when we Yield-to any Temptation, the Devil becomes-like a Giant, and we become so Weak, that we have scarcely Strength-to Resist him any-longer. If you receive a Wound from an Enemy, you Lose Strength. If to this, New Wounds be Added, you shall be Exhausted, and Rendered unable-to Defend yourself. This is what happens-to the Fools who say: I will Hereafter give myself to God. How can they Resist the Attacks-of the Devil, after they have Lost their Strength, and after their Wounds have Mortified? "My Sores are Putrified and Corrupted, because of my Foolishness" - Psalm 37:6. At its Commencement, a Wound is easily Healed; but, when it becomes Gangrenous, the Cure is most Difficult. Recourse must be had, to the Cautery; but even this Remedy, is in many cases, Ineffectual.
But, Saint Paul teaches, that God "will have all Men to be Saved" - 1Timothy 2:4; and that Jesus Christ came-on Earth, for the Salvation-of Sinners. "Christ Jesus came into this World, to Save Sinners" - 1Timothy 1:15. God certainly Wills the Salvation-of all who Desire it; He Wills the Salvation-of those who Wish-to Save their Souls; but not those who Labor for their own Damnation. Jesus Christ has come-to Save Sinners. To Save our Souls, Two (2) Things are Necessary; First (1st), the Grace of God; and Secondly (2nd), our own Cooperation. "Behold, I Stand at the Gate, and Knock. If any Man shall hear My Voice, and open to Me the Door, I will Come-in to him, and will Sup-with him, and he with Me" - Revelation 3:20. Then, in order that God may enter-into us by His Grace, we must, on our part, obey His Calls, and open our Hearts to Him. Likewise, Saint Paul says, "With Fear and Trembling, Work out your Salvation" - Philippians 2:12. He says, Work out. Then we too must Cooperate-to our Salvation, by Good Works; otherwise, the Lord will only give us 'Sufficient' Grace, by which we shall be-able-to Save our Souls, but by which we 'Certainly' will not Save them. Behold the Reason; he who is in the State-of-Sin, and Continues-to Commit Sin, is Daily, more-and-more Attached-to the Flesh, and more Removed-from God. Now, how can God, by His Grace, approach-to us, when we Withdraw-farther from Him? He then Retires-from us, and becomes less-Liberal in His Favors. "And I will make it Desolate: . . . . and I will Command the Clouds to Rain no Rain, upon it" - Isaiah 5:6. When the Soul continues-to Offend God, He Abandons Her, and Withdraws His Helps. Hence, She shall Cease-to feel Remorse-of Conscience; She shall be Left without Light; and the Blindness of Her Understanding, and the Hardness-of Her Heart shall be Increased. She shall become Utterly Insensible-to the Calls-of-God, to the Maxims-of-Faith, and to the Melancholy Examples-of other Rebellious Souls, that have 'Closed-their-Career', in Hell.
But who knows, the Obstinate Sinner will say, but God will Show to me, the same Mercy which He has Shown to Great Sinners? In answer to this, Saint Chrysostom says: "Fortasse dabit, inquis; cur dicis fortasse? Contigit aliquando; sed cogita quod de anima deliberas?" - Homily 22. You say, Perhaps God will Give me the Grace of Salvation. But, why do you say "Perhaps"? Is it because He has sometimes Given-to Great Sinners, the Grace-of Eternal (∞) Life? But remember, says the Holy Doctor, that there is, Question-of your Soul, which if Once Lost, is Lost Forever (∞). I, too, Take-you-up, and Admit-that God has, by certain Extraordinary Graces, Saved some 'Enormous' Sinners. But, these Cases are very-Rare; they are 'Prodigies' and Miracles-of-Grace, by which God Wished-to show the Boundlessness-of His Mercy. But ordinarily, Sinners who Wish-to Continue-in Sin, are, in the End, Cast-into Hell. On them, are Executed the Threats-of the Lord, against Obstinate Sinners. "You have Despised all My Counsel, and have neglected My Reprehensions. I also will Laugh in your Destruction, and will Mock when that shall come to you, which you Feared. When Sudden Calamity shall Fall on you, and Destruction, as a Tempest, shall be at-hand: when Tribulation and Distress shall come upon you: Then shall they Call upon Me, and I will not Hear: they shall Rise in the Morning, and shall not find Me" - Proverbs 1:25-28. I, says the Lord, have Called-on them again-and-again, but they have Refused-to Hear Me. "But they did not Hear, nor Incline their Ear: but Hardened their Neck, that they might not Hear Me, and might not Receive Instruction" - Jeremiah 17:23. Now they Call-upon Me, it is but Just that I Refuse-to Listen-to their Cries. God Bears, but does not Bear Forever (∞); when the Time-of Vengeance arrives, He Punishes Past-and-Present Iniquities. "For the Most High is a Patient Rewarder" - Ecclesiasticus 5:4. And according-to Saint Augustine, the longer God has Waited-for Negligent Sinners, the more-Severely He will Chastise them. "Quanto diutius expectat Deus, ut emenderis; tanto gravius judicabit, si neglexeris". He who Promises-to Amend, and Willfully Neglects to Return-to God, is Unworthy-of the Grace-of True Repentance.
But God is Full of Mercy. He is Full-of Mercy, but He is not so Stupid as-to Act-without Reason; to Show Mercy to those who Continue-to Insult Him, would be Stupidity, and not Goodness. "Is thy Eye Evil, because I am Good?" - Matthew 20:15. Will you Persevere-in Wickedness, because I am Bountiful? God is Good, but He is also Just, and He Exhorts us all, to-Observe His Law, if we Wish-to Save our Souls. "But if thou wilt Enter into Life, keep the Commandments" - Matthew 19:17. Were God to show Mercy to the Wicked, as-well-as to the Just, and to Give-to all, the Grace-of-Conversion, before Death, He would Hold-out a Strong Temptation, even to the Saints, to commit Sin; but no, when His Mercies have Reached their Term, He Punishes, and Pardons no more. "And My Eye shall not Spare thee, and I will Shew thee no Pity" - Ezekiel 7:4. Hence He says: "But Pray that your Flight be not in the Winter, or on the Sabbath" - Matthew 24:20. We are Prevented-from Working-in the Winter, by the Cold, and on the Sabbath, by the Law. In this Passage, the Redeemer gives us to Understand-that, for Impenitent Sinners, a Time shall come, when they would Wish-to give themselves to God, but shall find themselves Prevented-by their Bad Habits, from Returning-to Him. Of this, there are Numberless Melancholy Examples. In his Sermons-on a Happy Death, Cataneus relates, that a Dissolute Young Man, when Admonished to Give-up his Wickedness, said: I have a Saint who is Omnipotent, and this is the Mercy-of-God. Death came; the Unhappy Man sent-for a Confessor; but, while he was Preparing-for Confession, the Devil, Wrote-down before his Eyes, all his Sins. He was Seized-with Terror, and exclaimed: Alas! what a Long Catalogue of Sins! And before he was able-to make his Confession, he Expired. In his Sermons-for-Sundays, Campadelli relates that a Young Nobleman, Addicted-to Sins of the Flesh, was Warned by-God and by-Men, to Amend his Life; but he Despised all their Admonitions. He afterwards, Fell-into a Severe Illness, Confessed his Sins, and Promised-to change his Life; but, after his Recovery, he Returned-to the Vomit. Behold the Vengeance of God! Being one-day in a Field during the Vintage, he took Fever, went Home, and feeling that the Disease was far-advanced, he sent-in-haste for a Priest, who Lived-near the House. The Priest comes, enters the House, salutes the Sick Man, but sees a Frightful Spectacle, the Eyes and Mouth open, the Face, Black-as Jet. He calls the Sick Man, but finds that he is Dead. Dearly Beloved Brethren, take Care, that you too be not Miserable Examples-of the Justice-of God. Give-up Sin; but give it up, from this Moment; for if you Continue-to Commit Sin, the same Vengeance which has Fallen-on so many others, shall also Fall-on you. Let us, come-to the Remedy.
Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph