“Casting all your solicitude upon Him for He hath care of you.”
-St. Petr., Ep. I., c. V., v. 7
“Blessed is the man who hopes in the Lord,” says the Holy Spirit. The weakness of our souls is often attributable to lukewarmness in regard to the Christian virtue of hope. Hold fast to this great truth: he who hopes for nothing will obtain nothing; he who hopes for little will obtain little; he who hopes for all things will obtain all things.
The mercy of God is infinitely greater than all the sins of the world. We should not, then, confine ourselves to a consideration of our own wretchedness, but rather turn our thoughts to the contemplation of this divine attribute of mercy.
“What do you fear?” says Saint Thomas of Villanova: “this Judge whose condemnation you dread is the same Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross in order not to condemn you.” Sorrow, not fear, is the sentiment our sins should awaken in us. When Saint Peter said to his divine Master: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man,” what did our Saviour reply? “Noli timere,—fear not.” Saint Augustine remarks that in the Holy Scriptures we always find hope and love preferred to fear.
Our miseries form the throne of the divine mercy, we are told by Saint Francis de Sales, for if in the world there were neither sins to pardon, nor sorrows to soothe, nor maladies of the soul to heal, God would not have to exercise the most beautiful attribute of His divine essence. This was our Lord’s reason for saying that He came into the world not for the just but for sinners.
Assuredly our faults are displeasing to God, but He does not on their account cease to cherish our souls. It is unnecessary to observe that this applies only to such faults as are due to the frailty inherent in our nature, and against which an upright will, sustained by divine grace, continually struggles. A perverse will, without which there can be no mortal sin, alienates us from God and renders us hateful in His eyes as long as we are subject to it.
At the feast spoken of in the Gospel, the King receives with love the poor, the blind, and the lame who are clothed with the nuptial garment,—that is to say, all those whom a desire to please God maintains in a state of grace notwithstanding their natural defects and frailty: but his rigorous justice displays itself against him who dares to appear there without this garment. This distinction, found everywhere throughout the Gospels, is essential in order to inspire us with a tender confidence when we fall, without diminishing our horror for deliberate sins.
A good mother is afflicted at the natural defects and infirmities of her child, but she loves him none the less, nor does she refuse him her compassion or her aid. Far from it; for the more miserable and suffering and deformed he may be the greater is her tenderness and solicitude for him.
We have, says Saint Paul, a good and indulgent High-Priest who knows how to compassionate our weakness, Jesus Christ, who has been pleased to become at once our Brother and our Mediator. Do not forfeit your peace of mind by wondering what destiny awaits you in eternity. Your future lot is in the hands of God, and it is much safer there than if in your own keeping.
The immoderate fear of hell, in the opinion of Saint Francis de Sales, can not be cured by arguments, but by submission and humility. Hence it was that Saint Bernard, when tempted by the devil to a sin of despair, retorted:
“I have not merited heaven, I know that as well as you do, Satan; but I also know that Jesus Christ, my Saviour, has merited it for me. It was not for Himself that He purchased so many merits,—but for me: He cedes them to me, and it is by Him and in Him that I shall save my soul.”
Far from allowing yourself to be dejected by fear and doubt, raise your desires rather to great virtues and to the most sublime perfection. God loves courageous souls, Saint Theresa assures us, provided they mistrust their own strength and place all their reliance upon Him. The devil tries to persuade you that it is pride to have exalted aspirations and to wish to imitate the virtues of the saints; but do not permit him to deceive you by this artifice. He will only laugh at you if he succeed in making you fall into weakness and irresolution.
To aspire to the noblest and highest ends gives firmness and perseverance to the soul (read The Imitation, B. III, C. XXX).