FIFTH WEEK OF LENT: MONDAY
Motives for Penance drawn from the Thought of Judgement
1st Prelude. I will imagine myself before the judgement-seat of Jesus Christ, with two unshaken witnesses beside me, my guardian angel and Satan.
2nd Prelude. I will ask for grace to know myself, that I may be able to judge myself here. Three things are to be feared in the particular judgement: 1. The judge; 2. The account to be rendered; 3. The sentence.
POINT I. The Judge.
CONSIDERATION. By penance we may make the judge favourable to us. The judge is Our Lord Himself, Whom we have neglected, offended and injured, with all the malice of sin, and so often, so deliberately, even when He loaded us with benefits. Now He is a God of mercy, ready to pardon at the first sign of repentance; but then He will be only a God of justice; as His mercy was infinite, so will be His justice; not the smallest fault, not an idle word, He has said, will pass unperceived, but will be severely punished in purgatory. These thoughts filled holy Job with fear. Who shall reprove His way to His face? And who shall repay Him what He hath done?
APPLICATION. What have you not to expect, or rather to fear, from your judge, you who have perhaps long lived in a state of tepidity, which blinds man as to the number and gravity of his faults, or maintains him in false security? What, then, should you do? Our Lord tells you: “Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him”; that is, according to St. Augustine, with God Who is your judge, and Whose enemy sin has made you; and you can do so, if “ye be humbled, therefore, under the mighty hand of God,” to use St. Peter’s words, “and be penitent therefore, and be converted, that your sin may be blotted out.”
AFFECTIONS and RESOLUTIONS.
POINT II. The account to be rendered.
CONSIDERATION. By penance we may lighten the account we shall have to give. What an account! All will be passed in review by One from Whom nothing can be hidden: the time lost in useless things; the good left undone; the good ill-done; all our thoughts, intentions, words, and actions; and, what is worse for the religious, all the means of salvation and sanctification lavishly bestowed upon him daily and hourly. The judgement will be severe in proportion to the grace received, says St. Cyprian, following the words of our Lord “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.”
APPLICATION. These truths filled even the penitents of the desert with fear; they never thought they had sufficiently atoned for their past lives. The only means of consolation under this dread were tears and constant mortification, a life of continued penance until death. Imitate them; try to lighten by such a life of penance and mortification your heavy account of sin, imperfection, and negligence; and do it with special generosity during this holy season, two-thirds of which are already gone.
AFFECTIONS and RESOLUTIONS.
POINT III. The sentence.
CONSIDERATION. By penance we may insure a favourable sentence. The sentence of the judge will be irrevocable — life eternal or death eternal; the first securing the soul of the just endless glory and the delights of Heaven, although it may for a while be detained in a place of expiation; the second condemning the soul of the sinner to Satan and the eternal pains of Hell.
APPLICATION. You earnestly desire to be amongst the number of the elect, to enter into the immediate possession of Heaven. It is possible: with the grace of God, endeavour to live as a holy religious, expiating by constant penance and mortifications all that yet tarnishes the purity of your soul. This is the infallible but indispensable means of ensuring what you so much desire. Oh, how joyfully, after such a life, will you meet death! And why should you not do so?
COLLOQUY with Jesus doing penance for us.