Motives for Penance drawn from the Thought of Hell – Lenten Meditation

Motives for Penance drawn from the Thought of Hell

1st Prelude. Imagine a lost soul asking for an hour in which to do penance.

2nd Prelude. Ask for the grace to do penance, moved by the consideration of eternal reprobation.

POINT I. We have deserved Hell.

CONSIDERATION. I have merited Hell — first motive. Adam, by his disobedience, drew down upon himself the sentence of everlasting condemnation. God, it is true, gave him certain hope of escaping it when he foretold the advent of a Redeemer; but on the condition that he should do penance all the days of his life. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” was the command. With what gratitude did Adam receive this gracious commutation of his punishment, long and severe as it was! So in modern days, criminals condemned to death have sometimes their penalty altered to servitude for life.

APPLICATION. If you have committed one mortal sin, you ought to say to yourself “I have merited Hell, as did also our first father, Adam; and if I am to escape it is also on the condition of leading a life of penance.” Thus the Council of Trent, speaking in general terms, says: “All the life of a Christian should be a life of penance.” How much more true is this, if you have sinned yourself, even though it be but once! Besides, if you go down to hell in spirit, and behold the punishments which the lost endure, and which last to all eternity, suffering in this life will seem light, and you will say, with St. Augustine, “Here below, O Lord, burn, cut, and spare me not, so long as Thou sparest me in eternity!”


POINT II. The fear of Hell.

CONSIDERATION. Hell threatens me — second motive. The words of Our Lord are explicit: “Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” How is this? Because pride and concupiscence, which since the Fall have infected our mind and heart, rule our actions, and will infallibly lead us into every species of sin and disorder, without the practice of constant penance and mortifications. The history of religious orders proves this. Humiliation is the penance of the intellect; and how many, in rejecting it, have become apostates before God, if not before man! Mortification is the penance of the heart; and how many, unwilling to endure it, who have begun in the spirit, afterwards indulge the desires of the flesh, as the Apostle St. Paul tells us! Think of those amongst them who you have known. Think of the dangers that you yourself have run.

APPLICATION. The Church does well to exhort us tenderly to penance from the first Sunday in Lent. Let us embrace it willingly. This is Holy Week. We should strive, therefore, to do more than we have yet done.


POINT III. Others are lost.

CONSIDERATION. Beings more perfect than myself are eternally lost — third motive. The angels have fallen in Heaven, and from Heaven they were cast into Hell. Faith assures us so. They had no time for penance; immediate punishment followed their offence — another and no less terrible truth. The renegade Judas had been called and formed by our Lord Himself to the practice of religious perfection and the apostolic functions. He spent three years with Jesus, and there secretly fostering an evil inclination, he at length became capable of conceiving and executing the most detestable of crimes, which led him to despair, suicide and Hell.

APPLICATION. “Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed, lest he fall”; repressing every evil inclination by continual mortification. Such is the practical conclusion of the Apostle St. Paul: “But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” Let us reason as did St. Paul; let us act as he did, and we shall be saved with him.

COLLOQUY with our merciful Lord.

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