|Third Sunday after Pentecost|
he First Epistle of St. Peter the Apostle, v. 6-11. Dearly Beloved: Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation. Casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of you. Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith, knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world. But the God of all grace, Who hath called us into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will Himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.
INSTRUCTION ON INTEMPERANCE.
"Be sober and watch." - I. Peter v. 8.
St. Peter prescribes sobriety and watchfullness as necessary means for resisting the attacks of the devil, who by day and night goes about seeking whom he may devour. Woe to those who, by reason of their drunkenness, live in a continual night, and lie in the perpetual sleep of sin! How will it be with them if, suddenly awakened from this sleep by death, they find themselves standing, burdened with innumerable and unknown sins, before the judgment-seat of God? For who can number the sins, committed in and by reason of drunkenness, which the drunkard either accounts as trifles, easily pardoned, or else, not knowing what he has thought, said, and done in his fit of intoxication, considers to be no sins at all?
Will the divine Judge, at the last day, thus reckon? Will He also find no sin in them? Will He let go unpunished the infamous deeds and the scandal of their drunkenness? He Who demands strict account of every word spoken in vain, will He make no inquiry of so many shameful, scandalous, and blasphemous sayings, of so much time wasted, of so much money squandered, of so many neglects of the divine service, of the education of children, of the affairs of home, and of innumerable other sins? Will they be able to excuse themselves before this Judge by saying that they did not know what they were doing? pr that what they did was for want of reflection, or in jest? or that they were not strong, and could not bear much? Will not such excuses rather witness against them that they are the more worthy of punishment for having taken more than their strength could bear, thereby depriving themselves of the use of reason, making themselves like brutes, and, of their own free will, taking on themselves the responsibility for all the sins of which their drunkenness was the occasion?
What, then, awaits them? What else than the fate of the rich glutton who, for his gluttony, was buried in hell? (Luke xvi. 22.) Yes, that shall be the place and the portion of the drunkard! There shall they in vain sigh for a drop of water. There, for all the pleasures and satisfactions which they had in the world, as many pains and torments shall now lay hold of them (Apoc. xviii. 7); there shall they be compelled to drain the cup of God's anger to the dregs, as they, in life, forced others into drunkenness. This is what they have to hope for, for St. Paul says expressly that drunkards shall not possess the kingdom of God (I. Cor. vi. 10). What then remains for them but to renounce either their intemperance or heaven?
But how rare and difficult is the true conversion of a drunkard! This is the teaching of experience. Will not such a one, therefore, go to ruin?
he Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. Luke, xv. 1-10. At that time the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And He spoke to them this parable, saying: What man of you that hath an hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost until he find it? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders rejoicing; and coming home call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost? I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance. Or what woman having ten groats, if she lose one groat, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, call together her friends and neighbours, saying: Rejoice with me, because I have found the groat which I had lost. So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
Why did the Pharisees murmur?
Because they thought themselves better than other men, and as they avoided the company of sinners themselves, they required others to do likewise. They did not know, or rather did not wish to know, that a truly just man always feels compassion for sinners, and that the saints always desired and endeavored to promote their conversion and eternal welfare. "True justice," says St. Gregory, "has compassion for sinners, while false and hypocritical justice is angry with them." Love sinners, therefore, in imitation of Jesus, and pray earnestly for their conversion.
What does the parable of the lost sheep teach us?
It teaches us the love of Jesus, Who seeks out sinners, brings them back to the Father, and reinstates them in the privileges of the children of God. We find in this parable an excuse for sinners. The sheep is a very simple animal which, while grazing in the field, does not notice that it has left the fold. It is lost, and when lost does not know the way back to the fold. It seems, therefore, when Christ compared the sinner to a sheep He intended to say that the sinner goes astray from the true path and from God through pure and natural ignorance; because being dazzled and delighted by the things of the world, he follows them; he separates himself from the just without knowing it, and, lost in the desert of this world, he does not know his misfortune and has not, humanly speaking, the means of returning again, if God in His infinite mercy does not go in search of him and rescue him.
What is meant by the words, "there shall be more joy over one sinner that does penance than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance"?
Thereby it is not to be understood that the penitent sinner is more pleasing to God than ninety-nine just, but that, as men have a special joy in finding that which they supposed to be lost, so also God, the angels, and saints have an extraordinary joy over the conversion of one sinner; because, in the conversion of the sinner, they see the glory, love, and power of God exalted.
O Lord, what profit hast Thou in the conversion of a sinner, that Thou art thereby so greatly pleased? The happiness of one of Thy poor creatures can add nothing to Thine own. But Thou lovest me, and therefore it is that Thou are pleased if I return to Thee. O my God, is it possible that I can know this Thy love, and remain any longer in sin?