The Book of Confidence - Chapter Four - Part 4 The Sight of the Crucifix Should Revive Our Confidence
If ever in your intimate struggles you feel yourself weakening in confidence, meditate on the passages of the Gospel that I have just pointed out to you.
Contemplate that ignominious cross upon which your God expired. Look at His poor head crowned with thorns, falling inert upon His breast. Consider those candid eyes and the pale countenance whereon the precious blood coagulates. Look at the pierced feet and hands and at the mortally wounded body. Pay attention, above all, to the most loving Heart that was opened by the soldier’s lance; from it flows a few drops of bloodstained water. All this He gave you! How is it possible to distrust this Saviour?
From you, however, He expects the gratitude of affection. In the name of His love, in the name of His martyrdom, in the name of His death, make the resolution to avoid mortal sin in the future.
Weakness is great, I well know, but He will help you. In spite of having goodwill, you will perhaps have falls and relapses into evil, but the Lord is merciful. He only asks that you not let yourself fall asleep in sin, that you fight against bad habits.
Promise Him to confess promptly and never to pass through a night with a mortal sin on your conscience. If you keep this resolution courageously, you will be happy. Jesus will not have shed His precious Blood for you in vain.
Be calm regarding your intimate dispositions. In this way, you will have the right to serenely face the fearful problem of predestination. You will carry on your forehead the sign of the elect.
The Book of Confidence - Chapter Four - Part 3 God Grants Us All the Necessary Helps for the Sanctification and Salvation of Our Souls
Certain anguished souls doubt their own salvation. They dwell too much on their past faults; they think of the violent temptations that at times assault all of us; they forget the merciful goodness of God. This anguish can become a veritable temptation to despair.
While a young man, Saint Francis de Sales experienced a trial of this kind. He trembled at the thought of not being predestined to heaven and passed through a number of months in this interior martyrdom. A heroic prayer freed him: the Saint prostrated himself before an altar of Mary, beseeching the Virgin to teach him to love her Son with a charity as ardent on earth as the fear he had of not being able to love Him in eternity.
In this form of suffering, there is a truth of faith that should console us immensely.We are lost only by mortal sin.
This we can always avoid, and, even when we have suffered the disgrace of committing it, we can always be reconciled with God. An act of sincere contrition, made immediately, without postponement, will purify us, while we await the obligatory confession, which should be made without delay.
Certainly the poor human will should always distrust its weakness. But the Saviour will never refuse us the graces that we lack. He will also do everything possible to help us in the supremely important endeavour to save our souls.
Behold the great truth that Jesus Christ wrote with His precious Blood and that we are now going to reread together in the history of His Passion.
Have you ever reflected upon how the Jews were able to seize Our Lord? Do you believe, perhaps, that they succeeded in this crime by cunning or by force? Is it possible to think that, amid the great turmoil, Jesus was overcome because He was the weaker?
Certainly not. His enemies could do nothing against Him. In the three years of His preaching, they wanted to throw Him from a cliff; on various occasions they took up rocks to stone Him. Always, however, the Divine Word frustrated the plans of the impious; the sovereign force of God held back their hands, and Jesus always calmly withdrew, without anyone having been able to do Him the slightest harm.
In Gethsemane, the soldiers of the Temple came to take possession of His sacred person. Upon His merely uttering His name, the whole band of soldiers fell to the ground, gripped by a strange fear. The soldiers could rise only after being given permission by Him.
If Jesus was taken prisoner, if He was crucified, if He was immolated, it was because He so wanted it, in the plenitude of His liberty and His love for us. “He was offered because it was His own will.”5
If the Master unhesitatingly shed His precious Blood wholly for us, if He died for us, how could He refuse us the graces that are absolutely necessary for us and that He Himself merited for us by His sufferings?
During His Passion, Jesus mercifully offered these graces to the most guilty souls. Two Apostles had committed enormous crimes; to both He offered pardon. Judas betrayed Him with a hypocritical kiss. Jesus spoke to him with a touching gentleness; He called him His friend. By tender affection He sought to touch that heart hardened by avarice. “Friend, whereto art thou come?” “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”6 This is the last grace of the Master to the ungrateful one.
It is a grace of such force that we will never be able to measure adequately its intensity. Judas, however, rejects it; he is lost, because he formally prefers that state.
Peter believes himself to be very strong. He had sworn to accompany the Master till death, but he abandons Him when he sees Him in the hands of the soldiers. Thereafter, he follows Him only from a distance. He enters trembling into the courtyard of the palace of the High Priest.
Three times he denies his Lord – because he fears the derision of a maidservant.With an oath he affirms that he does not know “that man.” The cock crows… Jesus turns and fixes his eyes on the Apostle, eyes filled with merciful and gentle censures. Their gazes meet.
It is a grace, a fulminating grace, that is carried to Peter by that gaze. The Apostle does not reject it; he goes out and weeps bitterly over his faults.
As in the case of Judas and Peter, Jesus always offers us graces of repentance and conversion.We can accept or refuse them. We are free! It is for us to decide between good and evil, between heaven and hell. Salvation is in our hands. The Saviour not only offers us His graces, He does more: He intercedes for us before the heavenly Father. He reminds Him of the pains suffered for our Redemption. He takes up our defence before Him; He excuses our faults.
“Father,” He exclaims in the anguish of the agony, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”7 During the Passion, the Master had such a desire to save us that He did not cease for an instant to think of us.
On Calvary, He gives His last gaze to sinners; He pronounces one of His last words in favour of the good thief. He extends His arms wide on the Cross in order to indicate with what love He receives each repentant soul in His most loving Heart.
Abyss of human weakness, tyranny of bad habits! How many Christians receive in the tribunal of Penance absolution for their sins. Their contrition is sincere, they make vigorous resolutions… and they fall again into the same sins, sometimes grave; the number of their falls grows without ceasing! Do they not have, then, abundant reason for discouragement?
Nothing is more just than that the evidence of our own misery keeps us humble. That it should make us lose confidence would be a catastrophe more dangerous than so many falls into error.
The soul that falls should rise immediately. It should not cease to implore the mercy of the Lord. Do you not know that God has His hours and can, in an instant, elevate us to a very high degree of sanctity?
Had not Mary Magdalen led a criminal life? Grace, nevertheless, transformed her instantaneously. Without transition, a sinner became a great saint. Now, then, the action of God has not been reduced in what it can do.
What it did for others it will be able to do for us. Do not doubt. Confident and persevering prayer will obtain a complete cure of our souls.
Do not tell me that time passes and that now, perhaps, your life is reaching its end.
Our Lord waited for the agony of the good thief in order to attract him victoriously to Himself. In one single minute, that man of such guilt converted! His faith and his love were so great that, in spite of his great crimes, he did not even pass through purgatory. He occupies an elevated place in heaven forever.
Let nothing, then, alter your confidence! Even though you be in the depths of the abyss, call out to heaven without ceasing. God will end by responding to your cry and will work His justice in you.
Chapter Four Confidence in God and Our Spiritual Necessities
Our Lord Is Merciful to Sinners
Divine Providence feeds the birds of the trees; It also takes care of our bodies. What is this body of misery? A fragile creature, one condemned to death and destined to be consumed by worms.
In the mad rush of life, we think that all things lead to business or to pleasures. However, every step moves us closer to the end. We ourselves drag our corpses to the edge of the grave.
If God so concerns Himself with perishable bodies, with what solicitude will He not look after our immortal souls? He prepares for them treasures of grace, whose riches exceed all that we can imagine. He sends them superabundant help for their sanctification and salvation.
These means of sanctification that the Faith puts at our disposal will not be studied here.
I merely wish to speak to the worried souls that one finds everywhere. With the Gospel in my hand, I will show them the emptiness of their fears.
Neither the gravity of their faults nor their multiple relapses into errors should overwhelm them.
On the contrary, the more they sense the weight of their own misery, the more they should lean upon God. Let them not lose confidence! However horrible their state may be, even though they may have led a disorderly life for a long time, with the help of grace, they can convert and be raised to high perfection.
The mercy of Our Lord is infinite; nothing exhausts it, not even faults that appear to us to be the most degrading and criminal ones. During His mortal life the Master received sinners with a truly divine goodness; He never refused them pardon.
Moved by the ardour of her repentance, Mary Magdalen enters the banquet hall. Without worrying about worldly conventions, she prostrates herself before the feet of Jesus, inundating them with tears. Simon, the Pharisee, contemplates the scene with a sarcastic air; he becomes indignant within himself. “If this man were a prophet,” he thinks, “he would know surely what this woman is worth. He would reject her with disdain.” But the Saviour does not reject her. He accepts her sighs, her tears, all the sensible signs of her humble contrition. He purifies her of her stains and showers her with supernatural gifts. And His Sacred Heart overflows with immense joy, while on high, in the Kingdom of His Father, the angels vibrate with jubilation and praise. A soul that was lost has been found; a soul was dead, and, behold, it is again restored to true life!
The Master is not content with receiving poor sinners with sweetness; He goes so far as to take up their defence. And is this not, furthermore, His mission? Did He not make Himself our advocate?1
One day they bring him a wretched woman, surprised in the flagrant act of her sin. The harsh law of Moses condemns her formally; the guilty person must die the slow torment of stoning.
Nevertheless, the Scribes and Pharisees wait impatiently for the sentence of the Saviour. If He pardons her, His enemies will accuse Him for despising the traditions of Israel. What will He do?
A single word will fall from His lips, and this word will be enough to confound the proud Pharisees and save the sinful woman.
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”2
An answer full of wisdom and of mercy. Hearing it, these arrogant men blush with shame. They withdraw, confounded, one after the other; the ancients are the first to flee.
And Jesus is left alone with the woman. “Where are they that accused thee?” He asks. “Hath no man condemned thee?”
She answers: “No man, Lord.” And Jesus continues: “Neither will I condemn thee! Go, and now sin no more!”3
When sinners come to Him, Jesus hurries to meet them. Like the father of the prodigal son, He is waiting for the return of the ungrateful ones. Like the good shepherd, He seeks after the lost sheep; and when He finds it, He puts it on His divine shoulders and restores it bloodstained
to the fold.
Oh! He will not irritate its wounds; like the good Samaritan, He will treat them with symbolic wine and oil. Over its sores, He will pour the balsam of penitence; and, in order to fortify it, He will make it drink of His Eucharistic chalice.
Guilty souls, do not fear the Saviour; it was especially for you that He came down to earth. Never renew the cry of despair of Cain: “My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon.”4 How this would amount to being ignorant of the Heart of Jesus!
Jesus purified Magdalen and pardoned the triple denial of Peter. He opened heaven to the good thief. In truth, I assure you, if Judas had gone to Him after the crime, Our Lord would have received him with mercy.