Is there any state in the world more favourable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions.
There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you?
If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard.
One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?
But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved.
We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners immersed in all sorts of iniquities than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity?
How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors? Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Where will you find virtue? All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence?
That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is! Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end.
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And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance. If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them?
Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them?
Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit.
One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion? Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved?
Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite. Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason? The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners.
So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom.
The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering!
Pilgrimage and the Christian Life: A Lenten Meditation
Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it. That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned.
Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears? King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears.
Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another.
What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! What madness! And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. How can you run so hastily toward hell?
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Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable.
Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation!
In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man. So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics?
What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point.
Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire.
In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that He died of desire, and He suffered death to give us life. A strong, important, life giving relationship that means a great deal to all involved. Then, one party in the relationship turns away, leaving the other alone, stranded, bereft, confused. To feel forsaken is to feel cut off and abandoned by the one you trusted.
What happened to make this happen? Was it me? Was it them? Why must I suffer through this utter abandonment when I once felt known and loved? There are two parts of him through his whole life that have dwelt together, worked together, and cared for each other. In the moment of the crucifixion, though, where the pain is unimaginable and unbearable, the human man Jesus can not find that part of him that has always been his companion.
I am not sure if God really left the human man of Jesus at that moment.
Jonah’s Bad Trip: A Lenten Meditation
He may have or the pain that was being inflicted on him was so strong that nothing else could be felt. That moment of confusion where pain and loss feel unbounded and overwhelming is like fumes: choking, blinding, and burning. Jesus, in that moment, was forsaken. I believe in a Christ that took on all of human emotions and feelings, even the ones I would not wish upon another human being. He did this so that when we feel forsaken, he can be there with us in that pain, holding and nurturing us back to wholeness.
What a gift we have been given. It signifies the completion of Jesus mission here on earth. You defeat death in just a few days! He said IT is finished. When Jesus asked for something to drink, they gave him vinegar. If you drink vinegar, it will tighten your vocal chords so that you can barely speak. It was as if these people were trying to silence Jesus. Have you ever had someone try to silence you? When God plants a seed in you — whether it be a passion, an idea, or an opportunity — you are so excited.
You want to shout it from the rooftops! You want to share this news with everyone.
But, some people will respond with condescending words of discouragement. Now, that original call from God is starting to lose its flame — you are starting to feel discouraged, beaten down, defeated. As soon as he receives the vinegar, he speaks. He has the final word — it is God who has the final say in your destiny here on earth.
Even in death, Jesus is still in control of his thoughts and actions. Our task is to model Jesus in this moment. When we feel that we are near death — near being defeated — we must stay in faith and remember that God is in control of the entire universe, and therefore in control of your destiny. Now, this is all very important to remember, but I have to remind myself to again visualize this scene, and remember that in order to defeat death, he must in fact die.
For me, the worst part about his death is the innocence and helplessness of Jesus. Why am I worthy? While we may not feel worthy, he still loves us so much that he is willing to take on our burdens, our baggage. I want us to sit in the sadness of his death, so we can truly recognize the sacrifice being made for us. This scene of Jesus speaking and then bowing his head is so silent, and so holy, yet is so powerful — Jesus, not the bystanders, not the soldiers, not the enemy, but Jesus, has the last word. As Jesus bows his head, we see a physical sign of obedience to God — even at the moment of death.