Forgotten Truths
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Beware, O Sinner, for Who
Promises You a Tomorrow?

Ending his sermon (see Parts One and Two) on the danger of testing divine mercy by presumption or rashness, St. Alphonsus reminds sinners that there is no guarantee of a tomorrow to make a confession and return to the state of grace.

St. Alphonsus of Ligouri

6. According to St. John Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when He bears with sinners than when He instantly punishes their sin. And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy shall be chastised with the greatest rigor, if they do not cease to offend Him.

The Saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance. And the greater the light that God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin: For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than after they have known it, to turn back." (2 Pet 2:21)

Miserable the sinners, who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St. Paul says that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have tasted the Heavenly gifts … and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance." (Heb 6:4, 6).

7. Listen, then, O sinner, to the admonition of the Lord: My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no more, but for thy former sins also pray that they may be forgiven thee. (Eccles 21:1) My son, add not sins to those that you have already committed, but be careful to pray for the pardon of your past transgressions. Otherwise, if you commit another mortal sin, the gates of divine mercy may be closed against you, and your soul may be lost forever.

When then, beloved brethren, the Devil tempts you again to yield to sin, say to yourself: If God pardons me no more, what shall become of me for all eternity? Should the Devil in reply, say: “Fear not, God is merciful.” Then answer him by saying: “What certainty or what probability do I have that, if I return again to sin, God will show me mercy or grant me pardon?”

For behold the threat of the Lord against all who despise His calls: Because I have called and you refused ... I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared. (Prov 1:24, 26) Mark the words "I also" - they mean that, as you have mocked the Lord by betraying Him again after your confession and promises of amendment, so He will mock you at the hour of death. I will laugh and will mock. But, God is not mocked. (Gal. 6:7)

The wise man says: As a dog that returns to his vomit, so is the fool that repeats his folly.(Prov 26:11). Blessed Denis the Carthusian gives an excellent exposition of this text. He says that, as a dog that eats what he has just vomited is an object of disgust and abomination, so the sinner who returns to the sins that he has detested and confessed becomes hateful in the sight of God.

8. O folly of sinners! If you purchase a house, you spare no pains to get all the securities necessary to guard against the loss of your money; if you take medicine, you are careful to assure yourself that it cannot injure you; if you pass over a river, you cautiously avoid all danger of falling into it. And, for a transitory enjoyment, for the gratification of revenge, for a beastly pleasure that lasts but a moment, you risk your eternal salvation, saying: “I will go to confession after I commit this sin.”

And when, I ask, are you to go to confession? You say: “Tomorrow.” But who promises you tomorrow? Who assures you that you shall have time for confession and that God will not deprive you of life as He has deprived so many others, in the act of sin? "Diem tenes" says St. Augustine, "qui horam non tenes." You cannot be certain of living for another hour, and yet you say: I will go to confession tomorrow.

Listen to the words of St. Gregory: “He who has promised pardon to penitents has not promised tomorrow to sinners." (Hom. 12 in Evan.) God has promised pardon to all who repent; but He has not promised to wait until tomorrow for those who insult Him. Perhaps, God will give you time for repentance; perhaps He will not. But, should He not give it, what shall become of your soul? In the meantime, for the sake of a miserable pleasure, you lose the grace of God and expose yourself to the danger of being lost forever.

9. Would you, for such transient enjoyments, risk your money, your honor, your possessions, your liberty, and your life? No, you would not. How, then, does it happen that, for a miserable gratification, you lose your soul, Heaven, and God?

Tell me: Do you believe that Heaven, Hell, eternity, are truths of faith? Do you believe that, if you die in sin, you are lost forever? O! What temerity, what folly is it, to condemn yourself voluntarily to an eternity of torments with the hope of afterwards reversing the sentence of your condemnation!

"Nemo," says St. Augustine, "sub spe salutis vult aegrotare." No one can be found so foolish as to take poison with the hope of preventing its deadly effects by adopting the ordinary remedies. And you will condemn yourself to Hell, saying that you expect to be afterwards preserved from it.

O folly! Which, in conformity with the divine threats, has brought - and brings every day - so many to Hell. Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness … and evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know the rising thereof. (Isa 47:10,11) You have sinned, trusting rashly in the divine mercy: The punishment of your guilt shall fall suddenly upon you, and you shall not know from whence it comes.

What do you say? What resolution do you make? If, after this sermon, you do not firmly resolve to give yourself to God, I weep over you and regard you as lost.

(Alphonsus Liguori, Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year,
London: James Duffy & Sons, 1882, pp. 115-117)
Posted July 5, 2014