God waits for the sinner that he may amend. Know you not that the Lord has borne with you till now, not that you may continue to offend Him, but that you may weep over the evil you have done. But when God sees that the sinner employs the time given him to weep over his sins in only adding to them, He then calls upon that same time to judge him: He hath called against me the time. (Lament. i. 15).
Some will say: God has shown me so many mercies in the past, that I hope He will show me the same in the future. But I reply: Because, then, God has shown you so many mercies, for this do you return to offend Him? Is it thus, says St. Paul to you, that you despise the goodness and patience of God? Know you not that the Lord has borne with you till now, not that you may continue to offend Him, but that you may weep over the evil you have done? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and patience and long-suffering? Knowest thou not that benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? (Rom. ii. 4). If, confiding in the Divine mercy, you will not put an end to your sins, the Lord will, for: Except you be converted, he will brandish his sword. (Ps. vii. 13). Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time. (Deut. xxxii. 35). God waits; but when the time of vengeance is come, He waits no longer, and punishes.
The Lord waiteth that he may have mercy on you. (Is. xxx. 18). God waits for the sinner that he may amend; but when He sees that he employs the time given him for weeping over his sins in increasing them, He then calls upon that same time to judge him: He hath called against me the time. (Lament. i. 15). So that the very time bestowed on him, and the very mercies shown him, will serve to render the sinner’s punishment more severe, and cause him to be more speedily abandoned: We would have cured Babylon; but she is not healed; let us forsake her. (Jer. li. 9). And how does God forsake him? Either He sends him a sudden death, and permits him to die in sin, or He deprives him of His abundant graces, and leaves him only that sufficient grace with which the sinner could indeed save himself, but will not. His understanding blinded, his heart hardened, evil habits contracted, will render his salvation morally impossible; and then he will be, if not absolutely, at least morally abandoned.
My God, in this miserable state I perceive that I have already deserved to be deprived of Thy grace and deprived of light; but the light Thou now givest me, and Thy calls to me to repent, are signs that Thou hast not yet abandoned me. And since Thou hast not abandoned me, arise, O my Lord, increase Thy mercies towards my soul, increase Thy light, increase my desire to love and serve Thee. Change me, O omnipotent God; and from a traitor and a rebel as I have been, make me a true lover of Thy goodness, that I may one day come to praise Thy mercies for all eternity in Heaven. Thou desirest, then, to pardon me; and I desire nothing but Thy pardon and Thy love. I repent, O Infinite Goodness, of having so often displeased Thee. I love Thee, O my Sovereign Good, because Thou so commandest; I love Thee, because Thou art truly worthy of being loved.
I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted. (Is. v. 5). Oh, what a chastisement! When the master of the vineyard breaks down the hedge, and allows all who will, men and beasts, to enter it, what does this mean? It is a sign that he abandons it. Thus God, when He forsakes a soul, takes away the hedge of fear, of remorse of conscience, and leaves it in darkness; and then all the monsters of vice will enter into that soul: Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night: and in it shall all the beasts of the woods go about. (Ps. ciii. 20). And the sinner, thus left in that obscurity, will despise all, –the grace of God, Heaven, admonitions, excommunications; he will make a jest of his own damnation: The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth. (Prov. xviii. 3).
God will leave him unpunished in this life; but his greatest chastisement will be that he is unpunished: Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice. (Is. xxvi. 10). St. Bernard observes upon this text: “I do not wish for this mercy; it is worse than any wrath.” Oh, what a punishment, when God leaves the sinner in the midst of his sin, and appears to demand no further account of it! According to the multitude of his wrath he will not seek him. (Ps. x. 4). God will even seem not to be angry with him. My jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will cease and be angry no more (Ezech. xvi. 42); and apparently permits him to obtain all that he desires in this life: Let them go according to the desires of their hearts. (Ps. lxxx. 13). Alas for poor sinners who prosper in this life! It is a sign that God waits to make them victims of His justice in Eternity. Jeremias asks: Why doth the way of the wicked prosper? (Jer. xii. 1). And then he replies: Gather them together as sheep for a sacrifice. There is no greater punishment than when God permits a sinner to add sin to sin; as David says: Add thou inquity upon their iniquity … let them be blotted out of the book of the living. (Ps. lxviii. 28). Upon which Bellarmine observes: “There is no punishment so great as when sin is the punishment of sin.” Better would it have been for each of these unhappy sinners had he died after the first sin; for, dying later, he shall have as many hells as he has committed sins.
Ah, my Redeemer, through the merits of Thy Blood cause Thyself to be loved by a sinner whom Thou hast so much loved, and hast endured for so many years with so much patience. All my hopes are in Thy mercy. I hope to love Thee from this day henceforth till the hour of my death, and for all eternity. I will for ever praise Thy clemency, my Jesus. And I will praise thy mercy, O Mary, who hast obtained for me so many graces; acknowledge them all as the effects of thy intercession. Continue, O Blessed Lady, now to aid me, and to obtain for me holy perseverance.
(Meditation for Thursday of the First Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)