God has not only waited for you, but has often called you and invited you to receive pardon. What is there that I ought to do more for my vineyard? If God stood in need of you, or if you had done Him some great favour, could He show you greater mercy? Are you waiting for God to send you to hell?
It is related in the Life of Father Louis La Nusa that there were two friends in Palermo. Walking one day together, one of them, named Caesar, a comedian, seeing the other thoughtful, said: “I lay a wager that you have been to Confession; and it is on that account you are uneasy. Listen,” he added, “and know that Father La Nusa told me one day that God had allotted me yet twelve years of life; and that if I did not amend within that time, I should make an unhappy end. I have travelled over many parts of the world; I have had illnesses, especially one which brought me to the brink of the grave; but this month, in which the twelve years are completed, I feel better than I ever felt in my life before.” He then invited his friend to come and hear on the following Saturday a new play which he had composed. Now what happened? On the Saturday, which was the 24th November, 1688, whilst he was preparing to go on the stage, he was seized with apoplexy, and died suddenly, expiring in the arms of an actress; and thus ended the comedy. Now let us come to ourselves. When the devil tempts you to sin again, if you choose to lose your soul, it is in your power to sin, but do not say then that you wish to be saved; as long as you choose to sin, look upon yourself as damned, and picture to yourself that God then writes your condemnation, and says to you: What is there that I ought to do more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it? (Is. v. 4). Ungrateful soul, what is there that I ought to have done for you that I have not done? Well, then, since you choose to be damned, be it so; it is all your own doing.
Ah, my God, unhappy me, if from this day henceforward I should be unfaithful to Thee, and should again betray Thee after the light Thou now givest me! This light is a sign that Thou wilt pardon me. I repent, O Sovereign Good, of all the injuries I have done Thee, and for having offended Thy Infinite Goodness. I hope in Thy Blood for pardon, and I hope with certainty; but I feel that were I again to turn my back upon Thee, I should deserve a hell expressly for myself. This it is that makes me tremble, O God of my soul, –I may again lose Thy grace. I call to mind how many times I have promised to be faithful to Thee, and then I have again rebelled against Thee. Ah, Lord, do not permit it: do not abandon me to the great misfortune of becoming once more Thy enemy. Send me any chastisement rather than this: “Do not permit me to be separated from Thee.”
But you will say: And where, then, is the mercy of God? Ah, unhappy one, and does it not appear to you mercy in God to have borne with you for so many years with all your sins? You ought to remain always with your face to the ground, thanking Him, and saying: The mercies of the Lord, that we are not consumed. (Lament. iii. 22). In committing one mortal sin, you have been guilty of a greater crime than if you had trampled under foot the first monarch of the earth; you have committed so many, that if you had done the same to your brother in the flesh, he would not even have endured you; God not only has waited for you, but He has so often called you, and invited you to receive pardon. What is there that I ought to have done more? If God stood in need of you, or if you had done Him some great favour, could He show you greater mercy? This being so, if you return to offend Him, all His pity will be turned to anger and chastisement.
If the fig-tree which the Master found barren should still have produced no fruit after the year conceded for its cultivation, who would have expected that the Lord would allow it more time, or excuse it from being cut down? Listen, then, to the admonition of St. Augustine: “O fruitless tree, the axe was only deferred: rest not in security; thou shalt be cut down.” The punishment, says the Saint, has been delayed, but not done away with; if you again abuse the Divine mercy, “you shall be cut down” –vengeance will at last overtake you. Are you waiting for the great God to send you straight to hell? But should He send you there, you well know there is no further remedy for you. The Lord is silent, but not forever; when the time of vengeance is come, He is silent no more: Those things hast thou done, and I was silent; thou thoughtest unjustly that I should be like to thee; I will reprove thee, and set before thy face. (Ps. xlix. 21). He will set before you the mercies He has shown you, and will make these very mercies judge and condemn you.
O my Jesus, I am sorry. I repent. If Thou seest that I shall again offend Thee, let me die first. I am content to die any death, however painful, rather than have to bewail the misery of being again deprived of Thy grace: “Do not permit me to be separated from Thee.” I repeat it, my God; and grant that I may always repeat it: “Do not permit me to be separated from Thee.” I love Thee, my dear Redeemer; I will not separate myself from Thee: by the merits of Thy death, give me an ardent love, which may so bind me to Thee that I may never again be able to free myself. O Mary, my Mother, if I return to offend God, I fear that thou also wilt abandon me. Assist me, then, by thy prayers; obtain for me holy perseverance and the love of Jesus Christ.
(Meditation for Friday in First Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)