Every sin produces blindness; and as sin increases, so does the sinner’s blindness increase. Therefore do we see relapsing sinners lose all light, and go from sin to sin, without even thinking of amendment. The very habit of committing sin, says St. Augustine, prevents sinners from perceiving the evil they do, and so they live as if they no longer believed in God, in Heaven, or in eternity.
The wicked man, when he is come into the depths of sins, contemneth. (Prov. xviii. 3). One of the greatest ills which the sin of Adam brought upon us was the evil inclination to sin. This made the Apostle weep when he found himself compelled by concupiscence towards those very sins which he abhorred: I see another law in my members . . . captivating me in the law of sin. (Rom. vii. 23). Therefore is it so difficult for us, infected as we are by this concupiscence, and with so many enemies urging us to evil, to arrive sinless at our heavenly country. Now such being our frailty, I ask, what would you say of a voyager who, having to cross the sea in a great storm, and in a frail barque, would load it in such a manner as would be sufficient to sink it even were there no storm and the vessel strong? What would you predict as to the life of that man? Now, we may say the same of the habitual sinner, who, having to pass the sea of this life–a stormy sea in which so many are lost–in a frail and shattered barque, such as is our flesh to which we are united, still burdens it with habitual sins. Such a one can hardly be saved, because a bad habit blinds the understanding, hardens the heart, and thus renders him obstinate to the last. In the first place, a bad habit produces blindness. And why indeed, do the Saints always beg for light from God, trembling lest they should become the worst sinners in the world? Because they know that if for a moment they lose that light, there is no enormity they may not commit. How is it that so many Christians have lived obstinately in sin until at last they have damned themselves? Their own malice blinded them. (Wis. ii. 21). Sin deprived them of sight, and thus they were lost. Every sin produces blindness; and as sin increases, so does the blindness increase. God is our light; as much, therefore, as the soul withdraws from God, so much the more blind does she become: His bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth. (Job xx. 11). As in a vessel full of earth the light of the sun cannot penetrate, so in a heart full of vices Divine light cannot enter. Therefore do we see certain relapsed sinners lose all light, and proceed from sin to sin, without any more even thinking of amendment: The wicked walk round about. (Ps. xi. 9). Having fallen into that dark pit, the unhappy wretches can do nothing but sin; they speak only of sin; they think only of sin; and hardly perceive at last what harm there is in sin. The very habit of committing sin, says St. Augustine, prevents sinners from perceiving the evil they do. So that they live as if they no longer believed in God, in Heaven, in hell, or in eternity.
My God, Thou hast conferred signal blessings upon me, favouring me above others; and I have signally offended Thee by outraging Thee more than any other person that I know. O sorrowful Heart of my Redeemer, afflicted and tormented on the Cross by the sight of my sins, give me, through Thy merits, a lively sense of my offences, and sorrow for them. Ah, my Jesus, I am full of vices; but Thou art omnipotent, Thou canst easily fill my soul with Thy holy love. In Thee, then, I trust; Thou Who art infinite goodness and infinite mercy. I repent, O my Sovereign Good, of having offended Thee. Oh, that I had rather died, and had ever caused Thee any displeasure!
That sin which at first struck the sinner with terror, now, through bad habit, no longer causes horror: Make them as stubble before the wind. (Ps. lxxxii. 14). Behold, says St. Gregory, with what ease a straw is stirred by the slightest wind; thus also you will see one who before he fell, resisted, at least for some time, and combated temptation, when the bad habit is contracted fall instantly at every temptation, and on every occasion of sin that presents itself. And why? Because the bad habit has deprived him of light. St. Anselm says that the devil acts with some sinners like one who holds a bird tied by a string; he allows it to fly, but, when he chooses, he drags it to the earth again. So is it, says the Saint, with habitual sinners: “Entangled by a bad habit, they are held bound by the enemy; and though flying, they are cast down into the same vices.” Some, adds St. Bernardine of Sienna, continue to sin, even without occasion. You will see an habitual sinner without occasion indulging in bad thoughts, without pleasure, and almost without will, drawn forcibly on by bad habit. As St. John Chrysostom observes, “Habit is a merciless thing; it forces men, sometimes even against their will, to the commission of unlawful acts.” Yes because, according to St. Augustine, “When no resistance is made to a habit, it becomes a necessity. And, as St. Bernardine adds: “Habit is changed into nature.” Hence, as it is necessary for a man to breathe so to habitual sinners, who have made themselves slaves of sin, it appears almost necessary that they must sin. I have used the expression slaves; there are servants who serve for pay, but slaves serve by force and without pay; to this do some poor wretches come, who at last sin without pleasure.
The wicked man, when he is come to the depth of sin: contemneth. (Prov. xviii. 3). St. Chrysostom explains this of the habitual sinner, who, plunged into that pit of darkness, despises corrections, sermons, censures, help, God–despises all, and becomes like the vulture, which, rather than leave the dead body, allows itself to be killed upon it. Father Recupito relates, that a criminal on his way to execution raised his eyes, beheld a young girl and consented to a bad thought. Father Gisolfo also relates that a blasphemer, likewise condemned to death uttered a blasphemy as he was thrown off the ladder. St. Bernard goes so far as to say that it is of no use praying for habitual sinners, but we must weep for them as lost. How can they, indeed, avoid the precipice which they no longer see? It requires a miracle of grace. These unhappy beings will open their eyes in hell, when it will be of no avail to open them, unless it be to weep the more bitterly over their folly.
O my Jesus, I have forgotten Thee; but Thou hast not forgotten me; I perceive it by the light Thou now givest me. Since, then, Thou givest me light, give me likewise strength to be faithful to Thee. I promise Thee rather to die a thousand times than ever again to turn my back on Thee. But all my hopes are in Thine assistance: In thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me not be confounded forever. I hope in Thee, my Jesus, never again to find myself entangled in iniquity and deprived of Thy grace. To thee, also, do I turn, O Mary, my blessed Lady: “In thee, O Lady, have I hoped; let me not be confounded for ever.” O my hope, I trust by thy intercession that I may never again find myself at enmity with thy Son. Ah, beg of Him rather to let me die than that He should abandon me to this greatest of misfortunes.
(Meditation for Monday in Second Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)