"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The name of Jesus, pronounced with reverence and affection, has a kind of power to soften the heart. "

St Philip Neri

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Venerable Louis of Granada, OP  (1504-1588)

 
 

THE SINNER'S GUIDE

   

By Venerable Louis of Granada, OP

 

Motives for Practising Virtue

 

Ch 22. The Eleventh Privilege of Virtue: God's Care for the Temporal Needs of the Just


The privileges of virtue which we considered in the preceding chapters are the spiritual blessings accorded to the just in this life, independently of the eternal reward of Heaven. As, however, there may be some who, like the Jews of old, cling to the things of the flesh rather than to those of the spirit, we shall devote this chapter to the temporal blessings which the virtuous enjoy.

The Wise Man says of wisdom, which is the perfection of virtue, that "length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and glory." (Prov. 3:16). Perfect virtue, then, possesses this double reward with which she wins men to her allegiance, holding out to them with one hand the temporal blessings of this life, and with the other the eternal blessings of the life to come. Oh, no; God does not leave His followers in want! He who so carefully provides for the ant, the worm, the smallest of His creatures, cannot disregard the necessities of His faithful servants.

I do not ask you to receive this upon my word, but I do ask you to read the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in which you will find many assurances and promises on this subject. "Behold the birds of the air," says Our Saviour, "for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? Be not solicitous, therefore, saying: What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathen seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:26, 31-33).

"Fear the Lord, all ye his saints," the psalmist sings, "for they that fear him know no want. The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good." (Ps. 33:10-11). "I have been young, and now am old, and I have not seen the just forsaken nor his seed seeking bread." (Ps. 36:25).

If you would satisfy yourself still further concerning the temporal blessings conferred on the just, read the divine promises recorded in Deuteronomy: "If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to do and keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, the Lord thy God will make thee higher than all the nations that are on the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon thee and overtake thee, if thou hear his precepts. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the droves of thy herds, and the folds of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy barns and blessed thy stores. Blessed shalt thou be coming in and going out. The Lord shall cause thy enemies that rise up against thee to fall down before thy face; one way shall they come out against thee, and seven ways shall they thee before thee. The Lord will send forth a blessing upon thy storehouses, and upon all the works of thy hands, and will bless thee in the land that thou shalt receive.

"The Lord will raise thee up to be a holy people to himself, as he swore to thee, if thou keep the commandments of the Lord thy God and walk in his ways. And all the people of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is invoked upon thee, and they shall fear thee. The Lord will make thee abound with all goods, with the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy cattle, with the fruit of thy land which the Lord swore to thy fathers that he would give thee. The Lord will open his excellent treasure, the heaven, that it may give rain in due season; and he will bless all the works of thy hands." (Deut. 28:1-12).

What riches can be compared to such blessings as these? And they have been promised not only to the Jews, but to all Christians who are faithful to God's law. Moreover, they are bestowed with two extraordinary advantages unknown to the wicked. The first of these is the wisdom with which God awards them. Like a skillful physician, He gives His servants temporal blessings according to their necessities, and not in such measure as to inflate them with pride or endanger their salvation. The wicked despise this moderation and madly heap up all the riches they can acquire, forgetting that excess in this respect is as dangerous to the soul as excess of nourishment is injurious to the body. Though a man's life lies in his blood, too copious a supply only tends to choke him.

The second of these advantages is that temporal blessings afford the just, with far less disturbance or display, that rest and contentment which all men seek in worldly goods. Even with a little, the just enjoy as much repose as if they possessed the universe. Hence St. Paul speaks of himself as having nothing, yet possessing all things. (Cf. 2Cor. 6:10). Thus the just journey through life, poor but knowing no want, possessing abundance in the midst of poverty. The wicked, on the contrary, hunger in the midst of abundance, and though, like Tantalus, they are surrounded by water, they can never satisfy their thirst. (Tantalus, according to the fable of the ancients, was a king of Corinth, condemned by the gods, for divulging their secrets, to be placed in Hell in the midst of water which reached his chin, but which he could not even taste; to have fruit suspended over his head which he could not eat; and to be always in fear of a large stone falling on his hand.).

For like reasons Moses earnestly exhorted the people to the observance of God's law. "Lay up these words in thy heart," he says; "teach them to thy children; meditate upon them sitting in thy house, walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. Bind them as a sign upon thy hand; keep them before thy eyes; write them over the entrance to thy house, on the doors of thy house. Do that which is pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with thee all the days of thy life in the land which God shall give thee." (Deut. 6:6-10). Having been admitted to the counsels of the Most High, Moses knew the inestimable treasure contained in the observance of the law. His prophetic mind saw that all temporal and spiritual blessings, both present and future, were comprised in this. It is a compact which God makes with the just, and which, we may feel assured, will never be broken on His part. Nay, rather, if we prove ourselves faithful servants we will find that God will be even more generous than His promises.

"Godliness," says St. Paul, "is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1Tim. 4:8). Behold how clearly the Apostle promises to piety, which is the observance of God's commandments, not only the blessings of eternity but those of this life also.

If you desire to know the poverty, miseries, and afflictions which are reserved for the wicked, read the twenty eighth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. Therein Moses, in the name of God, utters most terrible threats and maledictions against the impious. "If thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep and to do all his commandments and ceremonies which I command thee this day, all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, cursed in the field. Cursed shall be thy barn, and cursed thy stores. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, the herds of thy oxen, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be coming in and going out. The Lord shall send upon thee famine and hunger, and a rebuke upon all the works which thou shalt do, until he consume and destroy thee quickly for thy most wicked inventions, by which thou hast forsaken me. May the Lord set the pestilence upon thee until he consume thee out of the land which thou shalt go in to possess.

"May the Lord afflict thee with miserable want, with the fever and with cold, with burning and with heat, and with corrupted air and with blasting, and pursue thee till thou perish. Be the heaven that is over thee of brass, and the ground thou treadest on of iron. The Lord give thee dust for rain upon thy land, and let ashes come down from heaven upon thee till thou be consumed. The Lord make thee fall down before thy enemies; one way mayst thou go out against them, and flee seven ways, and be scattered throughout all the kingdoms of the earth. And be thy carcass meat for all the fowls of the air and the beasts of the earth, and be there none to drive them away. The Lord strike thee with madness and blindness, and fury of mind. And mayst thou grope at midday as the blind is wont to grope in the dark, and not make straight thy ways. And mayst thou at all times suffer wrong, and be oppressed with violence, and mayest thou have no one to deliver thee. May thy sons and thy daughters be given to another people, thy eyes looking on, and languishing at the sight of them all the day, and may there be no strength in thy hand.

"May a people which thou knowest not eat the fruits of thy land, and all thy labors, and mayst thou always suffer oppression, and be crushed at all times. May the Lord strike thee with a very sore ulcer in the knees and in the legs, and be thou incurable from the sole of thy foot to the top of thy head. And all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue and overtake thee, till thou perish; because thou heardst not the voice of the Lord thy God, and didst not keep his commandments. Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, thou shalt serve thy enemy whom the Lord will send upon thee, in hunger, in thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things; and he shall put an iron yoke upon thy neck till he consume thee. The Lord will bring upon thee a nation from afar, and from the uttermost ends of the earth, a most insolent nation, that will show no regard to the ancient, nor have pity on the infant, and will devour the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruits of thy land, until thou be destroyed, and will leave thee no wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor herds of oxen, nor flocks of sheep, till he consume thee in all thy cities, and thy strong and high walls be brought down, wherein thou trustedst in all thy land. Thou shalt be besieged within thy gates, and thou shalt eat the fruit of thy womb, and the flesh of thy sons and thy daughters, in the distress and extremity wherewith thy enemies shall oppress thee."

Let us not forget that these maledictions are recorded in Holy Scripture, with many others, equally terrible, which we have not cited. Learn from them the rigor with which Divine Justice pursues the wicked, and the hatred God must bear to sin, which He punishes with such severity in this life and with still greater torments in the next.
Think not these were idle menaces. No; they were words of prophecy, and were terribly verified in the Jewish nation. For we read that during the reign of Achab, King of Israel, his people were besieged by the army of the King of Syria, and reduced to such straits that they fed upon pigeons' dung, which sold at a high price, and that a mother devoured her own child. (Cf. 4Kg. 6). And these scenes the historian Josephus tells us, were repeated during the siege of Jerusalem. The captivity of this people and the complete destruction of their kingdom and power are well-known to all.

Think not that these calamities were reserved for the Jewish people only. All the nations that have known God's law and despised it have been the objects of His just and terrible anger. "Did not I bring up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines out of Cappadocia, and the Syrians out of Cyrene? Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth." (Amos 9:7-8). From this we can understand that wars and revolutions, the downfall of some kingdoms and the rise of others, are due to the sins of men.

Read the annals of the early ages of the Church, and you will find that God has dealt in like manner with the wicked, especially with those who were once enlightened by His law, and who afterwards rejected it. See how He has punished infidelity in Christian nations. Vast portions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, formerly filled with Christian churches are now in the hands of infidels and barbarians. Behold the ravages wrought in Christian nations by the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals! In the time of St. Augustine they laid waste all the countries of Africa, sparing none of the inhabitants, not even women and children. At the same time Dalmatia and the neighboring towns were so devastated by the barbarians that St. Jerome, who was a native of that kingdom, said that a traveler passing through the country would find only earth and sky, so universal was the desolation.

Is it not evident, therefore, that virtue not only helps us attain the joys of eternity, but that it also secures for us the blessings of this life?
Let, then, the consideration of this privilege, with the others which we have mentioned, excite you to renewed ardor in the practice of virtue, which is able to save you from so many miseries and procure you so many blessings.