Part III of a IV part series on the person of God by Fr. Francis Hunolt (1694-1746).
Part I and II found here:
Nondum venit hora mea.–John ii. 4.
“My hour is not yet come.”
So that Christ our Saviour had appointed for Himself certain times and hours in which to do certain things. He had determined to show His divinity to the world, and to confirm it during His life on earth by many miracles; but this was not to be done until the proper time came; then He began to change water into wine, to heal the sick in a moment, to cleanse lepers, to free the possessed, to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and to raise the dead to life. Whoever asked Him to perform such wonders before the time was answered in the words, “My hour is not yet come.” He had determined for the salvation of mankind to give Himself up to the rage of His enemies, to allow them to mock, scourge, crown Him with thorns, condemn Him to death, and nail Him to the cross; but this was not to happen till the appointed time.
Therefore when the wicked Pharisees were seeking in all places to put Him out of the way, as St. John says, “They sought therefore to apprehend Him: and no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.” But afterwards when the hour came for suffering. He Himself said to His disciple: “Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” My dear brethren, the same Saviour has determined to revenge Himself on His enemies, and to condemn wicked sinners to the eternal flames of hell; but the hour appointed for that is not yet come. Now He bears many insults from them with the utmost patience; He shows Himself to them as their Saviour and Redeemer, their Pledge and Advocate; He is constantly offering them His grace, if at any moment they will only resolve to return to Him. But when His time comes He will appear with great power and majesty to judge the living and the dead. And how He will then be changed! Sinners! ah, do not wait till that hour of the Lord! Woe to you if you do not profit in time of the graces now offered you; for that meek and gentle Saviour will otherwise pronounce the final sentence on you, and condemn you to eternal damnation. Nay, He will condemn you all the more because He is your Saviour and Redeemer, as I shall now show.
Plan of Discourse.
He, will condemn you on account of His fidelity to you, which you have neglected: the first part. He will condemn you on account of the love He has shown you, which you have despised: the second part.
O just Judge and loving Saviour! that we may not be condemned by Thee in that last hour, speak now to our hearts, that the wicked may renounce sin, and the just be confirmed in their justice, through the intercession of Thy Mother Mary, and of our holy guardian angels.
When a good, well-meaning friend offers to act as arbitrator in a case on which much depends, and after much trouble succeeds in bringing matters to a conclusion, and is insulted and abused by the unsuccessful party for whose sake he has chiefly undertaken the business, and whose case was evidently a lost one from the first, what think you, my dear brethren, would be his feelings under such circumstances? Oh ho! he would think, is that the way in which you treat me? I meant very well towards you; I took a deal of trouble to help you out of the mire into which you were sunk, but you will have to wait a long time before I espouse your cause again; I shall rather turn your accuser and publicly prove that your claim is unjust, and woe to you if I should be appointed your judge! We read in the fourteenth chapter of the Second Book of Kings how Absulom, after having murdered his brother, was forced to fly; Joab, the general of the army, succeeded, partly by the help of others and partly by his own immediate efforts, in reconciling him with his angry father, so that the latter recalled him, under the condition, however, that he was not to see him any more. But when that undutiful, disobedient son again rebelled against his father and set fire to the field of Joab, he had no more determined enemy than that same Joab who was before his warmest patron and advocate. Joab had neither rest nor peace until, even against the express command of David, he pierced the heart of Absalom with his lance. So fierce does anger become in one whose fidelity and friendship are despised.
My dear brethren, the Mediator and Advocate between God and men, as we have seen already, is according to St. Paul, “One Mediator of God and men, the Man Christ Jesus: Who gave Himself a redemption for all.” If we sin, we have an Advocate and Intercessor with the angry Father, Who, if we only wish, will regain for us our lost cause, and that is the same Jesus Christ. “My little children,” writes St. John, “these things I write to you that you may not sin.” But he adds for our consolation: “But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just, and He is the propitiation for our sins.” O sinner! how often have you not during your life experienced His faithful and loving desire to help you? I will say nothing of the benefits that are common to you with all men, and that you derive from His death, by which He reconciled to His Father the whole world that was condemned to eternal death. As often as you deliberately committed a grievous sin you made the almighty God your enemy, and deserved to be tortured in the terrible fire of hell forever with the demons. The sentence was already pronounced against you; your case was utterly lost as far as it depended on you; there was nothing more to be done but to carry out the sentence. And who saved you from that misery? By yourself you would never have dared to appear before the face of the angry God; that is, your natural powers were not able to win His favor and friendship for you. Was not Christ the Saviour, Who acted as your mediator and advocate when He lent you, as it were in the holy sacrament of penance, the infinite merits of His passion and death, and offered them up for you to His eternal Father, thus restoring you to the grace and friendship of God? And not once only did He do that for you, but perhaps seven and seventy times. Think of this now, and say with thankful heart: O dearest Friend and most loving Saviour! what do I not owe Thee! If I had not Thee as my Advocate, where should I have been long ago? I must thank Thee that I am not now in hell!
Woe to you, O mortal! if you offend, insult, and reject this Advocate and Intercessor! Yet that is what you have already done, and done in a most outrageous manner, not merely once, but as often as you have fallen again into the sins you confessed, so often have you thrust Christ out of your heart, and said in the words of the citizens in the Gospel: “We will not have this Man to reign over us;” I will not have Christ as my Advocate; I do not want His intercession. Nevertheless with a patience greater than any man could use towards one like himself, that same Saviour has hitherto been your constant Friend, and He will remain so as long as there is a breath in your body, always ready to act as your Mediator and Advocate, and even in the very last moment of your sinful life to reconcile you to His angry Father. But woe to you, and woe to you forever, if you despise to the end this Friend Who will come when you know not, at the hour of your death!
For this most faithful Friend of yours will then become your sworn Enemy to avenge on you His slighted friendship and to act as your accuser. Nay, He will be invested with full power from His Father to be your Judge and to treat you as He wishes. How does a man feel when a suit in which he is interested is left to the decision of a judge whom he has deeply offended, and who, as he knows, is his worst enemy? Ah, he would think, now there is no hope for me! Alas! it is all up with me! although in worldly judgments there is some way of escaping out of a difficulty like that by refusing to have such a one as judge on account of his partiality and hostility, and appealing to another whose decision will be unbiassed. Try that, O sinner! when you come before the divine tribunal, and there see Jesus Christ, Whom you have contemned and made your enemy; tell Him that you will not have Him as your Judge; that you appeal to another because you know that He is not favorably inclined to you. But your appeals and protestations will be of little service to you. That same Jesus Christ and no other will be your Judge, and will decide your fate for all eternity. Alas! what will be your feelings then?
Imagine, my dear brethren, the consternation of the brethren of Joseph when they found that he had become viceroy of Egypt, and heard him say those few words: ”I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold.” Consider those words. He does not say: I am Joseph your lord and judge, and you are my prisoners: your lives are in my hands. He did not upbraid them with their former cruelty towards him, nor say to them: do you remember how you acted to me when I implored your mercy on bended knees, with streaming eyes, and you put me into a pit, and then sold me like a dumb beast into Egypt? I am now your lord and you cannot escape me, and I am able to take what revenge I please for the injury you have done me. No; that was not necessary to touch their hearts. The few, sweet words, “I am Joseph your brother,” were enough to fill them with dismay, although he spoke them with the greatest tenderness and with tears of affection: “He lifted up his voice with weeping: which the Egyptians and all the house of Pharao heard.” “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Be not afraid, and let it not seem to you a hard case that you sold me into these countries: for God sent me before you into Egypt for your preservation.”
And yet they were thunderstruck with fear: “His brethren could not answer him, being struck with exceeding great fear.” According to Aristotle the proper effect of fear is to deprive a man of his voice, to shorten his breath, and to cause the blood almost to stagnate in his veins. Pererius remarks with reason that the great terror of the brethren came from the consideration of the two phrases, ” I am Joseph,” and “whom you sold.” Alas! there he is whom we knew to be such an innocent and amiable child, and whom we, nevertheless hated, persecuted, and treated so cruelly! He took our part with our father, and brought us food to the field with his own hands; but we cast him into the cistern and sold him! Now we are poor prisoners in his power and utterly undeserving of mercy. We are in the hands of a patience that we have despised and turned into just anger; of an innocence that we have ill-treated without cause; of a brother and well-meaning friend whom we have outraged in most unseemly fashion, and who is now master of our lives! “I am Joseph.” Ah, do not say those words again, or we shall drop down dead with fear!
Richard, king of England, once lost his way while hunting in a dense forest, and as his attendants could not find him, he was forced to seek shelter in the hut of a charcoal-burner, who received him with the utmost discourtesy, and actually gave him a blow on the cheek. Richard, without giving way to anger in the least, kept quite still. But when he came again to his palace, he put on his royal robes, and adorned with sceptre and crown, seated himself on his throne in great splendor, surrounded by courtiers and the noblest of the land, and protected by soldiers. He then caused his surly host to be summoned before him, and merely said to him the words: ” Do you know me now?” Whereupon the charcoal-burner fell down dead on the floor through sheer fright.
What are your thoughts now, O sinful soul? Hear the voice of your Brother, of your King and truest Friend, when he shall cite you before His tribunal, saying to you: “Do you know Me now? I am Jesus whom you insulted.” And those words He shall then pronounce, not with a smiling, friendly countenance, or with tears of tenderness, like Joseph, but He will call them out with a terrible voice so that all the world may hear. “Then shall He speak to them in His anger,” says David, “and trouble them in His rage.” I am Jesus, He will cry out, Who meant so well with you; Who so often and truly defended your case; Who would so willingly have had you with Himself in heaven, but Whom you have rejected and persecuted! I am Jesus, infinite Power, Whom you, vile worm of the earth, have despised; infinite Goodness, Whom you have abused; Meekness, Patience, and Long- suffering, Whom you have so daringly provoked to anger! Here I am now, and you stand before Me. I am Jesus; do you know Me now? But I know you well! I am He for Whom you lost all respect in church, to Whom you were ashamed to bend your knees because you knew that I was hidden under the humble appearance of bread! I am He Whose holy name you have often invoked as a witness of your falsehood, as if I were the outcast of men! I am He Whom you have so often sold for a piece of money, a vain breath of popular favor, a brutal pleasure! Do you not know Me yet? I am He Who created you for the sole purpose of serving Me, and you have misused Me as your servant and intermediary in the most shameful actions: “Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thy iniquities.” I am Jesus, the Judge of the living and the dead, the Lord and Master of a twofold, long eternity; now I have you in My power, and can take vengeance on you for despising My friendship and fidelity. Oh, what terrible words those are for the sinner! Holy St. John, it is not necessary for thee to describe our future Judge as a fierce lion opening his jaws to swallow up his enemies; the mere words spoken by such a true Friend are more than enough to precipitate into hell through fear one who knows himself guilty! But there is still another point, my dear brethren, which shall add to the sinner’s confusion. And what is that? The unheard-of love shown to men by the Creator, a love which they have scorned, will accuse the sinner, and bring a still severer damnation upon him, as we shall see in the
Never is anger and displeasure greater than when it succeeds to great love: that is, when one is forced to hate him whom he loved before; just as the coals in a smith’s forge are sprinkled with water to prevent the flames from spreading, and retain the heat better. This comes partly from the fact that a great anger is required to overcome great love, and to effect such a change in the heart that it cherishes no thoughts but those of hatred and revenge against him who was before the object of its sincere affection; and partly because love, when it is scorned and insulted, embitters hatred and anger by the remembrance of the proofs of friendship that were offered to the beloved person, and of the insults that the latter returned for them. Thus no anger is greater than that of the mother who, being ill-treated by a wicked son, goes so far as to persecute to the death him to whom she gave life; all the love that she formerly had for that son now serves only to embitter her hatred of him; the blood that he drew from her, the milk with which she suckled him, the tears she so often shed for him, now remind her of nothing but the cruel ingratitude of which he is guilty, and thus add bitterness to her anger against him.
To make my meaning clearer, suppose, my dear brethren, that a nobleman is very fond of the bride whom he has espoused a short time ago; he returns home after being absent for a whole day and finds her in the act of being unfaithful to him. What a blow that is to him! It seems to turn all the blood in his body into poison! His hand moves spontaneously to his sword to draw it and take vengeance on the guilty one, but the thought of the divine law restrains him; he swallows his rage as best he can. and runs off to his king, to whom he confides the secret of the shame he has suffered, and from whom he demands punishment on the adulteress. “Yes,” says the king, “I see how badly you have been treated; go now and deal with this matter as you think fit; I invest you with full power to examine into the case, to pronounce sentence, and to inflict punishment; you can act on my authority.” Now imagine that you are present and see, I will not say the whole trial, but merely the first meeting of the injured husband and the faithless wife. How his eyes seem to dart fire at her! How she is ready to die with shame and confusion! And how terribly these or similar words resound in her ears: I am your husband who loved you, shameless wanton that you are, more than my own life; I am the husband to whom you vowed fidelity and love, but you have shamefully broken your plighted troth. Have I deserved this from you? Have I ever given you cause to treat me so? Am I not good enough for you? But now I am your judge, and your life is in my hands! But there is no need for going farther; the mere sound of those words should be enough to cause the faithless wife to die of fear.
O divine Lover of souls! Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, Who in Thy unspeakable love hast taken the name of Mother and Spouse, how tenderly Thou hast loved us! And we have not far to go for proofs of Thy love. Thy annihilation in the Incarnation to draw our hearts to Thyself; the poor manger in the crib, in which Thou didst lie as a little Infant; the utter poverty in which Thou didst spend three and thirty years on earth; the fearful torments of Thy passion, in which Thou didst shed the last drop of Thy blood for us; the rods and scourges; the thorns and nails; Thy cruel death on the cross; Thy still open wounds; the precious body and blood Thou hast left us as the food and drink of our souls–these things I need not recall to memory. The tears Thou hast shed for us are in themselves sufficient proof of Thy love, so that I can say what the Jews said when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead: “Behold how He loved him;” behold how Jesus loved men! The love you have, O mothers, for your children; that you, O wives, have for your husbands, is nothing compared to the love of Jesus for the souls of men.
But, alas! where shall I hide for shame; where run to for fear, if I die without repenting of the sins with which I have so wantonly broken faith with this Bridegroom, and have to appear before Him when He, filled with anger at my infidelity, shall come as my Judge, invested with full power to avenge Himself amply on me? How the words shall resound in my ears, as we read in the Gospel: “Behold the Bridegroom cometh.” How fearful to hear the voice of Him who loved me saying: adulterous soul, I am Jesus! I am your Bridegroom and Judge, whose honor you have grossly injured! “Under every green tree thou didst prostitute thyself;” you have allowed yourself to become a plaything of the demons! Not once, but often have I caught you in the act of being unfaithful to the promise you made Me on oath in baptism. I have often forgiven you, and forgetting the insults received from you, have readmitted you to My love and friendship. But you have rejected Me in spite of all! Adulterous soul! have I deserved that from you? What harm have I ever done you? Have I ever given you the least occasion to desert Me and go over to others? “What is there that I ought to do more to My vineyard that I have not done to it?” What better proofs could I have given you of My love? You loved that person who cast a friendly glance in your direction, and for his sake you hated Me Who have given My life for you. You loved that creature with whom you enjoyed a momentary pleasure, and you oust off Me Who promised you eternal joys. Day and night you served that great man of the world whose favor you hoped to gain; but one hour spent in My house seemed too long for you, although I wished to place on your head the crown of eternal life in heaven. For the sake of a piece of land or a little money you sold Me Who had prepared for you boundless riches and endless delights. To no purpose then has My love for you brought Me down on earth and nailed Me to the cross! To no purpose have I offered you My grace to make you holy and like to Myself! To no purpose have I instituted the holy sacrament of penance to cleanse you from your sins, and prepared the heavenly Food, My own flesh and blood, to unite your heart with Mine! To no purpose have I sent My preachers to urge you to amend your life and to call you to My eternal inheritance. To no purpose have I visited you with trials and crosses that you might enter into yourself, and see what a loving Spouse you had lost. To no purpose have I shown you so many sudden deaths and terrible examples that fear might at last force you to love Me. “What is there that I ought to do more that I have not done?” And you have rejected Me! Adulterous soul! you are now before My tribunal, and I–O cease, O Lord, I beg of Thee! Hell itself is more tolerable than those bitter reproofs from such a loving Saviour! “The confusion of my face hath covered me, for the voice of Him that reproacheth me. The bare thought of hearing such a reproof fills me with dread!
Well known, my dear brethren, and you have doubtless often heard it, is what I now wish to relate to you. A certain rich and noble young man being struck with the dangers and vanities of the world, resolved to leave all and lead a poor and solitary life in the desert. His friends and acquaintances, his companions, and above all, his mother, who was a widow, tried all in their power by prayers and entreaties, by reminding him of former pleasures, and by tears and lamentations, to turn him from his purpose; but all in vain: the holy youth remained steadfast, and his only answer was: “I wish to save my soul! Do you understand me? Mother, you brought me into the world, not to serve it, but to gain heaven; that is the only thing that concerns me; it is the only thing on which all depends; without which all other things are useless.” (And, my dear brethren, is it not true? For of what use to me is the whole world if I do not save my soul?) ” But,” replied his mother and friends, “you can save your soul in the world.” “True,” answered the young man, “but it is a difficult task amidst so many dangers and occasions of sin. I can save my soul, there is no doubt of it; but if God calls me to another state and I do not obey His call, there will be little chance of gaining eternal happiness. Good-bye, O world ! I wish to save my soul and place it in security.” And so he did. He at once put off his cosily robes for a coarse garment, and went into a hermit’s cell amongst other solitaries, where he spent many years serving God and practicing severe penances. But how weak we poor mortals are in our good resolutions! His mother died meanwhile, and the young man hearing of her death, became home-sick; he began to think of the rich inheritance that was now to be divided amongst so many friends; and which he might have all to himself; the dry, coarse bread reminded him of the well-appointed table at home; the hard couch formed a strong contrast to the soft down-bed in which he used to sleep. Full of these thoughts he prayed, but without, devotion; he sang psalms, but without attention or understanding; his eyes were constantly directed to the door of his cell, and he kept thinking of the best way of leaving off the habit and stealing out so as not to attract notice, and returning home. The good God, mindful of of his former heroic resolution and the piety in which he had spent his life, would not abandon him. During the night he dreamt that he was summoned before the judgment-seat of God. There he saw a swarm of demons standing round him, his guardian angel leaving him, and his mother crying out to him in scornful tones: “Now, my son, what of the words you were so fond of saying: I wish to save my soul? Eh, is that the way you have acted up to them? Is this the heaven you have gained?” This reproof, although the mere effect of a dream, filled the man with fear and anguish, so that he awoke covered with perspiration, and more dead than alive. His first thoughts were as follows: “If a dream has terrified me to such an extent, how would it be if I were summoned in reality before the tribunal of God, Whom I have served in a very lukewarm fashion for some time past? If I cannot bear the reproaches of my mother, how could I bear the bitter reproofs that shall be addressed to me on the last day in the presence of Christ and His angels? No, O world! stay where thou art. I will remain here, and begin with renewed zeal and increased works of penance to serve my God, so as to work out my salvation.”
Oh, my dear brethren, would that we too often thought of the coming judgment! Would that like that young man the thought of it inspired us with the resolution, I will not say of renouncing the world altogether and going into a desert, but of earnestly amending our vicious or imperfect lives! Ah, let us take deeply to heart and often consider this: if I cannot bear a word of reproof from a mortal like myself, how shall I be able hereafter to endure the bitter upbraidings of the slighted love of my future Judge, Jesus Christ? And moreover how many fine promises have I not made to my confessor? how many firm resolutions in secret before God to avoid sin, to shun the dangerous occasions of it, to forget the insults offered me, to give up the bad habit of detraction, cursing, and swearing, and to reform my life thoroughly and serve God more zealously in future? But what shall be said about all this at the last day? Fine promises! beautiful resolutions! See how that man has kept his word! he was just as careless as ever after confession; he remained in the old occasion of sin; he was just as avaricious, unjust, intemperate, unchaste, proud, vindictive, and godless as before. How could I bear to hear such reproofs in the presence of Christ and His angels? Oh, no! I could never endure them! And therefore now at last, this very day I shall get rid of the load of my sins, and serve my God faithfully.
How is it, my dear brethren, I often ask myself, that we make so little to-do about the last judgment? In my opinion the reason is because we imagine that day to be still far away from us and therefore we think there is no cause to be afraid of it. But how long do you imagine it will be before that day comes? We need not expect to have to wait for many centuries before the world is reduced to ashes and the last trumpet summons the dead out of their graves to appear before the tribunal of the Almighty in the valley of Josaphat. The day of death will be for each one the day of his particular judgment, in which he shall appear before the same Judge and hear final sentence pronounced on him. Is death then so very far away from us? Can we foretell the time in which we shall die? May it not be this very day? Ah, how stupid we are and senseless in what concerns our eternal salvation! Why do we not stir ourselves now before it is too late, and make use of the faithful service and intercession that Christ, our well-meaning Friend, Advocate, and Arbiter with the angry God has promised in our behalf, if we are only firmly resolved to avoid sin and amend our lives? Why do we not begin at once to love that most amiable Lover of our souls?
Sinners! I pity you, if more deaf than the dead, who will rise from their graves at the sound of the last trumpet, you stop your ears to my words, or rather to the words that God speaks to you by my mouth, and if in spite of the consideration of the final catastrophe which shall cause all nature to shudder you still remain in your old sins; if you refuse now to hearken to my words, which are intended only for your good and to induce you to amend your lives, you must hereafter hear another voice–that of your Saviour–Who will speak to you of nothing but your eternal reprobation and damnation! Christ Jesus, Who art now our faithful Advocate and loving Saviour, and Who will be hereafter the Judge of the living and the dead, I beg of Thee with the Prophet David in the name of all here present, “Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear,” so that I may dread Thy judgments! Pierce my flesh, I say, because it is not enough merely to remember this fear now and then, or to speak of it and then forget it. Penetrate my whole body with this salutary fear! Pierce my eyes with it, that they may never look at impure objects; my tongue, that it may never sin by cursing, uncharitable talk, or unchaste discourse; my ears, that they may never hear detraction; my hands, that they may never be stretched out to take what I have no right to, or to indulge in unlawful actions. Pierce my whole flesh with Thy fear that it may lose its wantonness! And pierce my heart too, that it may never willfully give admission to sinful thoughts, but rather love Thee with all its strength, and that I may thus one day hear from Thy lips the words: ”Come, ye blessed, possess the kingdom prepared for you!” Amen.