The Good Shepherd
Volume two = The Penitent Christian
Fr. Francis Hunolt

The Advantages of Perseverance

He seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth.” John 10: 12.

It is cowardice for a shepherd to run away at the moment when his presence is most required for the safety of his flock; and it is wrong for a sheep to leave the flock at the approach of the wolf, and to run into the jaws of the ravening wolf. Foolish and stray sheep of this kind are those penitents who, after having laid aside the burden of their sins in the Sacrament of Penance, run away from God again, and at the first temptation, go back to their sins. To relapse quickly, and through habit into one’s former sins is generally a sign that one did not really rise with Christ from the death of sin to the life of grace, and did not do true penance. To encourage penitents still further in their good reso­lutions, I now say:

I. That perseverance in good, after penance, is the surest sign and means of rising with Christ to eternal glory; and hence

II. He who earnestly desires to go to heaven, must never return to his former sins.

I. That which causes the greatest trouble and anguish to souls really desirous of salvation is the inscrutable secret of eternal predestination to glory, and the constant uncertainty as to whether they are worthy of God’s love or hatred. Such souls will say to you: I firmly believe that on the great day of the general judg­ment we shall all rise again from the dead; but shall I then stand on the right hand of the Judge, with the sheep of Christ or on the left amongst the accursed goats of the devil? Shall I rise with the former to eternal g1ory or with the later to eternal damnation?

Completely hidden from us all during this life, as is this decree of God, this it is that often forces people to sigh: Ah! If I only knew what will become of me during eternity! If I were only certain of being amongst the elect! How utterly wretched they would be, if they knew beforehand that they would be lost forever! How wisely and advantageously he acts in keeping from the just and pious the certainty of their salvation! Otherwise, where would be their Christian humility, child-like fear, watchfulness and modesty, and horror of sin? No this knowledge of the surety of eternity would not be good for any one. “Wherefore, brethren,” says St. Peter, “labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your vo­cation and election” (2 Pet. 1: 10).

Still, there are different signs from which we may reasonably conclude, nay, from which we may derive a human certainty and assurance that we shall rise to eternal glory. But all those signs of predestination, whatever their name may be, are so called, because they help man in a special manner to persevere in good and to be constant and zeal­ous in the divine service. From this, I conclude that persever­ance and constancy in good is, of itself, the surest sign of a future resurrection to everlasting glory.

1. Perseverance places a man, even during this life, in almost the same state as that in which the glorified bodies of the blessed will be in heaven. For, in what does the exceeding great happi­ness of the latter consist? Mainly, that they are immortal, incapa­ble of suffering or corruption, and not subject to any change.

The life, glory, and happiness of the Saints will last as long as God is God. As they are today, so they will be for all eternity, as St. Paul writes of the glorious body of Jesus Christ after the resur­rection, which the bodies of the just and elect will resemble on the last day. There you have a true picture of not only a just man who never offended God by a mortal sin, but also of a converted sinner, who, after having done penance, remains constant in his good resolutions, and has still the same earnest will to observe eter­nal fidelity to his God.  Human respect, vain customs and deceitful maxims of the world, points of honor, wealth, station, and car­nal pleasures, you are the lords and masters of the children of men, who, according to your good will and pleasure, waver a thousand times a day, like a fragile reed, blown hither and thither by the wind.

You can move your subjects by turns to anger or joy—love or hatred. Today, you fill them with exultation, tomorrow with despair; and you continually drive them on to all sorts of vice. But with the servant of God you can do nothing! Once, for all, firmly resolved, at all cost, to keep the faith he has pledged to his beloved God and Master, he never departs from him by a deliber­ate sin. This is his firm determination; and what he is today, in that respect, he was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. “Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8: 35), he can say with St. Paul; neither joy nor sorrow, riches or pov­erty, honor or disgrace, life or death! No earthly creature shall induce me to do anything against God or his holy commandments.

Let the most horrible and formidable temptations come upon me. They will never find the least place in my heart! My chief refuge and help against their attacks will be that almighty God who is everywhere present, and whom I am resolved to serve till the end of my life. I am ready to die a thousand times, rather than consent to a single mortal sin; and I am assured that my God will not forsake me, provided I only remain faithful to him and his ser­vice, as I am now determined to do. Oh, truly happy state which, here on earth, so closely resembles the immutable state of the glorified bodies of the blessed!

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