Our Lenten Journey with St Francis de Sales – REPENTANCE

Our Lenten Journey with St Francis de Sales – 1 March – Ember Wednesday

The troubles of my heart are multiplied,
deliver me from my necessities.
See my abjection and my labour
and forgive me all my sins.

Psalm 24:17-18

The men of Nineveh will rise up
in the judgement with this generation
and will condemn it;
for they repented
at the preaching of Jonah
and behold, One greater than Jonah is here.

Matthew 12:41

St Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Doctor Caritas

LET ANYONE WHO IS STANDING BE FEARFUL lest he fall, says the Apostle [1 Cor 10:12]; let no-one glory in finding himself expressly called by God, to a place where there seems nothing to fear.
Let no-one presume on his good works and think he has nothing more to fear.
St Peter, who had received so many graces, who had promised to accompany Our Lord to prison and even to death itself [Lk 22:33], denied Him, nevertheless, at the whimpering taunt of a chambermaid!
Judas sold Him for such a small sum of money!

These falls were both very great but there was this differ­ence. One acknowledged his guilt; the other despaired.
Yet, our Saviour had inspired in the heart of both, the same Peccavi [admission of guilt] (“I have sinned”) that same Peccavi that God inspired in David’s heart. [2 Kgs (2 Sm.) 12:13].
Yes, He inspired it in both Apostles but one rejected it and the other accepted it. Hearing the cock crow, St Peter remembered what he had done and the word his good Master had spoken to him. Then, acknowledging his sin, he went out and wept so bitterly [Matt 26:74-75; Lk 22:61-62] that he received what we today call a Plenary Indulgence and full remission of all his sins. O happy S. Peter! By such contrition for your sins you received a full pardon for such great disloyalty!

From this time on, St Peter never ceased weeping, principally when he heard the cock crow at night and morning, for he remembered this crowing as the signal for his conversion.
It is also reported that he shed so many tears that they hollowed his cheeks into two furrows. With these tears he, who had been a great sinner became a great saint.
O glorious St Peter, how happy you are to have done such great penance for such great disloyalty. By it you were reinstated in grace. You, who deserved eternal death became worthy of eternal life.
Not only that but St Peter received here below, special favours and privileges and was lavished with blessings on earth and in Heaven.

On the other hand, although Judas received the same inspi­ration for the same Peccavi, he rejected it and despaired. I know that efficacious and sufficient grace differ, as theologians say but I am not here to prove and dispute, whether Judas’ inspiration … was as efficacious as David’s, or only sufficient.
It was certainly sufficient.
This Peccavi, sent to the heart of Judas, was truly like that formerly sent to David. Why then was Judas not converted?

O miserable man!
He saw the gravity of his crime and despaired.
Truly, he confessed his sin, for in returning to the chief priests the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold his good Master, he acknowledged aloud that he had sold innocent blood. [Matt. 27:3-5]. But these priests would give him no absolution.
Alas, did not this unhappy man know that Our Lord alone could give it to him, that He was the Saviour and held Redemption in His hands?
Had he not seen this truth clearly in those whose sins Jesus had remitted?
Certainly, he knew it but he did not wish, nor dare to ask pardon. To make him despair, the devil showed him the enormity and hideousness of his crime and, perhaps, made him fear that if he asked his Master’s pardon, He might impose too great a penance.
Perhaps, for fear of such penance, he was unwilling to ask for forgiveness.
Thus, despairing, he hanged himself and his body burst wide open, all his entrails spilling out [Acts 1:18] and he was buried in the deepest of Hells.” – Sermon for Good Friday 25 March 1622.


Friday of the First Week of Lent – 11 March – Our Lenten Journey with the Great Fathers – “The Lord has had pity on us”

Friday of the First Week of Lent – 11 March – Our Lenten Journey with the Great Fathers – Ezechiel 18:10-28, John 5:1-15

Bring me out of distress, O Lord; put an end to my affliction and my suffering
and take away all my sins
.” – Psalm 24:17-18

Now a certain man was there
who had been thirty-eight years
under his infirmity.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been
in this state a long time, He said to him,
Do you want to get well?

John 5:5-6

“The Lord has had pity on us”

HAPPY ARE WE if we do the deeds of which we have heard and sung. Our hearing of them means having them planted in us, while our doing them, shows that the seed has borne fruit. By saying this, I wish to caution you, dearly beloved, not to enter the Church fruitlessly, satisfied with mere hearing of such mighty blessings and failing to do good works. For we have been saved by His grace, says the Apostle and not by our works, lest anyone may boast; for it is by His grace that we have been saved. It is not as if a good life of some sort came first and that thereupon, God showed His love and esteem for it from on high, saying: “Let us come to the aid of these men and assist them quickly because they are living a good life.” No, our life was displeasing to Him. He will, therefore, condemn what we have done but He will save, what He Himself has done in us.

WE WERE NOT GOOD but God had pity on us and sent His Son to die, not for good men but for bad ones, not for the just but for the wicked. Yes, Christ died for the ungodly. Notice what is written next: One will hardly die for a righteous man, although perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. Perhaps someone can be found who will dare to die for a good man but for the unjust man, for the wicked one, the sinner, who would be willing to die except Christ alone, Who is so just, that He justifies even the unjust?

AND SO, MY BROTHERS, we had no good works, for all our works were evil. Yet although men’s actions were such, God in His mercy did not abandon men. He sent His Son to redeem us, not with gold or silver but at the price of His Blood poured out for us. Christ, the Spotless Lamb, became the Sacrificial Victim, led to the slaughter for the sheep that were blemished — if indeed one can say that they were blemished and not entirely corrupt. Such is the grace we have received! Let us live so as to be worthy of that great grace and not do injury to it. So mighty is the Physician Who has come to us, that He has healed all our sins! If we choose to be sick once again, we will not only harm ourselves,but show ingratitude to the Physician as well.

LET US THEN FOLLOW Christ’s paths which He has revealed to us, above all, the path of humility, which He Himself became for us. He showed us that path by His precepts, and He Himself followed it by His suffering on our behalf. In order to die for us —because as God, He could not die — the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The immortal One took on mortality, that He might die for us and by dying, put to death our death. This is what the Lord did, this the gift He granted to us. The mighty one was brought low, the lowly one was slain and after He was slain, He rose again and was exalted. For He did not intend to leave us dead in hell but to exalt, in Himself, at the Resurrection of the Dead, those whom He had already exalted and made just by the faith and praise they gave Him. Yes, He gave us the path of humility. If we keep to it we shall confess our belief in the Lord and have good reason to sing: We shall praise You, God, we shall praise You and call upon Your Name.” – St Augustine (354-430) Father and Doctor of the Church (An excerpt from a Homily 23).


Wednesday of the First Week of Lent – 9 March – Our Lenten Journey with the Great Fathers – REPENT!

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent – 9 March – Our Lenten Journey with the Great Fathers – 3 Kings 19:3-8, Matthew 12:38-50

“Relieve the troubles of my heart
and bring me out of distress, O Lord.
” – Psalm 24:17-18

The men of Ninive will rise up
in the judgement with this generation
and will condemn it;
for they repented
at the preaching of Jonah
and behold, a greater than Jonah is here

Matthew 12:41

LET US FIX OUR ATTENTION on the Blood of Christ and recognise how precious it is to God His Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

If we review the various ages of history, we will see ,that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to Him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed,but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

UUNDER THE INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe Himself, spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of His goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people – If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to Me with your whole heart and say, “Father” and I will listen to you as a holy people.

IN OTHER WORDS. God wanted all His beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and He confirmed this desire, by His own Almighty Will. That is why we should obey His Sovereign and Glorious Will and prayerfully entreat His mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before Him and turn to His compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.

BROTHERS, WE SHOULD BE HUMBLE in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories, glory in the Lord by seeking Him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when He taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, He said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving, will be the measure of your receiving.

LET THESE COMMANDMENTS AND PRECEPTS strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favour, except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe and hold fast to His splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all His blessings.” – St Clement of Rome (c 35-c 101) Apostolic Father, Pope, Martyr (An excerpt from his Letter to the Corinthians).