Sermons of St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Taken from the Book "Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori" - pages 142-148


"Make the men sit down." JOHN vi. 10.

WE read in this day’s gospel that, having gone up into a mountain with his disciples, and seeing a multitude of five thousand persons, who followed him because they saw the miracles which he wrought on them that were diseased, the Redeemer said to St. Philip: "Whence shall we huy bread, that these may eat ?" “Lord," answered St. Philip, ”two-hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient that every one may take a little." St. Andrew then said: There is a boy here that has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are these among so many? But Jesus Christ said: ”Make the men sit down." And he distributed the loaves and fishes among them. The multitude were satisfied: and the fragments of bread which remained filled twelve baskets. ” The Lord wrought this miracle through compassion for the bodily wants of these poor people; but far more tender is his compassion for the necessities of the souls of the poor that is, of sinners who are deprived of the divine grace. This tender compassion of Jesus Christ for sinners shall be the subject of this day’s discourse.

1. Through the bowels of his mercy towards men, who groaned under the slavery of sin and Satan, our most loving Redeemer descended from heaven to earth, to redeem and save them from eternal torments by his own death. Such was the language of St. Zachary, the father of the Baptist, when the Blessed Virgin, who had already become the mother of the Eternal Word, entered his house. ”Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us." (Luke i. 78.)

2. Jesus Christ, the good pastor, who came into the world to obtain salvation for us his sheep, has said: ”I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." (John x. 10.) Mark the expression, "more abundantly” which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace which we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin. Yes; for as St. Leo says, the benefits which we have derived from the death of Jesus are greater than the injury which the devil has done us by sin. ”Ampliora adepti sumus per Christ! gratiam quam per diaboli amiseramus invidiam." (Ser. i., de Ascen.) The same doctrine is taught by the Apostle, who says that, “where sin abounded, grace did more abound." (Rom. v. 20.)

3. But, my Lord, since thou hast resolved to take human flesh, would not a single prayer offered by thee be sufficient for the redemption of all men? What need, then, was there of leading a life of poverty, humiliation, and contempt, for thirty- three years, of suffering a cruel and shameful death on an infamous gibbet, and of shedding all thy blood by dint of torments? I know well, answers Jesus Christ, that one drop of my blood, or a simple prayer, would be sufficient for the salvation of the world; but neither would be sufficient to show the love which I bear to men: and therefore, to be loved by men when they should see me dead on the cross for the love of them, I have resolved to submit to so many torments and to so painful a death. This, he says, is the duty of a good pastor. ”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep... I lay down my life for my sheep." (John x. 11, 15.)

4. O men, O men, what greater proof of love could the Son of God give us than to lay down his life for us his sheep?”In this we have known the charity of God; because he hath laid down his life for us." (I John iii. 16.) No one, says the Saviour, can show greater love to his friends than to give his life for them. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John xv. 13.) But thou, O Lord, hast died not only for friends, but for us who were thy enemies by sin. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." (Rom. v. 10.) infinite love of our God, exclaims St. Bernard;”to spare slaves, neither the Father has spared the Son, nor the Son himself." To pardon us, who were rebellious servants, the Father would not pardon the Son, and the Son would not pardon himself, but, by his death, has satisfied the divine justice for the sins which we have committed.

5. When Jesus Christ was near his passion he went one day to Samaria: the Samaritans refused to receive him. Indignant at the insult offered by the Samaritans to their Master, St.
James and St. John, turning to Jesus, said: ”Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them ?" (Luke ix. 54.) But Jesus, who was all sweetness, even to those who insulted him, answered: ”You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save." (r. 55 and 50.) He severely rebuked the disciples. What spirit is this, he said, which possesses you? It is not my spirit: mine is the spirit of patience and compassion; for I am come, not to destroy, but to save the souls of men: and you speak of fire, of punishment, and of vengeance. Hence, in another place, he said to his disciples: "Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart." (Matt. xi. 29 ) I do not wish of you to learn of me to chastise, but to be meek, and to bear and pardon injuries.

6. How beautiful has he described the tenderness of his heart towards sinners in the following words: ”What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and, if he lose one of them, doth he not leave ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which is lost until he find it: and when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulder rejoicing; and coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost ?" (Luke xv. 4, 5, and 6.) But, Lord, it is not thou that oughtest to rejoice, but the sheep that has found her pastor and her God. The sheep indeed, answers Jesus, rejoices at finding me, her shepherd; but far greater is the joy which 1 feel at having found one of my lost sheep. He concludes the parable in these words: ”I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven, for one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just, who need not penance." (Luke xv. 7.) There is more joy in heaven at the conversion of one sinner, than upon ninety-nine just men who preserve their innocence. What sinner, then, can be so hardened as not to go instantly and cast himself at the feet of his Saviour, when he knows the tender love with which Jesus Christ is prepared to embrace him, and carry him on his shoulders, as soon as he repents of his sins?

7. The Lord has also declared his tenderness towards penitent sinners in the parable of the Prodigal Child. (Luke xv. 12, etc.) In that parable the Son of God says, that a certain young man, unwilling to be any longer under the control of his father, and desiring to live according to his caprice and corrupt inclinations, asked the portion of his fathers substance which fell to him. The father gave it with sorrow, weeping over the ruin of his son. The son departed from his father’s house. Having in a short time dissipated his substance, he was reduced to such a degree of misery that, to procure the necessaries of life, he was obliged to feed swine. All this was a figure of a sinner, who, after departing from God, and losing the divine grace and all the merits he had acquired, leads a life of misery under the slavery of the devil. In the gospel it is added that the young man, seeing his wretched condition, resolved to return to his father: and the father, who is a figure of Jesus Christ, seeing his son return to him, was instantly moved to pity. "His father saw him, and was moved with compassion" (v. 20); and, instead of driving him away, as the ungrateful son had deserved, "running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him." He ran with open arms to meet him, and, through tenderness, fell upon his neck, and consoled him by his embraces. He then said to his servants: ”Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him." According to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, the first robe signifies the divine grace, which, in addition to new celestial gifts, God, by granting pardon, gives to the penitent sinner. "And put a ring on his finger." Give him the ring of- a spouse. By recovering the grace of God, the soul becomes again the spouse of Jesus Christ. “And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry" (v. 23). Bring hither the fatted calf which signifies the holy communion, or Jesus in the holy sacrament mystically killed and offered in sacrifice on the altar; let us eat and rejoice. But why, divine Father, so much joy at the return of so ungrateful a child? Because, answered the Father, this my son was dead, and he is come to life again; he was lost, and I have found him.

8. This tenderness of Jesus Christ was experienced by the sinful woman (according to St. Gregory, Mary Magdalene) who cast herself at the feet of Jesus, and washed them with her tears. (Luke vii. 47 and 50.) The Lord, turning to her with sweetness, consoled her by saying: "Thy sins are forgiven ;... thy faith hath made thee safe; go in peace." (Luke vii. 48 and 50.) Child, thy sins are pardoned; thy confidence in me has saved thee; go in peace. It was also felt by the man who was sick for thirty- eight years, and who was infirm, both in body and soul. The Lord cured his malady, and pardoned his sins. "Behold," says Jesus to him, ”thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee." (John v. 14.) The tenderness of the Redeemer was also felt by the leper who said to Jesus Christ: ”Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." (Matt. viii. 2.) Jesus answered: "I will: be thou made clean" (v. 3). As if he said: Yes; I will that thou be made clean; for I have come down from heaven for the purpose of consoling all: be healed, then, according to thy desire. ”And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed."

9. We have also a proof of the tender compassion of the Son of God for sinners, in his conduct towards the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and pharisees brought her before him, and said: ”This woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses, in the law, commands us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou ?" (John viii. 4 and 5.) And this they did, as St. John says, tempting him. They intended to accuse him of transgressing the law of Moses, if he said that she ought to be liberated; and they expected to destroy his character for meekness, if he said that she should be stoned. “Si dicat lapidandam," says St. Augustine, ”famam perdet mansuetudinis; sin dimmitteudam, transgressæ legis accusabitur." (Tract, xxxiii. in Joan.)But what was the answer of our Lord? He neither said that she should be stoned nor dismissed; but, ”bowing himself down, he wrote with his finger on the ground." The interpreters say that, probably, what he wrote on the ground was a text of Scripture admonishing the accusers of their own sins, which were, perhaps, greater than that of the woman charged with adultery. ”He then lifted himself up, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”(v . 7). The scribes and pharisees went away one by one, and the woman stood alone. Jesus Christ, turning to her, said: "Hath no one condemned thee? neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more" (v. 11). Since no one has condemned you, fear not that you shall be condemned by me, who hath come on earth, not to condemn, but to pardon and save sinners: go in peace, and sin no more.

10. Jesus Christ has come, not to condemn, but to deliver sinners from hell, as soon as they resolve to amend their lives. And when he sees them obstinately bent on their own perdition, he addresses them with tears in the words of Ezechiel: ”Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (xviii. 31). My children, why will you die? Why do you voluntarily rush into hell, when I have come from heaven to deliver you from it by death? He adds: you are already dead to the grace of God. But I will not your death: return to me, and I will restore to you the life which you have lost. "For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: return ye and live" (v. 32). But some sinners, who are immersed in the abyss of sin, may say: Perhaps, if we return to Jesus Christ, he will drive us away. No; for the Redeemer has said: ”And him that cometh to me I will not cast out." (John vi. 37.) No one that comes to me withsorrow for his past sins, however manifold and enormous they may have been, shall be rejected.

11. Behold how, in another place, the Redeemer encourages us to throw ourselves at his feet with a secure hope of consolation and pardon. ”Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you." (Matt. xi. 28.) Come to me, all ye poor sinners, who labour for your own damnation, and groan under the weight of your crimes; come, and I will deliver you from all your troubles. Again, he says, ”Come and accuse me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be made white as wool." (Isa. i. 18.) Come with sorrow for the offences you committed against me, and if I do not give you pardon, accuse me. As if he said: upbraid me; rebuke me as a liar; for I promise that, though your sins were of scarlet that is, of the most horrid enormity your soul, by my blood, in which I shall wash it, will become white and beautiful as snow.

12. Let us then, sinners, return instantly to Jesus Christ. If we have left him, let us immediately return, before death overtakes us in sin and sends us to hell, where the mercies and graces of the Lord shall, if we do not amend, be so many swords which shall lacerate the heart for all eternity.
Taken from the Book "Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori" - pages 148-154



"But Jesus hid himself." JOHN viii. 59.

JESUS CHRIST "is the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. ” (John i. 9.) He enlightens all; but he cannot enlighten those who voluntarily shut their eyes to the light; from them the Saviour hides himself. How then can they, walking in darkness, escape the many dangers of perdition to which we are exposed in this life, which God has given us as the road to eternal happiness? I will endeavour Today to convince you of the great danger into which tepidity brings the soul, since it makes Jesus Christ hide his divine light from her, and makes him less liberal in bestowing upon her the graces and helps, without which she shall find it very difficult to complete the journey of this life without falling into an abyss that is, into mortal sin.

1. A tepid soul is not one that lives in enmity with God, nor one that sometimes commits venial sins through mere frailty, and not with full deliberation. On account of the corruption of nature by original sin, no man can be exempt from such venial faults. This corruption of nature renders it impossible for us, without a most special grace, which has been given only to the mother of God, to avoid all venial sins during our whole lives. Hence St. John has said: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John i. 8.) God permits defects of this kind, even in the saints, to keep them humble, and to make them feel that, as they commit such faults in spite of all their good purposes and promises, so also, were they not supported by his divine hand, they would fall into mortal sins. Hence, when we find that we have committed these light faults, we must humble ourselves, and acknowledging our own weakness, we must be careful to recommend ourselves to God, and implore of him to preserve us, by his almighty hand, from more grievous transgressions, and to deliver us from those we have committed.

2. What then are we to understand by a tepid soul? A tepid soul is one that frequently falls into fully deliberate venial sins such as deliberate lies, deliberate acts of impatience, deliberate imprecations, and the like. These faults may be easily avoided by those who are resolved to suffer death rather than commit a deliberate venial offence against God. St. Teresa used to say, that one venial sin does us more harm than all the devils in hell. Hence she would say to her nuns: "My children, from deliberate sin, however venial it may be, may the Lord deliver you." Some complain of being left in aridity and dryness, and without any spiritual sweetness. But how can we expect that God will be liberal of his favours to us, when we are ungenerous to him? We know that such a lie, such an imprecation, such an injury to our neighbour, and such detraction, though not mortal sins, are displeasing to God, and still we do not abstain from them. Why then should we expect that God will give us his divine consolations?

3. But some of you will say: Venial sins, however great they may be, do not deprive the soul of the grace of God: even though I commit them I will he saved; and for me it is enough to obtain eternal life. You say that, ”for you it is enough to be saved." Remember that St. Augustine says that, ”where you have said, „ It is enough‟ there you have perished." To understand correctly the meaning of these words of St. Augustine, and to see the danger to which the state of tepidity exposes those who commit habitual and deliberate venial sins, without feeling remorse for them, and without endeavouring to avoid them, it is necessary to know that the habit of light faults leads the soul insensibly to mortal sins. For example: the habit of venial acts of aversion leads to mortal hatred; the habit of small thefts leads to grievous rapine; the habit of venial attachments leads to affections which are mortally sinful. ”The soul," says St. Gregory, ”never lies where it falls." (Moral., lib. xxxi.) No; it continues to sink still deeper. Mortal diseases do not generally proceed from serious indisposition, but from many slight and continued infirmities; so, likewise, the fall of many souls into mortal sin follows from habitual venial sins; for these render the soul so weak that, when a strong temptation assails her, she has not strength to resist it, and she falls.

4. Many are unwilling to be separated from God by mortal sins; they wish to follow him, but at a distance, and regardless of venial sins. But to them shall probably happen what befell St. Peter. When Jesus Christ was seized in the garden, St. Peter was unwilling to abandon the Lord, but "followed him afar off." (Matt. xxvi. 58.) After entering the house of Caiphas, he was charged with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was instantly seized with fear, and three times denied his Master. The Holy Ghost says: ”He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little." (Eccl. xix. 1.) They who despise small falls will probably one day fall into an abyss; for, being in the habit of committing light offences against God, they will feel but little repugnance to offer to him some grievous insult.

5. The Lord says: ”Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines." (Cant. ii. 15.) He does not tell us to catch the lions or the bears, but the little foxes. Lions and bears strike terror, and therefore all are careful to keep at a distance through fear of being devoured by them; but the little foxes, though they do not excite dismay, destroy the vine by drying up its roots. Mortal sin terrifies the timorous soul; but, if she accustom herself to the commission of many venial sins with full deliberation, and without endeavouring to correct them, they, like the little foxes, shall destroy the roots that is, the remorse of conscience, the fear of offending God, and the holy desires of advancing in divine love; and thus, being in a state of tepidity, and impelled to sin by some passion, the soul will easily abandon God and lose the divine grace.

6. Moreover, deliberate and habitual venial sins not only deprive us of strength to resist temptations, but also of the special helps without which we fall into grievous sins. Be attentive, brethren; for this is a point of great importance. It is certain, that of ourselves we have not sufficient strength to resist the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the world. It is God that prevents our enemies from assailing us with temptations by which we would be conquered. Hence Jesus Christ has taught us the following prayer: ”And lead us not into temptation." He teaches us to pray that God may deliver us from the temptations to which we would yield, and thus lose his grace. Wow, venial sins, when they are deliberate and habitual, deprive us of the special helps of God which are necessary for preservation in his grace. I say necessary, because the Council of Trent anathematizes those who assert that we can persevere in grace without a special help from God. ”Si quis dixerit, justificatum vel sine speciali auxilio Dei in accepta justitia perseverare posse, vel cum eo non posse; anathema sit." (Sess. 6, can. xxii.) Thus, with the ordinary assistance of God, we cannot avoid falling into some mortal sin: a special aid is necessary. But this special aid God will justly withhold from tepid souls who are regardless of committing, with full deliberation, many venial sins. Thus these unhappy souls shall not persevere in grace.

7. They who are ungenerous to God well deserve that God should not be liberal to them. "He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly." (2 Cor. ix. 6.) To such souls the Lord will give the graces common to all, but will probably withhold his special assistance; and without this, as we have seen, they cannot persevere without falling into mortal sin. God himself revealed to B. Henry Suso, that, for tepid souls who are content with leading a life exempt from mortal sin, and continue to commit many deliberate venial sins, it is very difficult to preserve themselves in the state of grace. The venerable Lewis da Ponte used to say: "I commit many defects, but I never make peace with them." Woe to him who is at peace with his faults! St. Bernard teaches that, as long as a person who is guilty of defects detests his faults, there is reason to hope that he will one day correct them and amend his life: but when he commits faults without endeavouring to amend, he will continually go from bad to worse, till he loses the grace of God. St. Augustine says that, like a certain disease of the skin which makes the body an object of disgust, habitual faults, when committed without any effort of amendment, render the soul so disgusting to God, that he deprives her of his embraces. ”Sunt velut scabies, et nostrum decus ita exterminant ut a sponsi amplcxibus separent." (Hom. 1., cap. iii.) Hence the soul, finding no more nourishment and consolation in her devout exercises, in her prayers, communions, or visits to the blessed sacrament, will soon neglect them, and thus neglecting the means of eternal salvation, she shall be in great danger of being lost.

8. This danger will be still greater for those who commit many venial sins through attachment to any passion, such as pride, ambition, aversion to a neighbour, or an inordinate affection for any person. 1st. Francis of Assisium says that, in endeavouring to draw to sin a soul that is afraid of being in enmity with God, the devil does not seek in the beginning to bind her with the chain of a slave, by tempting her to commit mortal sin, Because she would have a horror of yielding to mortal sin, and would guard herself against it. He first endeavours to bind her by a single hair; then by a slender thread; next by a cord; afterwards by a rope; and in the end by a chain of hell that is, by mortal sin; and thus he makes her his slave. For example: A person cherishes an affection for a female through a motive of courtesy or of gratitude, or from an esteem for her good qualities. This affection is followed by mutual presents; to these succeed words of tenderness; and after the first violent assault of the devil, the miserable man shall find that he has fallen into mortal sin. He meets with the fate of gamesters, who, after frequently losing large sums of money, yield to an impulse of passion, risk their all, and, in the end, lose their entire property.

9. Miserable the soul that allows herself to be the slave of any passion. “Behold, how small a fire what a great wood it kindleth." (St. James iii. 5.) A small spark, if it be not extinguished, will set fire to an entire wood; that is, an unmodified passion shall bring the soul to ruin. Passion blinds us; and the blind often fall into an abyss when they least expect it. According to St. Ambrose, the devil is constantly endeavouring to find out the passion which rules in our heart, and the pleasures which have the greatest attraction for us. When he discovers them, he presents occasions of indulging them: he then excites concupiscence, and prepares a chain to make us the slaves of hell. ”Tune maxime insidiatur adversarius quando videt in nobis passiones aliquas generari: tune fomites movet, laqueos parat."

10. St. Chrysostom asserts, that he himself knew many persons who were gifted with great virtues, and who, because they disregarded light faults, fell into an abyss of crime. When the devil cannot gain much from us, he is in the beginning content with the little; by many trifling victories he will make a great conquest. No one, says St. Bernard, suddenly falls from the state of grace into the abyss of wickedness. They who rush into the most grievous irregularities, begin by committing light faults. "Nemo repente fit turpissimus: a minimis incipiunt qui in maxima proruunt." (Tract de Ord. vita3.) It is necessary also to understand that, when a soul that has been favoured by God with special lights and graces, consents to mortal sin, her fall shall not be a simple fall, from which she will easily rise again, but it will be a precipitous one, from which she will find it very difficult to return to God.

11. Addressing a person in the state of tepidity, our Lord said: ”I would that thou wert cold or hot; but because thou art luke-warm, and neither hot nor cold, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." (Apoc. iii. 15, 16.)”I would thou wert cold" that is, it would be better for thee to be deprived of my grace, because there should then be greater hopes of thy amendment; but, because thou livest in tepidity, without any desire of improvement, ”I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." By these words he means, that he will begin to abandon the soul; for, what is vomited, is taken back only with great horror.

12. A certain author says, that tepidity is a hectic fever, which does not excite alarm, because it is not perceived; but it is, at the same time, so malignant that it is rarely cured. The comparison is very just; for tepidity makes the soul insensible to remorses of conscience; and, as she is accustomed to feel no remorse for venial faults, she will by degrees become insensible to the stings of remorse which arise from mortal sins.

13. Let us come to the remedy. The amendment of a tepid soul is difficult; but there are remedies for those who wish to adopt them. First, the tepid must sincerely desire to be delivered from a state which, as we have seen, is so miserable and dangerous; for, without this desire, they shall not take pains to employ the proper means. Secondly, they must resolve to remove the occasions of their faults; otherwise they will always relapse into the same defects. Thirdly, they must earnestly beg of the Lord to raise them from so wretched a state. By their own strength they can do nothing; but they can do all things with the assistance of God, who has promised to hear the prayers of all. “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find." (Luke xi. 9.) We must pray, and continue to pray without interruption. If we cease to pray we shall be defeated; but if we persevere in prayer we shall conquer.
Book "Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori" - pages 154-161



     Go ye into the village that is over against you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied." MATT. xxi. 2. WISHING to enter Jerusalem, to be there acknowledged as the promised Messiah sent by God for the salvation of the world, the Savior said to his disciples: “Go to a certain village, and you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them to me." “The ass which was tied," says St. Bonaventure, "denotes a sinner." This exposition is conformable to the doctrine of the Wise Man, who says, that the wicked are bound by the chains of their own sins. "His own iniquities catch the wicked, and he is fast bound with the rope of his own sins." (Prov. v. 22.) But, as Jesus Christ could not sit on the ass before she was loosed, so he cannot dwell in a soul bound with her own iniquities. If, then, brethren, there be among you a soul bound by any bad habit, let her attend to the admonition which the Lord addresses to her this morning. ”Loose the bond from off thy neck, captive daughter of Sion." (Isa. Hi. 2.) Loose the bonds of your sins, which make you the slave of Satan. Loose the bonds before the habit of sin gains such power over you, as to render your conversion morally impossible, and thus to bring you to eternal perdition. This morning I will show, in three points, the evil effects of bad habits. First Point. A bad habit blinds the understanding. Second Point. It hardens the heart. Third Point. It diminishes our strength.

First Point. A bad habit blinds the understanding.

1. Of those who live in the habit of sin, St. Augustine says: ”Ipsa consuetudo non sinit videre malum, quod faciunt." The habit of sin blinds sinners, so that they no longer see the evil which they do, nor the ruin which they "bring upon themselves; hence they live in blindness, as if there was neither God, nor heaven, nor hell, nor eternity. ”Sins," adds the saint, ”however enormous, when habitual, appear to be small, or not to be sins at all." How then can the soul guard against them, when she is no longer sensible of their deformity, or the evil which they bring upon her?

2. St. Jerome says, that habitual sinners “are not even ashamed of their crimes." Bad actions naturally produce a certain shame; but this feeling is destroyed by the habit of sin. St. Peter compares habitual sinners to swine wallowing in mire. ”The sow that was washed is returned to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Pet. ii. "22.) The very mire of sin blinds them; and, therefore, instead of feeling sorrow and shame at their uncleanness, they revel and exult in it. ”A fool worketh mischief as it were for sport." (Prov. x. 23.)”Who are glad when they havedone evil." (Prov. ii. 14.) Hence the saints continually seek light from God; for they know that, should he withdraw his light, they may become the greatest of sinners. How, then, do so many Christians, who know by faith that there is a hell, and a just God, who cannot but chastise the wicked, how, I say, do they continue to live in sin till death, and thus bring themselves to perdition?”Their own malice blinded them." (Wis. ii, 21.) Sin blinds them, and thus they are lost.

3. Job says, that habitual sinners are full of iniquities. "His bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth." (xx. 11.) Every sin produces darkness in the understanding. Hence, the more sins are multiplied by a bad habit, the greater the blindness they cause. The light of the sun cannot enter a vessel filled with clay; and a heart full of vices cannot admit the light of God, which would make visible to the soul the abyss into which she is running. Bereft of light, the habitual sinner goes on from sin to sin, without ever thinking of repentance. “The wicked walk round about," (Ps. xi. 9.) Fallen into the dark pit of evil habits, he thinks only of sinning, he speaks only of sins, and no longer sees the evil of sin. In fine, he becomes like a brute devoid of reason, and seeks and desires only what pleases the senses. ”And man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them. ” (Ps. xlviii. 13.) Hence the words of the Wise Man are fulfilled with regard to habitual sinners. “The wicked man when he comes into the depth of sin, contemneth." (Prov. xviii. 3.) This passage St. Chrysostom applies to habitual sinners, who, shut up in a pit of darkness, despise sermons, calls of God, admonitions, censures, hell, and God, and become like the vulture that waits to be killed by the fowler, rather than abandon the corrupt carcass on which it feeds.

4. Brethren, let us tremble, as David did when he said: ”Let not the tempests of water drown me, nor the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me." (Ps. Ixviii. 16.) Should a person fall into a pit, there is hope of deliverance as long as the mouth of the pit is not closed; but as soon as it is shut, he is lost. When a sinner falls into a bad habit, the mouth of the pit is gradually closed as his sins are multiplied; the moment the mouth of the pit is shut, he is abandoned by God. Dearly beloved sinners, if you have contracted a habit of any sin, endeavour instantly to go out of that pit of hell, before God shall deprive you entirely of his light, and abandon you; for, as soon as he abandons you by the total withdrawal of his light, all is over, and you are lost.

Second Point. A bad habit hardens the heart.

5. The habit of sin not only blinds the understanding, but also hardens the heart of the sinner. “His heart shall be as hard as a stone, and as firm as a smith‟s anvil." (Job xli. 15.) By the habit of sin the heart becomes like a stone; and, as the anvil is hardened by repeated strokes of the hammer, so, instead of being softened by divine inspirations or by instructions, the soul of the habitual sinner is rendered more obdurate by sermons on the judgment of God, on the torments of the damned, and on the passion of Jesus Christ: "his heart shall be firm as a smith‟s anvil." "Their heart," says St. Augustine, "is hardened against the dew of grace, so as to produce no fruit." Divine calls, remorses of conscience, terrors of Divine justice, are showers of divine grace; but when, instead of drawing fruit from these divine blessings, the habitual sinner continues to commit sin, he hardens his heart, and thus, according to St. Thomas of Villanova, he gives a sign of his certain damnation "Induratio damnationis indicium;" for, from the loss of God’s light, and the hardness of his heart, the sinner will, according to the terrible threat of the Holy Ghost, remain obstinate till death. ”A hard heart shall fare evil at the end." (Eccl. iii. 27.)

6. Of what use are confessions, when, in a short time after them, the sinner returns to the same vices? “He who strikes his breast," says St. Augustine, ”and does not amend, confirms, but does not take away sins." When you strike your breast in the tribunal of penance, but do not amend and remove the occasions of sin, you then, according to the saint, do not take away your sins, but you make them more firm and permanent; that is, you render yourself more obstinate in sin. “The wicked walk round about." (Ps. xi. 9.) Such is the unhappy life of habitual sinners. They go round about from sin to sin; and if they abstain for a little, they immediately, at the first occasion of temptation, return to their former iniquities. St. Bernard regards as certain the damnation of such sinners: "Væ homini, qui sequitur hunc circuitum." (Serm. xii. sup. Psalmos.)

7. But some young persons may say: I will hereafter amend, and sincerely give myself to God. But, if a habit of sin takes possession of you, when will you amend? The Holy Ghost declares, that a young man who contracts an evil habit will not relinquish it even in his old age. “A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it. ” (Prov. xxii. 6.) Habitual sinners have been known to yield, even at the hour of death, to the sins which they have been in the habit of committing. Father Recupito relates, that a person condemned to death, even while he was going to the place of execution, raised his eyes, saw a young female, and consented to a bad thought. We read in a work of Father Gisolfo, that a certain blasphemer, who had been likewise condemned to death, when thrown off the scaffold, broke out into a blasphemy, and died in that miserable state.

8. ”He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Rom. ix. 18.) God shows mercy for a certain time, and then he hardens the heart of the sinner. How does God harden the hearts of sinners? St. Augustine answers: ”Obduratio Dei est non misereri." The Lord does not directly harden the hearts of habitual sinners; but, in punishment of their ingratitude for his benefits, he withdraws from them his graces, and thus their hearts are hardened, and become like a stone. ”God does not harden the heart by imparting malice, but by withholding mercy." God does not render sinners obdurate by infusing the malice of obstinacy, but by not giving them the efficacious graces by which they would be converted. By the withdrawal of the suns heat from the earth, water is hardened into ice.

9. St. Bernard teaches, that hardness or obstinacy of heart does not take place suddenly; but, by degrees the soul becomes insensible to the divine threats, and more obstinate by divine chastisements. "Paulatim in cordis dulitiam itur; cor durum non minis cedit, flagellis duratur." In habitual sinners are verified the words of David, ”And thy rebuke, God of Jacob, they have slumbered." (Ps. lxxv. 7.) Even earthquakes, thunders, and sudden deaths do not terrify an habitual sinner. Instead of awakening him to a sense of his miserable state, they rather bring on that deadly sleep in which he slumbers and is lost. Third Point. A bad habit diminishes our strength.

10. "He hath torn me with wound upon wound; he hath rushed in upon me like a giant." (Job xvi. 15.) On this text St. Gregory reasons thus: A person assailed by an enemy, is rendered unable to defend himself by the first wound which he receives; but, should he receive a second and third, his strength will be so much exhausted, that death will be the consequence. It is so with sin: after the first and second wound which it inflicts on the soul, she shall still have some strength, but only through the divine grace. But, if she continue to indulge in vice, sin, becoming habitual, rushes upon her like a giant and leaves her without any power to resist it. St. Bernard compares the habitual sinner to a person who has fallen under a large stone, which he is unable to remove. A person in such a case will rise only with difficulty. “The man on whom the weight of a bad habit presses, rises with difficulty." St. Gregory says: ”Lapis superpositus, cum consuetudine mens in peccato demoratur ut esti velit exsurgere, jam non possit quia moles desuper premit," (Moral, lib. 26, c. xxiv.) 

11. St. Thomas of Villanova teaches, that a soul which is deprived of the grace of God, cannot long abstain from new sins. "Anima a gratia destituta diu evadere ulteriora peccata non potest." (Conc. 4 in Dom. 4 quadrages.) In expounding the words of David, “O my God, make them like a wheel, and as a stubble before the wind," (Ps. lxxxii. 14.) St. Gregory says, that the man who struggled for a time before he fell into the habit of sin, as soon as he contracts the habit, yields and yields again to every temptation, with as much facility as a straw is moved by the slightest blast of wind. Habitual sinners, according to St. Chrysostom, become so weak in resisting the attacks of the devil, that, dragged to sin by their evil habit, they are sometimes driven to sin against their inclination. ”Dura res est consuetudo, quæ nonnunquam nolentes committere cogit illicita," Yes; because, as St. Augustine says, a bad habit in the course of time brings on a certain necessity of falling into sin. "Dum consuetudini non resistitur, facta est necessitas."

12. St. Bernardino of Sienna says, that evil habits are changed into one‟s nature. ”Usus veritur in natura." Hence, as it is necessary for men to breathe, so it appears that it becomes necessary for habitual sinners to commit sins. They are thus made the slave of sin. I say, the slaves. In society there are servants, who serve for wages, and there are slaves, who serve by force, and without remuneration. Having sold themselves as slaves to the devil, habitual sinners are reduced to such a degree of slavery, that they sometimes sin without pleasure, and sometimes even without being in the occasion of sin. St. Bernardino compares them to the wings of a windmill, which continue to turn the mill even when there is no corn to be ground; that is, they continue to commit sin, at least by indulging bad thoughts, even when there is no occasion of sin presented to them. The unhappy beings, as St. Chrysostom says, having lost the divine aid, no longer do what they wish themselves, but what the devil wishes. "Homo perdito Dei auxilio, non quod vult agit, sed quod diabolus."

13. Listen to what happened in a city in Italy. A certain young man, who had contracted a vicious habit, though frequently called by God, and admonished by friends to amend his life, continued to live in sin. One day he saw his sister suddenly struck dead. He was terrified for a short time; but she was scarcely buried, when he forgot her death and returned to the vomit. In two months after he was confined to bed by a slow fever. He then, sent for a confessor, and made his confession. But after all this, on a certain day, he exclaimed: Alas! how late have I known the rigour of divine justice! And turning to his physician, he said: Do not torment me any longer by medicines; for my disease is incurable. I know for certain that it will bring me to the grave. And to his friends, who stood around, he said: As for the life of this body of mine there is no remedy, so for the life of my poor soul there is no hope. I expect eternal death. God has abandoned me; this I see in the hardness of my heart. Friends and religious came to encourage him to hope in the mercy of God; but his answer to all their exhortations was, God has abandoned me. The writer who relates this fact says, that, being alone with the young man, he said to him: Have courage; unite yourself with God; receive the viaticum. Friend, replied the young man, speak to a stone. The confession which I have made has been null for want of sorrow. I do not wish for a confessor, nor for the sacraments. Do not bring me the viaticum; for, should you bring it, I will do that which must excite horror. He then went away quite disconsolate; and returning to see the young man, learned from his relatives that he expired during the night without the aid of a priest, and that near his room frightful howlings were heard.

14. Behold the end of habitual sinners! Brethren, if you have the misfortune of having contracted a habit of sin, make, as soon as possible, a general confession; for your past confessions can scarcely have been valid. Go forth instantly from the slavery of the devil. Attend to the advice of the Holy Ghost. "Give not thy ears to the cruel." (Prov. v. 9.) Why will you serve the devil, your enemy, who is so cruel a master who makes you lead a life of misery here, to bring you to a life of still greater misery in hell for all eternity? “Lazarus, come forth. ”Go out of the pit of sin; give yourself immediately to God, who calls you, and is ready to receive you if you turn to him. Tremble! this may be for you the last call, to which if you do not correspond, you shall be lost.
Here is the complete pdf file of all the sermons of St. Alphonsus in the book provided by St. Benedict Press (TAN Books).

Attached Files
.pdf   Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori.pdf (Size: 1.76 MB / Downloads: 0)

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)