Friday, 12 January 2018

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 249.


CHAPTER 19 The Eighth Privilege of Virtue: The Peace enjoyed by the Just 

The liberty of the children of God is the cause of another privilege of virtue, no less precious than itself – the interior peace and tranquillity which the just enjoy. To understand this more clearly, we must remember that there are three kinds of peace: peace with God, peace with our neighbor, and peace with ourselves. Peace with God consists in the favor and friendship of God, and is one of the results of justification. The Apostle, speaking of this peace, says, "Being justified, therefore, by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1). Peace with our neighbor consists in a friendly union with our fellow men, which banishes from us all ill-will towards them. David enjoyed this peace when he said, "With them that hated peace I was peaceable; when I spoke to them they fought against me without cause." (Ps. 119:7). To this peace St. Paul exhorted the Romans, "As much as is in you, have peace with all men." (Rom. 12:18). Peace with ourselves is the tranquillity arising from a good conscience, and the harmony existing between the spirit and the flesh when the latter has been reduced to submission to the laws of reason. We will first consider the agitation and anxiety of the sinner, in order more keenly to appreciate the blessing of holy peace. The wicked hearken to the flesh, and, therefore, they are never free from the disturbance caused by the unceasing and insatiable demands of their passions. Deprived of God's grace which can alone check their unruly appetites, they are a prey to innumerable desires. Some hunger for honors, titles, and dignities, others long for riches, honorable alliances, amusements, or sensual pleasures. But none of them will ever be fully satisfied, for passion is as insatiable as the daughters of the horse-leech, which continually cry out for more and more. (Cf. Prov. 30:15). This leech is the gnawing desire of our hearts, and its daughters are necessity and concupiscence. The first is a real thirst, the second a fictitious thirst; but both are equally disturbing. Therefore, it is evident that without virtue man cannot know peace, either in poverty or riches; for in the former, necessity allows him no ease, and in the latter, sensuality is continually demanding more. What rest, what peace, can one enjoy in the midst of ceaseless cries which he cannot satisfy? Could a mother know peace surrounded by children asking for bread which she could not give them? This, then, is one of the greatest torments of the wicked. "They hunger and thirst," says the prophet, "and their souls faint within them." (Ps. 106:5). Having placed their happiness in earthly things, they hunger and thirst for them as the object of all their hope. The fulfillment of desire, says Solomon, is the tree of life. (Cf. Prov. 8:12). Consequently, there is nothing more torturing to the wicked than their unsatisfied desires. And the more their desires are thwarted, the stronger and more intense they become. Their lives, then, are passed in wretched anxiety, constant war raging within them. The prodigal is a forcible illustration of the unhappy lot of the wicked. Like him, they separate themselves from God and plunge into every vice. They abuse and squander all that God has given them. They go into a far country where famine rages; and what is this country but the world, so far removed from God, where men hunger with desires which can never be satisfied, where, like ravenous wolves, they are constantly seeking more? And how do such men understand the duties of life? They recognize no higher duty than that of feeding swine. To satisfy the animal within them, to feed their swinish appetites, is their only aim. If you would be convinced of this, study the life of a worldling. From morning until night, and from night until morning, what is the object of his pursuit? Is it not the gratification of some pleasure of sense, either of sight, of hearing, of taste, or of touch? Does he not act as if he were a follower of Epicurus and not a disciple of Christ? Does he seem to be conscious that he possesses any faculty but those which he has in common with the beasts? For what does he live but to enjoy the grossest pleasures of the flesh? What is the end of all his revels, his feasts, his balls, his gallantry, his luxurious couches, his enervating music, his degrading spectacles, but to afford new delights to the flesh? Give all this what name you will – fashion, refinement, elegance – in the language of God and the Gospel it is feeding swine. For as swine love to wallow in the mire, so these depraved hearts delight to wallow in the mire of sensual pleasures. But what is most deplorable in this condition is that a son of such noble origin, born to partake of the Bread of Angels at God's own table, would feed upon husks which cannot even satisfy his hunger. In truth, the world cannot gratify its votaries. They are so numerous that, like swine grunting and fighting for acorns at the foot of an oak, they quarrel and wrest from one another the pleasures and gratifications for which they hunger. This is the miserable condition which David described when he said, "They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water. They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted in them." (Ps. 106:4-5). A terrible characteristic of this hunger is that it is increased by the gratifications which are meant to appease it. The poisoned cup of this world kindles in the hearts of the wicked a fire to which pleasures only add renewed heat. Is it strange that they are consumed by a burning thirst? Unhappy man! Whence is it that you thirst so cruelly, if it be not that you "have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and sought broken cisterns which can hold no water"? (Jer. 2:13). You have mistaken the source of happiness. You wander in a wilderness, and, therefore, you faint with hunger and thirst.