In this Traditional Catholic Sermon we are exhorted that after confessing our sins with sorrow we must make firm resolutions to avoid the life of sin. It encourages frequent confession and communion to bring forth the fruit of repentance and points out the burden which those who have found their joy in evil have in preserving in a sinless life.
Catholic Homily for Advent: The Fruits of Penance. (Click on Link to Listen to Sermon)
“Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance.” — MATT. 3:8
St. John the Baptist in these words, my dear brethren, teaches us, as he taught those who came to him, that penance, if it be true and genuine, must bring forth its proper fruit. Every repentance, if it be sincere, every confession, if it be really good, must be followed by a good life. If any confession is not so followed, it must needs be a delusion ; though it should have been accompanied by torrents of tears, and the sins exposed as perfectly as God himself knows them.
And, moreover, the tree which brings forth the good fruit should continue to bear it ; it should not only for a few days or weeks give this proof that it is what it should be, and then have him who planted it come to seek fruit on it and find none.
Yet how often do we find sinners who come to confession with what would seem to be the best dispositions very soon back just where they were before! How discouraging it is to the priest to find the fruits of a mission which seemed to be so promising reduced down almost to nothing for so many who seemed to profit by it; to spend long hours, to wear away his strength, instructing, exhorting, and absolving, and to have so little return from his labor for God and for souls!
What is the reason of all this failure of what began so well? Of course it is partly that the tree planted by the grace of God in the Sacrament of Penance was not tended afterwards. Its life was not supplied to it, as it should have been, by the frequent renewal of confession and reception of Holy Communion. But there was a difficulty further back than that; a want of something at the start, which, indeed, was the reason that the sacraments were not regularly received. What was this difficulty? It was a want of a thorough earnestness; of an understanding of the greatness of the work that was undertaken, and of a real determination to sacrifice everything in order to accomplish it.
It is a great undertaking which one commits one’s self to in coming to reconcile himself with God after a sinful life. The task is not merely to examine his conscience, to tell his sins plainly and without concealment, and to feel heartily sorry for them; that is a great part of it, but by no means all. There is a great deal left, and that is to leave them for good; to quit company with them forever. And this is not such an easy matter. When, one has lived so that his whole pleasure has been in sin, in drunkenness and debauchery, in filthy conversation, in bad actions and bad thoughts, it will perhaps seem almost like giving up life itself to part with them. The penitent sinner has not all at once become an angel; his whole nature has been warped and twisted out of place by sin, and, though the guilt of the sin has gone, the effects are there; his soul, like a limb out of joint, has much to suffer before it can get set right again.
A man must make up his mind, when he comes to serve God after serving the devil, that he has got an uphill road to travel; if he does not, he will not persevere. Labor and suffering, self-denial and mortification, he has to face these manfully. His consolation, his happiness, as well as his strength, have got to come from God. If one understands this he will seek that happiness and that strength again where he first found it—in confession and Communion. But if he does not, if he thinks that all will go right now without any more trouble, his old nature and habits will claim their dues, and he will soon be back in his sins again.
Yes, we must cut right down to the root of sin if we wish to bring forth the fruits of penance, and must make up our minds to suffer the pain that this cutting will bring. Occasions of sin must be avoided, appetites must be denied, contempt and ridicule must be faced; we must pray, we must struggle, we must resist even to blood ; we must put our former life to death, that Christ may live in us. For, as St. Paul tells us: “If we be dead with him, we shall live also with him ; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” There is no other way.
Let us not shrink from this pain and this conflict ; that would be the greatest mistake of all. But let us understand it, that when the trial comes, as it surely will, it may not find us unprepared.
An Excerpt From :
Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. starts pg 41-43