Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Christians and Reparation
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The obligation of perfecting or filling up the mission of Christ, and consequently His Passion, falls more especially upon those who are called by God to consecrate their lives to Him, but we cannot draw the conclusion that the ordinary Christian has no part in this noble work. On the contrary, each of the faithful both can and ought to assist and, in the measure of his generosity, enter the ranks of those consecrated to Reparation.
The first reason for this, and one which should appeal even to tepid Christians, is their own personal interest. We all know the laws of Divine justice. We know that as surely as God exists and cannot cease to exist, so surely crime will not ultimately triumph, but, sooner or later, sin will meet with its due punishment. God punishes sin sometimes upon this earth, but not often. He mercifully delays avenging sin in this world. After all, if man persists in his evil-doing, God can satisfy His justice in eternity. But peoples and nations, as such, have but a terrestrial existence and consequently must pay the penalty of their evil deeds in this world. Their punishment here in some form or other is inevitable. This truth is strikingly exemplified in the history of the Old Covenant. Listen to the words of “God ” addressed to the per verse Hebrews by the prophet Jeremias:
“The Lord said to me: Behold I will call together all the families of the north . . . and they shall come, and shall set every one his throne in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem and upon all the walls round about and upon all the cities of Juda. And I will pronounce My judgments against them, touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken Me . . . and have adored the work of their own hands ” (i. 15).
Farther on we read: ” Behold I will bring upon you a nation from afar … a strong nation . . . whose language thou shalt not know, nor understand what they say. Their quiver is as an open sepulchre : they are all valiant. And they shall eat up thy corn and thy bread: they shall devour thy sons and thy daughters : they shall eat up thy flocks and thy herds : they shall eat thy vineyards and thy figs. With the sword they shall destroy thy strong cities, wherein thou trustest ” (v. 15).
Note that God often makes use of a wicked nation as we learn from the history of the Israelites to give a salutary admonition or fulfil a glorious mission. Nor need we confine ourselves to past history; the present age provides us with striking parallels.
Undoubtedly, we cannot apply this law to any one particular case : we cannot assert as a positive fact that Napoleon s exile and death in St. Helena was the expiation of his deeds at Savona and Fontainebleau, because the general law is one thing and its particular application another; and this general law is as follows : All crime must be avenged and God necessarily must triumph ultimately.
It is possible, looking at the Great War from one point of view, to assert without committing ourselves to any paradox that it was an act of mercy on God s part. On the other hand, it better fits in with the facts to look upon it as a punishment from God, as an act of Divine justice. But men, blinded by pride, refuse to admit this explanation.
A soldier wrote as follows: ” On all sides, agricultural implements, pierced with bullets, lie rusting on the ground. Tombs with their crosses are seen everywhere, in the middle of farm-yards, in clumps of bushes, under trees. Tell me, is it not terrible to look upon this vengeance of the Cross? When shall we understand it?”
All who have gazed upon the innumerable cemeteries and thousands of tombs on the battlefields have felt this truth come home to them : ” Men had banished the cross from their public monuments, their Courts of Justice, their schools and highways. Yet behold, the simple wooden cross is seen on all sides in the woods, along our highways, even in the midst of our gardens.”
What were men so eagerly seeking formerly? What, alas! are they still too often seeking? Pleasure and enjoyment. Even in so many so- called Christian families, what licence is tolerated! What contempt there is for the most stringent laws of God touching the sanctity of wedlock, the observance of the Sabbath and due respect for the good of our neighbors. All modern life is planned out with the view of escaping from suffering and from the inconvenience of complying with the binding precepts of God and of the Church. Meanwhile, suffering bides its time, it prepares its revenge.
What remains of so many human joys, happy homes and fair fortunes built up with such labour and trouble Can we remain untouched by the sad vistas that open out and the inevitable sorrows that are foreshadowed? Can we do nothing to remedy this? Yes, we can do a great deal.
St. Joan of Arc s words express a constant truth: “The hands that grasp the pike gain fewer battles than the hands lifted up in prayer.” Agitation prevails everywhere. Even more than in the past, the world has need of souls who are ready to ward off God s anger. Uneasiness and wild rumours predominate, convulsions rumble in the distance.
Would that we knew to what an extent we have it in our power to bring the Divine action into the sphere of our human history! For this, it is not necessary to give up natural means; we have to use them, but we must teach Christians even those who have little faith in supernatural helps that these play their part in modifying the course of human events.
He is powerful who acts upon the First Cause of all that is. Now the First Cause of all, in this world s history, cannot be nothing.
When St. Louis was setting forth on his crusade a violent storm arose. The saintly king knelt for some time in prayer, then rising calmly, he assured his companions that the flotilla would make the voyage in safety. ” How do you know that ?” they asked. ” Because,” replied the king, ” my monks of Clairvaux are praying and doing penance, so all will be well with us.”
A few years ago someone asked one of the bishops of China which was the best means of obtaining the conversion of that immense Empire. ” We must have some more Carmelites and some Trappists,” replied the bishop.
Such means might seem totally inadequate for the required purpose, but we cannot go against the truth. What then is the truth ? Well, think what ruins souls Sin. What saves nations? Holiness, and the two essential elements of holiness are prayer and penance.
From this follow two conclusions. First, we have to ask ourselves whether in our own lives in any degree, however small, we have ever contributed to bring about the state of things which we deplore so much. In certain Eastern countries, when a man has been murdered, the corpse is placed in some public place, and each citizen has to come forward in turn and, placing his hand upon the dead body, swear that he is innocent of the crime.
In presence of our country in such dire distress, we must not imitate Pilate and declare, as he did when judging our Lord, that we are in no way to blame for these evils. Can we say how far the effect of our sins may have reached ? Had there been more just men in Sodom and Gomorrah, these two cities would not have perished by fire.
Let us keep from sin. ” What overturns nations? Sin.” It is the sins of individuals which draw down misfortunes upon the people, far oftener than we imagine.
Great Calamities can come from a Single Mortal Sin!
One single mortal sin in itself is sufficient to cause God to send some great calamity upon the earth. Very few understand this, and yet it must be said. For what is mortal sin? It consists in deliberately putting a creature in place of God, in ignoring Him, in desiring to do away with Him were such a thing possible.
Now of itself the annihilation of all that is finite could never make adequate reparation for an insult offered to the Infinite Being. These are the exact data of the problem, and whatever decisions men promulgate or accusations of cruelty they bring against God, the problem remains as before.
How many useful lessons we might learn even in our generation from the history of the chosen people of God, if indeed the men of our age could still take any interest in the subject. Take the subjoined example: When the army of Israel marched against Jericho, one of the soldiers was guilty of a great fault. God had said all the booty was to be reserved for ” the treasury of the Lord ” i.e.^ for sacred purposes. Disobeying this command, Achan, an Israelite, took from the spoils ” a scarlet garment, exceeding good, two hundred sides of silver and a golden rule of fifty sides . . . and hid them in the ground” (Josh. vii. 21). The army of Israel were defeated. Someone had disobeyed the Lord. The Lord of hosts left Israel to himself. The transgressor had to confess his sin and expiate it. ” Then,” said the Lord to the Israelites, ” ye have won the day ” not, ye shall win, but, ” now ye have won the day.” And in fact the Israelites then and there destroyed their foes.
Thank God, however, that under the New Law He does not often punish the masses for the crimes of individual persons. But, nevertheless, God can do so if He wills and in so doing He
acts with perfect justice, since all the temporal punishments collectively cannot compensate for one mortal sin seeing that there cannot be any approximation between the finite and the Infinite. Yet God, in His mercy, permits that sufferings inflicted by Him or voluntarily self-imposed by the Christian shall have the power of expiating faults. As our Lord said to St. Margaret Mary: “One just soul can obtain the pardon of a thousand sinners.” In this way, without infringing on the rights of justice, God is able to exercise His mercy super abundantly. He frequently asks us to co-operate with Him to our utmost, so as to provide opportunities for Him to show His infinite mercy.
Our duty, then, is clearly marked out. We must not be scandalized, perhaps to the point of blasphemy, by occurrences that upset or distress us, as if we were amongst the pagans of today; we must not imitate the pharisaically faultless and self-righteous critics around us, who reject every explanation of historical events that accepts the principle of expiation. On the contrary, we must realize what sin really means and, in future, avoid it as the greatest evil whether for individuals or nations. It does not, of course, follow that given two nations, the most prosperous is necessarily the most holy, but the truth remains that theoretically if not always practically a mortal sin can bring the greatest calamity upon the world and, if we have any care for the well- being of society, our first duty is to lead a good life and avoid those deeds which God, in His justice, cannot do otherwise than punish.
We should do well to meditate on what Newman writes on this question; in the light of what we have just said, there is no fear of our mistaking his meaning:
“Let us not conclude that God makes use of other punishments to-day (than of old) because we do not see His direct action. The principal difference between the punishments inflicted by God on the Israelites and on Christians, is that the former were visible, the latter invisible that is, we do not perceive these evils to-day as the chastisements of God, because God Himself or His chosen prophets no longer tell us this explicitly; but the effects of God s anger are no less real, and are even more terrible, seeing that they are proportioned to the greatness of the privileges which we have abused.”
The task set before all Christians is not, however, purely negative. Each one, who desires to remedy or prevent sin, must place some counterpoise in the scale of God s justice. Alas, how many sins are committed in our land! For these, we must offer an ample measure of fidelity to prayer, acceptation of suffering and progress in holiness. Hence every Christian should make Reparation, from a motive of self- interest. If he evades this obligation, the whole Christian body, all civilized society, an entire nation, may have to expiate his want of foresight or sinful indifference.
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This work is an abrigement of a Chapter from the book The Ideal of Reparation by Father Raoul Plus SJ or more details on how this work was abriged please visit the Audiobook page
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