BRANCHES OF THE VINE
No one likes to be burdened with debts. He who does not care to pay his bills is considered an undesirable member of the community. After meeting all his just obligations squarely, every man is desirous of bettering his condition in life, is bent on acquiring a home and laying aside a competency for the future. This is the rule of every-day life. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Coming from the confessional, where the guilt of sin has been taken from you and the eternal punishment forgiven, and feeling that peace and happiness which the world cannot give, has it ever occurred to you that you are still in debt? Unless the penitent elicits an act of contrition sincere and intense enough to equal the malice of his sin, the obligation of satisfying divine justice by some temporal punishment, to be under gone in this life or in the next, generally remains. The small penance imposed and faithfully performed is usually not sufficient to discharge this debt, which goes on increasing from confession to confession, from year to year.
Adam obtained forgiveness for his sin, but what punishment did it not entail upon him and his posterity, even after he had confessed to God and expiated it by tears of real contrition! Moses, who received the Ten Commandments from God and was so zealous in inculcating their observance, whose holiness shone from his countenance and struck terror into the hearts of the Israelites, was refused entrance into the promised land because of his mistrust in God. We all are on our way to the Promised Land of heaven; are we not concerned about the mountains of temporal punishments which our sins are heaping in our way?
At the very time David was assured of pardon for his sin, he was also reminded that he would yet have to endure a heavy punishment for that sin.
The penitential discipline, or the ancient practice of canonical penance in the Church, imitating the example of St. Paul, is ample proof of the truth which St. Augustine expresses in these words: Thou leavest not unchastised, O Lord, the sins of even those whom Thou hast pardoned. The very admission to canonical penance in the early Church was considered already a great benefit. Sin, wrote St. Ambrose to the Emperor Theodosius the Great, after the massacre of Thessalonica, is effaced only by tears; no angel, no archangel can remit it on any other condition. The Lord Himself forgives only those who do penance. I advise, entreat, warn thee to submit to it. St. Cyprian, speaking of the lapsed who had come to their last moments without having ended their penance, expresses full confidence that, owing to the martyr s intercession, after having received the imposition of hands unto penance, they will go immediately to God in peace. That peace, he adds, which the martyrs, by their letters, told us that they desired to have granted to them.
How shall I pay this enormous debt, how shall I atone for these numberless offenses? Expiate them I must, either in this world or in the next.
How many, on entering Purgatory, be hold their sins yet to be expiated like a huge mountain which must be consumed by a slow fire. It is indeed terrible to fall into the hands of the living God. And yet there is none that doth penance for his sin, saying: What have I done?(Jer. VIII, 6).
The Church teaches us an expiatory and indulgenced prayer which we should say every day:
Eternal Father! I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, in satisfaction for my sins and for the wants of Holy Church.
For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption, that is in Jesus, whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to the showing of his justice, for the remission of former sins(Rom. Ill, 23-25).