ON THE GREAT ADVANTAGES OF THE GRACE OF GOD,
AND THE GREAT EVIL OF BEINGIN ENMITY WITH GOD
“Man knoweth not the price thereof.”
“If,” says the Lord, “you separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth” (cf Jeremiah 15:19). They who know how to distinguish what is precious from what is vile, are like God, “who knows how to refuse the evil and to choose the good.” Let us examine how great a good it is to be in the grace of God, and how great an evil to be in enmity with God. Men do not understand the value of divine grace. “Man knoweth not the price thereof.” Hence they exchange it for vanity, for a little earth, or for a beastly pleasure; but it is an infinite treasure, which makes us worthy of the friendship of God. “For,” says the wise man, “she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use, become the friends of God” (Wisdom 7:14). Hence, a soul in grace is the friend of God. The Gentiles, who were deprived of the light of faith, considered it impossible for a creature to attain to the friendship of God; and they who were guided only by the light of nature could scarcely think otherwise; for, as St. Jerome says, friendship makes friends equal: Amicitia pares aut accipit, aut facit. But God has declared in several places in the holy Scriptures, that by means of this grace we become his friends if we observe his law. “You are my friends if you do the things which I command. I will not now call you servants…but I have called you friends” (John 15:14-15). Hence St. Gregory exclaims, O goodness of God! We do not deserve to be called even servants, and he condescends to call us friends. “Omira divinae bonitatis dignatio! Servi non sumus digni nominari, et amici vocamur.”
How fortunate would the man esteem himself, who should have the king for his friend! In a vassal it would be temerity to presume to seek the friendship of his sovereign; but it is not temerity in a soul to aspire to the friendship of her God. St. Augustine relates that two courtiers entered into a monastery of hermits, and that one of them began to read the Life of St. Antony the Abbot. “He read, and in reading his heart became gradually divested of worldly affections.” Turning to his companion, he said “What do we seek? We can hope for nothing more than the friendship of the emperor. And through how many perils do we reach this greater danger? And how long shall this last?” Friend, fools that we are, what do we seek? The most we can expect to gain in the service of the emperor is to become his friends; and should we succeed in gaining his friendship, we shall expose our eternal salvation to greater risk. It is with difficulty we can ever become the friends of Caesar; “but, if I wish, I am this moment the friend of God.”
Whosoever, then, is in the state of grace is the friend of God. He also becomes the son of God; “You are gods, and the sons of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6). This is the great gift which we have received from the divine love through Jesus Christ. “Behold,” says St. John, “what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). Moreover, the soul in the state of grace is the spouse of God. “I will espouse thee to me in faith” (cf Hosea 2:21). Hence the father of the prodigal, when his son returned, ordered a ring to be put on his finger, in token of his espousal. Lastly, the soul becomes the temple of the Holy Ghost. Sister Mary d’Ognes saw a devil go out from an infant who received baptism, and the Holy Ghost enter with a crowd of angels.
Affections and Prayers
Then, my God, when my soul had the happiness of being in thy grace, it was thy friend, thy child, thy spouse, and thy temple; but, by committing sin, it lost all, and became thy enemy and the slave of hell. But I thank thee, O my God, for giving me time to recover thy grace. I am sorry above all things for having offended thee, O infinite Goodness, and I love thee above all things. Ah! Receive me again into thy friendship. For thy mercy’s sake do not reject me. I know that I deserve to be banished from thy face; but, by the sacrifice which he offered on Calvary, Jesus Christ has merited for me mercy and pardon. Thy kingdom come. My Father (it is thus thy Son has taught me to call thee)–my Father, come with thy grace to reign in my heart; grant that I may serve thee alone, that I may live for thee alone, and that I may love thee alone. And lead us not into temptation. Ah! Do not permit my enemies to tempt me, so that I may be conquered. But deliver us from evil. Deliver me from hell; but deliver me first from sin, which alone can lead me to hell. O Mary, pray for me, and preserve me from the great misfortune of ever seeing myself in sin and deprived of the grace of thine and my God.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: The Baptism, Pietro Longhi, 1755, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.