Folly of Sinners
“For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.”
1 Corinthians 3:19
The Venerable John D’Avila [now St. John of Avila] would have divided the world into two prisons, one for the credulous, the other for the Christians who live in sin at a distance from God. The prison of the latter he would have called the prison of fools. But the greatest misery and misfortune is that the miserable men esteem themselves wise and prudent, though they are the most foolish and imprudent of mortals. And unfortunately they are exceedingly numerous. “The number of fools is infinite” (cf Ecclesiastes 1:15). Some are foolish through love of honors; some for the sake of pleasures; and others from attachment to the miserable goods of this earth. And great as their folly is, they have the temerity to call the saints fools, because they despise the goods of this life in order to gain eternal salvation and the possession of God, who is the true and supreme good. They deem it folly to embrace contempt, and to pardon injuries, folly to abstain from sensual pleasures, and practice mortification; folly to renounce honors and riches, to love solitude and a humble and hidden life. But they never reflect that the Lord has called their wisdom folly. “For,” says the apostle, “the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
Ah! They shall one day confess their folly; but when? When there shall be no remedy for it. They shall then say in despair, “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor” (Wisdom 5:4). Ah! Fools that we have been! We regarded the lives of the saints as folly; but now we know that we have been miserably foolish. “Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints” (Wisdom 5:5). Behold how they have obtained a place among the happy number of the children of God, and have secured their lot among the saints–an eternal lot, which shall make them happy for eternity and we are among the number of the slaves of the devil, condemned to burn in this pit of torments for all eternity. “Therefore we have erred,” thus they shall conclude their lamentation, “from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us” (Wisdom 5:6). Then we have erred by shutting our eyes to God’s light; and what renders our condition still more forlorn is, that for our error there is no remedy, and there shall be none as long as God shall be God.
How great, then, the folly of sinners, who, for a vile emolument, for a little smoke, for a transient delight lose the grace of God! What would not a vassal do in order to gain the favor of his sovereign! O God! For a miserable gratification, to lose God, the supreme good! To lose paradise! To forfeit peace in this life, by bringing in to the soul the monster sin which, by its remorses, shall torture her unceasingly! And to condemn yourself voluntarily to everlasting woe! Would you indulge in that forbidden pleasure if, in punishment, your hand was to be burnt? Or, if you were to be shut up for a year in a grave? Would you commit that sin if, after consenting to it, you should forfeit a hundred crowns? And still you believe and know that, in yielding to sin, you lose heaven and God, and that you are condemned to eternal fire; and after all you transgress the divine law.
Affections and Prayers
O God of my soul, what should be my lot at this moment, if thou hadst not shown me so many mercies? I should be in hell, among the number of the foolish, to which I have belonged. I thank thee, O my Lord, and I entreat thee not to abandon me in my blindness. I feel that thou tenderly callest and invitest me to ask pardon, and to hope for great graces from thee, after the great insults I have offered to thee. Yes, my Savior, I hope thou wilt admit me among thy children; I am not worthy to be called thy child, after having so often insulted thee to thy face. “Father, I am not worthy to be called thy child: I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.” But I know that thou goest in search of the strayed sheep, and that thou feelest consolation in embracing thy lost children. My dear Father, I am sorry for having offended thee. I cast myself at thy feet, and embrace them; I will not depart till thou pardon and bless me. “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:27). Bless me, O my Father, and let the fruit of thy benediction be, a great sorrow for my sins, and a great love for thee. I love thee, O my Father; I love thee with my whole heart. Do not permit me ever more to depart from thee. Deprive me of all, but do not strip me of thy love. O Mary, if God is my Father, thou art my mother. Do thou also bless me. I do not deserve to be thy son; accept me for thy servant; but make me a servant who will always love thee tenderly, and always confide in thy protection.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art for this post on the folly of sinners: The Good Shepherd (also know as The Lost Sheep), Alfred Usher Soord, 1900, Restored Traditions, used with permission.