Today is the Fourth Sunday after Easter.
by Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin.”–John 16
Today’s Gospel contains three reproofs by which, as Christ says, the Holy Ghost, whom He promises unto His Church, will convince the world of sin. We all know what Christ here designates by “the world.” He means the geat number of people, who indifferent alike to God and the state of the soul after death, do not think of any thing but to be happy with temporal happiness here below; He means those whose only desire is to possess, and to enjoy as much and as long as possible; He means those; who, like unbelievers, are indifferent to the truths of faith, or who, if they confess the faith with their lips, do not trouble themselves about its precepts, promises, and threats, and thus practically lead the life of infidels.
Let us consider the manner in which the Holy Christ convinces the world of sin, and how inexcusable a crime it is in worldlings not to shun sin, but to think only of satisfying their desires. O Mary, thou purest of the pure, pray for us that we may abhor sin as thou didst abhor it! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
“The Holy Ghost will convince the world of sin.” This protestation of Christ reminds us of another declaration made by Him, when in speaking of the hardened Jews, He said: ” If I had not come they would not have sin, but now they have: no excuse for their sin.” Yes, great and inexcusable is the sin of man who, gifted though he is with a rational soul, still prefers to walk the path of iniquity; for how abominable does not sin appear to man if he only looks at it in the light of reason!
The heathen already recognized the truth of this, for, as is well known, it was a doctrine of the philosophical sect of the Stoics, that sin was to be avoided for sin’s sake, on account of its inherent abomination, even if otherwise it could be committed with impunity. This will become clear to us according to St. Ignatius, if we think of sin personified; that is, if we imagine a man who in his words, thoughts, wishes, and actions is nothing but the expression of some or other vice. Personified in this way we see sin in its real aspect, in its native horror. I will give you an example: We pass a drug-store, and see in the show window bottles filled with liquids of different colors red, green, yellow. If, however, we take of this liquid but one drop, it will appear almost colorless; one sees the color only in concentration, when a large quantity is together.
Thus also in regard to sin. Men may be: proud, miserly, envious, intemperate, idle, unchaste, and still we frequently perceive nothing of it in our daily intercourse with them. They do not always show their true disposition. On the contrary, they often seem free from all vice, and devoted to the pursuit of virtue. How horrible would that man appear whose entire being expressed nothing but idleness, pride, avarice, anger, envy, intemperance, or impurity! Further, as far as the consequences of sin are concerned, the experience of all past centuries has shown how terrible they are for men in particular and in general.
Holy Writ says very justly: “It is sin that causes the misfortunes of nations.” What has caused all the wars that have raged to the horror and unhappiness of nations? Generally, overbearing pride, covetousness, or injustice. And what is the cause of the unhappiness of the people even in times of peace? I say it is the oppression of the poor, the want of brotherly love, and the corrupting influence which sin and vice exercise upon social life.
How happily would men live if in true charity they loved one another as they love themselves, and hence were always ready to assist one another. Were this the case, Paradise would seem to have returned to earth. It is sin also that undermines the happiness of families. If there were no unkindness, no anger, no intemperance, no other vices, how happily families would live! The same may be said in regard to every man taken singly.
What is the source and cause of the discontent of many a man, who has in a worldly way amply provided for his well-being? I answer: It is his uneasy conscience, the remorse that will not let him forget. It is sin that so often embitters life, and drives many a wretched soul, though surrounded by riches, to commit suicide.
Is not the Holy Ghost right to convince the world of sin? But how much more justly since the coming of Christ will He convince the world of sin, and reprove and judge it. As far as the sin of unbelief in general is concerned, how inexcusable is the state of the world! And of this sin man was and is still today guilty; for Christ is not yet recognized as God and Redeemer over the entire earth, and all human souls have not yet joined His holy Church!
Further, the sin of the Jews is unpardonable, in not having believed in Christ, and in not believing in Him now, though they witnessed all the miracles He performed, and still have in their hands the prophecies which were fulfilled in Him. Not less inexcusable are the heathens for not recognizing Christ after the Apostles had preached the Gospel over the whole earth, confirming their word with so many signs and miracles. If, as St. Paul said, the heathens seeing God so unmistakably manifested in the marvels of creation were culpable in not recognizing Him, how much more to be blamed are they in not recognizing Christ as God and Redeemer, since the marvels of the Gospel are not inferior to those of nature!
But they, also, who, though recognizing Christ as God and Redeemer, yet do not look upon His Church as the one true, the one saving Church, and so live separated from her, they, also, are not less inexcusable; and by their obstinacy and willful blindness, well deserve the menace of the Holy Ghost: “He will convince the world of sin.” Finally, they are especially concerned, who, though they profess with their lips the true faith, and are children of the Church, yet live like heathens! How justly the Holy Ghost reproaches them for their sin, and with them the whole world buried, as it is, in the depths of sin!
How frightful, how horrible sin appears when we consider that God Himself became man, that through His infinite merit He might reconcile us to His Father! If we further consider what Christ taught, that men might learn to know God in His entire perfection and goodness; the example of virtue that Christ gave to the world, and the ingratitude with which He was repaid, if we consider how terrible, according to the teachings of revelation are for all eternity, the consequences to those who die in sin; full well we see that the Holy Ghost has only too much reason to convince the world of sin, especially in regard to those sins committed by children of His holy Church, who often sin more, and lead more shameful lives than Jews, Turks, or the heathens.
How many graces has not God given to the children of His Church to keep them free from sin, and to raise them when they are fallen! Add to this all that God has done in order to save each one individually. Yes, yes, the Holy Ghost gave unto us the children of His Church, to recognize by the light of faith the horror and abomination of sin, and He has the right to reprove men, and especially the children of the Church, because of their sins; for though they belong to the true Church, yet year after year they are adding sin upon sin!
Were they to see, as they ought, the entire wickedness and evil, the ingratitude of sin as the Holy Ghost shows it to them by the light of faith, they would understand how St. Catharine of Sienna could declare herself ready rather to be buried in the abyss of hell than to offend God by a single sin. They would if they had had the misfortune to be overcome by temptation, hasten, filled with terror and remorse, to cast off the yoke of sin, to be reconciled in truth with God, and to become a living temple of the Holy Ghost for time and eternity! Amen! (1)
Fourth Sunday After Easter
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900
Gospel. John xvi. 5-14. At that time Jesus said to his disciples: I go to Him that sent Me; and none of you asketh Me: Whither goest Thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you: but if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment; of sin: because they believed not in Me. And of justice: because I go to the Father: and you shall see Me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he the Spirit of truth is come, He will teach you all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself: but what things soever He shall hear, He shall speak, and the things that are to come He shall show you. He shall glorify Me: because he shall receive of Mine, and shall show it to you.
The disciples are to be pitied for the desolation they felt at the approaching separation from their good Master. He tells them that now He is about to leave the world to go to heaven, there to be united to His heavenly Father. It was a sad thought. They would no longer hear His words; they would no more see His benign countenance. His sacred personality, which went about doing good to all, healing the sick, curing the lame, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead to life, would no longer be of this earth. Had the disciples been more perfect they would not have suffered so much, still their attachment was a sign of their love for Jesus. He did not rebuke this holy affection; on the contrary He left it in their hearts, only calming their fears for the future by holy promises.
My dear young people, do not give way to fretful brooding and moroseness if you have to endure sorrow. You ought to be happy and cheerful in the Lord, keeping yourselves free from sin. You have often been told that sin is the greatest misfortune in the world, and that this should be the only thing to make us sad. Be cheerful then; this is the lesson I wish to inculcate, the lesson which I have drawn from this day’s Gospel.
Ecclesiasticus wishes us always to chase sadness from our heart. St. Anthony, the abbot, used to tell his disciples that the strongest arm to conquer the enemy was cheerfulness of mind and heart which has God always before our eyes. With this light of God’s presence, the shadows of sorrow, of trouble and misfortune disappear. St. Francis of Sales, whom they call the sensible and rational saint, tells us that, after sin, there is nothing does more harm to the soul than melancholy, and that we ought to banish it with all our might. St. Philip Neri wanted young people especially to be happy. Young people can always be happy because their bodies are sprightly and full of life, while old people are frequently sad from care and many other reasons. Young people should be encouraged to love life in all its activity and enjoyment, and it is sad indeed to see them morose or overwhelmed with care.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Stanislaus Kostka were happy, but at the same time greatly mortified; they were never melancholy or morose, they did not avoid the company of their companions; on the contrary, their manner made all about them feel a holy joy; their companions did not avoid them, they were favorites. The saints all were happy and contented, they were unhappy only when they saw sin. When they thought that they could not prevent the loss of so many souls to God, they lamented and wept. I wish you to reflect well on this day’s lesson: never be sullen and disagreeable in company, as there is no reason for it, unless you are of a whimsical mind; correct it as soon as possible. A youth who is good and pious, but holds himself apart, and likes to pray and read pious books out of the proper time, does wrong; he may go to the sacraments, but the joyous laugh of youth is no longer heard, the light foot and the agile form is gone; he likes to walk with old men and become as slow as they. All this is not as it ought to be. Young people ought to be happy among themselves, for if the young see one who is pious and at the same time morose, they think moroseness a necessary consequence of piety, and they hate piety and goodness. My good young people, always show yourselves happy and you will do good. The young man who has true piety is always cheerful and happy, and never seems to have the blues; he does what is right.
There is no doubt that a pious life naturally leads to cheerfulness, and this latter attracts the careless; nothing looks so dark and severe as a holy life. “Serve the Lord in joy.” Then may discontent, unhappiness, and sorrow be lodged in the hearts of the wicked as a punishment for their sins, and may happiness be in the hearts of the good.
The disciples were silent at the announcement made by Our Lord. He said to them, ” None asks Me, ‘Whither goest Thou?'” We, my dear children, know where Our Lord has gone. He has gone to heaven. But we should ask ourselves, “Are we following the divine Redeemer in that way which leads to paradise?” Tell me, do all young people walk in the path that leads there? My heart grows sad when I think that so many do not follow in the footsteps of Our Lord, but from earliest childhood fall into ways that will surely lead them to hell. The prayers and advice of their parents avail nothing: they are obstinate and go on in their sins. Better than any advice is good example. Let the light of your good works so shine among your companions that they may see it and follow it; pray to Mary that your example may be effective in leading others to God.
Then Our Lord told His disciples that it was expedient He should go, and that unless He went, the Paraclete would not come to them. What great love Our Lord had for His Church and for His disciples! For when the Spirit shall come, “He will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment.” St. Thomas says he will convince the world of sin, which they must avoid, of justice which they must adopt, of judgment which they must fear continually. Understand, my dear young people, that the only evil which you ought to avoid is sin: understand that you must embrace justice, for it is the scrupulous observance of the law of God. You must fear the judgment of God, and not the decisions of men: you ought, therefore, keep in mind that dreadful day when you and all the world will have to appear before God’s throne, there to receive the sentence of approval or condemnation from the mouth of God Himself. On that day you will have to appear before the whole world and make a public confession; there will be no support from friends, parents, or relations; we will have no advocate.
Our Lord tells His disciples that He has still many things to tell them, but that they are not now in a condition to understand them, until the Spirit of truth shall come to enlighten them. My dear young people, what light would the Lord infuse into our minds, what inspirations into our hearts, if we were only in a state to receive them and make use of them. Why live so distracted, with your heart so attached to the things of this world, your mind and thoughts so continually on the pleasures of the world that you neglect the performance of your duties? Why do you chase away the salutary thoughts of eternity, avoiding them as if they were something sad which disturbs you? By such carelessness we render ourselves very unworthy of heavenly favors. Stop it now, once for all, and place no obstacle to the blessings and graces with which Jesus wishes to favor us. By a really fervent life, merit that God may notice you at all times, and give you new graces, and that the Holy Ghost will illumine more and more your mind and heart.
We can learn from the life of St. Catherine of Genoa to correspond to the grace of Our Lord. From her very youth she was always ready to obey the inspirations of God. When she was young, it is true, she sometimes became cold in the service of Our Lord, but no sooner did she hear the voice of conscience stirred in her by God than she turned to her calling and labored more faithfully. She used to say, “Lord, no more world, no more sins.” She had many visions of Our Lord, who came to her instructing and consoling her according to the needs of her soul. Once He appeared to her, inviting her to make with Him a fast of forty days, not touching a thing all that time beside the heavenly bread which she received every day in holy communion. She obeyed with joy, but became so sick that it was thought she was dying. The Blessed Sacrament was carried to her room, and on the third day she was perfectly cured. She had not given much time to study in her youth, but by the help of God she wrote books which, at the present day, astonish the learned and those skilled in spirituality. In short, she corresponded perfectly to the will of God, and thus became a saint. (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff
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