Sermon: Trinity Sunday RCL C


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The signs most of us are accustomed to are the ones that are printed. Examples of some original signs:

  • Along a windy mountain road: “Speed Limit Enforced by Sniper.”
  • Wood County West Virginia: “Our citizens have concealed weapons. If you kill someone, we will kill you back. We have ‘0’ jails and 513 cemeteries. Enjoy your stay.”
  • At a pub: “We have beers as cold as your ex’s heart.”
  • A library parking lot: “Library parking only: Violators will be held in low esteem.”
  • “Beware of Dog” and in smaller print, “The cat is also shady.”
  • “There are two rules for success: 1) Never reveal all you know. 2) …….
  • And one of my favorites: “Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you’re giving blood.”

There are other kinds of signs and perhaps one of the most popular is a sign from God. For example, there is the fella that was trying to lose some weight, so vowed to God not to stop at the donut shop unless there was a free parking spot directly in front. Some days that worked out really well, but most days he had to drive around the block at least five times. And still, there are others that look for more significant signs from God.

During the summer of 1944 the crematoriums were working a record pace at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz. The air was constantly filled with smoke and ash of the thousands that were being murdered. In May of that year, Elaine Seidenfeld arrived at the camp and immediately learned of the realities and hardness of life there.

Stepping upon the platform from the train, she and her husband were separated, she was stripped and her hair was shaved, all the normal treatment of the Nazis was efficiently administered. She was then sent to a barrack where she found room to sleep on the third tier of a bunk squeezed in with twelve other women. One of those women, pointing in the direction of the crematoriums said, “Today it is them, tomorrow it will be us.” However, Elaine protested, “Not I. I will survive. I want to live and find my husband.” The old timers scoffed and said she didn’t know what she was talking about. They told her that one day, she also would be selected to die.

During May through August of that summer, many were selected, but she was not, however, in late August she heard her name called and knew it was her time. So along with 3,000 other women, she was marched to the showers, told to undress, and enter. They did, but instead of gas coming out of the showers, it was water. They were showered and then told to dress again and then ushered to the train station once more.

Upon arrival, they were forced into the cattle cars—150 women per car. Elaine had hoped to get close to the wall so she could possibly look out, but there was no way, there were no windows, and even if there had been, they were packed so closely that they were all like vertical boards, unable to move. Throughout the entire ordeal Elaine never stopped repeating to herself, “I want to live.. I want to live.”

Finally, stuck in the middle of that dark cattle car, she prayed, “My God, I want to live. If only I could find some promising sign. Something I could believe in. Something. Anything. Something that will indicate that I will live.”

As the train began to move, it jolted, and a small crack appeared between two wall boards of the cars. Elaine was amazed, and as they traveled, she began to see the blue sky, and suddenly, in the middle of the blue sky was a straight pure-white line. She was overjoyed. In her heart, she knew this was her sign. It was God. She declared, “O God, you have given Noah a rainbow and me this white line in heaven. I too will survive this deluge of blood, for this is a sign from heaven that you have inscribed my name in your Book of Life.” And she did. She survived many other trials before she was liberated, but with each trial, in her mind, she saw that pure white line, and she knew that God was with her and that she would survive. Following the war, unlike millions of others, she was reunited with her husband and her family.

An interviewer would later ask what she thought that white line was. Elaine’s response, “Does it really matter? It could have been nothing more than fumes from a passing airplane, but whatever it was it was my sign from heaven.”

For Elaine Seidenfeld, a little white line in the sky on a blue day was not only a sign, it was God. God in all of his fullness, glory, faithfulness, and power.

A shorter story: Little Johnny and a group of his friends go on their first camping trip. They find a spot deep in the woods to set up camp, they eat the sandwiches their mom’s have prepared and as it gets dark, they spend their time telling ghost stories trying to scare one another. As their campfire dims, one by one they begin to fall asleep. Johnny is the last boy awake and is still a bit too nervous to close his eyes, so in the now pitch black night, he stares up at the sky and the millions of stars. While taking in the vastness of it all, he has a rather philosophical moment, which is quite rare for most young boys, but in that instant, he understands that he is not the center of the world. In the stars and the in the spaces between the stars and even beyond the stars, in all that there is, for the first time, Johnny sees God

Along with his buddies, he had always understood that he had to behave because God was watching his every move, but now, just as Elaine Seidenfeld saw God in all of his fullness, glory, faithfulness and power in that little white line in a blue sky, Johnny also sees God in all of his fullness, glory, faithfulness, and power in the vastness of creation itself.

Of these two experiences, which best expresses that fullness, glory, faithfulness, and power of God? The answer is both. Throughout history, the Lord has always made himself known in the way that he knows we can see him.

We are told that during the Exodus, the Lord went before the Israelites by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day and night.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego—also known as My-shack, Yo-shack, and Abungalow—were thrown into the furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. The canticle we read today in place of the Psalm, was their song while in the furnace. However, as King Nebuchadnezzar watched them—not burning—he was astonished, rose in haste, and called out to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Then Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The three walked around in the burning furnace and with them was God.

Which of these experiences expresses the fullness, glory, faithfulness and power of God? Was it the pillar of fire or the fourth figure in the burning furnace? Again, it is both.

From a white line in a blue sky to a pillar of fire to the stars at night to a fourth figure dancing in the fire, God makes himself known in them all.

Today is Trinity Sunday. That day when we celebrate oneness of the Triune God. Mother Janie and I were discussing this and I’m pretty sure she has had to preach this sermon every year that I’ve been here—perhaps my subconscious way of not committing heresy. However, as I was thinking on this, we really cannot explain the Trinity of God with words—at least I can’t. We can only understand the Trinity in our experience of God. In the encounter.

My prayer for you is that you will encounter God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and like so many others before us, know the same fullness, glory, faithfulness, and power of of the Triune God. When you do, may it bring you to your knees in worship and praise.

Let us pray:
Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created us,
making us in the image and likeness of God.

Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered us from hell,
and opened for us the gates of heaven.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified us in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify us
by the graces we receive daily from His bounty.

Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity, now and forever.

Amen.

Sermon: G.K. Chesterton

The podcast is available here.



He wrote an essay that was published in London’s Illustrated News which inspired Mahatma Gandhi to transform all of India.  His writings on the Christian faith were instrumental in the conversion of C.S. Lewis.  George Orwell wrote the dystopian novel 1984, but the use of that year was inspired by the author of our saint for the day, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, more commonly referred to as G.K. Chesterton.  

Chesterton wrote more than 80 books, contributed to hundreds more, he was a poet, novelist, essayist (having written over 4,000) and at his death, Pope Pius XI declared him a Defender of the Faith (although he did not convert to Catholicism until the end of his life, having been raised in the Church of England.).

He was a big man: six foot, four inches tall and some reports have him weighing in at nearly 400 pounds.  He once said to his friend George Bernard Shaw, “To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.” Shaw retorted, “To look at you, anyone would think you had caused it.”  It is no wonder that he died early, at the age of 62, in 1936 and it was T.S. Eliot who wrote his obituary and remarked, Chesterton “did more than any man in his time … to maintain the existence of the [Christian] minority in the modern world.”

It seems what made him so influential wasn’t necessarily the volume of writing he put out, but the common sense of it all.  A few examples: 

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

“Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.”

“Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.”

And one I hope to be able to work into a conversation some day: “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.”

From our Gospel: Philip brought Nathanael to see Jesus.  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  When Jesus saw G.K. Chesterton walking toward him, Jesus said, “Here is an Englishman in whom there is no deceit!”

My friend Stephen King gives advice to writers: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”  “…throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket.”  I can say to you, ‘The Rosa hybrida is Japanese carmine,’ and most folks wouldn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about, or I could say to you ‘The rose is red,’ and everyone understands.  Chesterton’s gift was that he spoke plainly with a great deal of common sense.  We can learn to speak in a similar manner, plainly and truthfully, so that we can come into a deeper understanding of one another.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 15

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HOW ONE SHOULD FEEL AND SPEAK ON EVERY DESIRABLE THING 

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

MY CHILD, this is the way you must speak on every occasion: “Lord, if it be pleasing to You, so be it. If it be to Your honor, Lord, be it done in Your name. Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of my soul, then take this desire away from me.”

Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.

Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: “Lord, You know what is better for me; let this be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You — would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!”

A PRAYER THAT THE WILL OF GOD BE DONE

Grant me Your grace, O most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and work with me, and remain with me to the very end. Grant that I may always desire and will that which is most acceptable and pleasing to You. Let Your will be mine. Let my will always follow Yours and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Yours in willing and in not willing, and let me be unable to will or not will anything but what You will or do not will. Grant that I may die to all things in this world, and for Your sake love to be despised and unknown in this life. Give me above all desires the desire to rest in You, and in You let my heart have peace. You are true peace of heart. You alone are its rest. Without You all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, the selfsame that is in You, the Most High, the everlasting Good, I will sleep and take my rest. Amen.

Sermon: Pentecost RCL C

The podcast is available here.


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A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement, the lawyer, knowing his client probably would be convicted, resorted to a trick.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch.

“Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.” He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened.

Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement; but you all looked on with anticipation. Therefore, I put to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.”

The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.

“But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door.”

The jury foreman replied, “Oh, we looked, but your client didn’t.”

Mark Galli is the Editor in Chief for the magazine Christianity Today and has recently been writing a series under the heading the “Elusive Presence.” It is actually some of the best writing I’ve read on the state of the church in quite some time. Perhaps what makes it so good is the fact that he is so desperately honest about himself. For example, here he is, the Editor in Chief of one of the largest Christian magazines, but he writes about his own crisis of faith: “It occurred to me that I didn’t feel any love for God. I also realized that even though I prayed and read Scripture regularly, not much in my life would be different if I didn’t pray and read my Bible. That is, I was living as a practical atheist, meaning my personal relationship with God did not really affect much inside me.” Throughout the article he continues to wrestle with this doubt and the reason behind these feelings. His conclusion is simple and sad: “We have forgotten God.” (Source) That is some serious soul searching.

As part of his efforts to understand this, Galli went back through the history of the church in America to the Great Awakening, a series of revivals, that took place in the 1730s and 40s, where he found the writings of Jonathan Edwards (considered one of the greatest American preachers) who gave an account of the ‘atmosphere.’ Edwards writes, “In all companies… on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, His glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of His perfections.” (Source) That reminded me of what they said about St. Dominic: “Wherever the Master was, he always spoke either to God or about God.”

I spend a good bit of my time talking about God, but I don’t recall a conversation when I sat around with others discussing the excellency and dying love of Jesus. I spend a good deal of time teaching about the nature of God, but the glory of the way of salvation is not one of those topics. I can spend time with family and friends, but I don’t ever recall getting together with others with the soul intent of talking about Jesus.

I remember the first time I heard the expression “whitewash.” It was in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, when Tom got in trouble and was forced to whitewash a fence as punishment. Whitewashing is a cheap way to cover a surface to make it look a little better, but that’s about it and everyone knows, so something that has been whitewashed is generally associated with the poor, therefore the saying, “Too proud to whitewash and too poor to paint.”

I understand what Mark Galli was saying about himself. Would it really matter if I stopped praying, studying, etc. Do I even love God or is my faith simply whitewash? Those are hard but important questions to ask, and just to make it a bit more difficult, I read about one of the desert fathers, Abba Theodore.

He was made a deacon at Scetis but he refused to exercise the office and fled to many places from it. Each time the old men brought him back to Scetis, saying, ‘Do not leave your diaconate.’ Abba Theodore said to them, ‘Let me pray God that he may tell me for certain whether I ought to take my part in the liturgy.’ Then he prayed God in this manner, ‘If it is your will then I should stand in this place, make me certain of it.’ Then appeared to him a column of fire, reaching from earth to heaven, and a voice said to him, ‘If you can become like this pillar, go be a deacon.’ On hearing this he decided never to accept the office.

I worry about being a whitewash priest and Abba Theodore won’t even function as a deacon because he can not be a pillar of fire that reaches from earth to heaven.

I suspect that to one degree or another, depending on the day, the hour, or even the minute, we can all feel this way. And we’re in good company. The great Apostle Peter: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Mother Teresa: “Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness and darkness.” Yet—and here is the Good News—even in the midst of these doubts, there is Pentecost. There is this Spirit of Fire, the very Spirit of God that has been placed in us all and it continually burns.

When I lived in Montana, I would help friends bail hay and then put it up in the barn for the winter. However, the hay had to have the right moisture content. Too dry and it lost all its nourishment. Too wet… at least once a year you would hear about someone who had put up their hay in the barn and when winter came along started using it. It would be stacked in bails as much as a dozen bails high or more. The outer rows would be fine, but after removing a few rows… completely burned up. The entire center, hundreds of bails, nothing but ashes. Why? The hay was too wet when they put it up, causing a chemical reaction that resulted in spontaneous combustion. The fire started at the center and burned very slowly outward, consuming everything. That’s not so good when when talking about hay barns, but it is the same idea when talking about this Spirit of God.

The Spirit is continually at work within us, burning away the impurities and leaving behind the pure image of God. When we are honest with ourselves and see how much work that remains, then we can doubt our worthiness and wonder if we really are just whitewashed Christians, and there is nothing wrong with these kinds of doubts, a much greater issue would be pride in thinking we’ve got it all worked out. There is no sin in the doubts, the only sin is when we truly give in and walk away. The doubts simply tell us of the work to be done, so instead of walking away, we call on the Triune God:

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.

We call on God to fan the flames of Pentecost within our souls so that we may become those pillars of fire that reach to the heavens, so that the light of Christ and the fire of the Spirit may be seen by all.

You are no whitewashed Christians, even if you doubt. You are tabernacles of God Most High. His Spirit burns brightly within you all. On this day of Pentecost, ask the Lord to renew that Spirit within you and to let it burn even more brightly.

Let us pray:
“Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire, God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire, God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire, God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.”
(William Blake, “Pentecost”)
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten our eyes, ears, tongues, hearts, and minds,
That we may burn as pillars of fire
As testaments to the work you perform in us.
Amen.

Sermon: Boniface


The podcast is available here.


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Boniface was born in the year 675 and served as a missionary to Frisia (Netherlands) and later, Germany, where he would rise to the position of Archbishop.  He was held in high esteem by the German princes and came often to give counsel, leading to one of his crowning achievements (no pun intended here) when he anointed Pippin as King of the Franks.  Pippin’s son was Charlemagne, who’s efforts brought Christianity back to western Europe.  Later, when Boniface retired as Archbishop, he returned to Frisia as a missionary.  The following year, as he was waiting on a large group of converts to arrive for baptism and confirmations, he and his party were attacked by pagans and Boniface was martyred.

St. Willibald, Bishop in Germany, is the one who recorded much of Boniface’s life in a short book, The Life of St. Boniface.  It is a fascinating read (you can find it online).  In it, Willibald points to one of the primary reasons behind Boniface’s successes: the study of Holy Scripture.  Willibald writes:

To such a degree was [Boniface] inflamed with a love of the Scriptures that he applied all his energies to learning and practicing their counsels, and those matters that were written for the instruction of the people he paraphrased and explained to them with striking eloquence, shrewdly spicing it with parables. His discretion was such that his rebukes, though sharp, were never lacking in gentleness, while his teaching, though mild, was never lacking in force. Zeal and vigor made him forceful, but gentleness and love made him mild. Accordingly he exhorted and reproved with equal impartiality the rich and powerful, the freedmen and the slaves, neither flattering and fawning upon the rich nor oppressing and browbeating the freedmen and slaves but, in the words of the apostle, he had “become all things to all men that [he] might by all means save some.” (Source)

Through his love and study of Scripture, Boniface learned that the most effective way to speak to people was through the language of God that he read in the Bible and the same can be true for us, but in order for this to happen, we need to pick up the Good Book.  A recent “study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.” (Source)

Even if it is only a short devotional, we all need to be in the Word daily.  You don’t have to become a Bible scholar and you don’t have to memorize every verse.  You only have to take the time and allow God to speak to you in his own words.  What you will discover in the process is what Boniface discovered: the wisdom and grace you find within the Sacred Text will begin to find its way into your life and into your communication and relationships.  You will become a greater reflection of God.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 14

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CONSIDER THE HIDDEN JUDGMENTS OF GOD LEST YOU BECOME PROUD OF YOUR OWN GOOD DEEDS 

THE DISCIPLE

YOU thunder forth Your judgments over me, Lord. You shake all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul is very much afraid. I stand in awe as I consider that the heavens are not pure in Your sight. If You found wickedness in the angels and did not spare them, what will become of me? Stars have fallen from heaven, and I — I who am but dust — how can I be presumptuous? They whose deeds seemed worthy of praise have fallen into the depths, and I have seen those who ate the bread of angels delighting themselves with the husks of swine.

There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No chastity is secure if You do not guard it. Our vigilance avails nothing if Your holy watchfulness does not protect us. Left to ourselves we sink and perish, but visited by You we are lifted up and live. We are truly unstable, but You make us strong. We grow lukewarm, but You inflame us. Oh, how humbly and lowly should I consider myself! How very little should I esteem anything that seems good in me! How profoundly should I submit to Your unfathomable judgments, Lord, where I find myself to be but nothing!

O immeasurable weight! O impassable sea, where I find myself to be nothing but bare nothingness! Where, then, is glory’s hiding place? Where can there be any trust in my own virtue? All vainglory is swallowed up in the depths of Your judgments upon me.

What is all flesh in Your sight? Shall the clay glory against Him that formed it? How can he whose heart is truly subject to God be lifted up by vainglory? The whole world will not make him proud whom truth has subjected to itself. Nor shall he who has placed all his hope in God be moved by the tongues of flatterers. For behold, even they who speak are nothing; they will pass away with the sound of their words, but the truth of the Lord remains forever.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 13

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THE OBEDIENCE OF ONE HUMBLY SUBJECT TO THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS CHRIST 

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

MY CHILD, he who attempts to escape obeying withdraws himself from grace. Likewise he who seeks private benefits for himself loses those which are common to all. He who does not submit himself freely and willingly to his superior, shows that his flesh is not yet perfectly obedient but that it often rebels and murmurs against him.

Learn quickly, then, to submit yourself to your superior if you wish to conquer your own flesh. For the exterior enemy is more quickly overcome if the inner man is not laid waste. There is no more troublesome, no worse enemy of the soul than you yourself, if you are not in harmony with the spirit. It is absolutely necessary that you conceive a true contempt for yourself if you wish to be victorious over flesh and blood.

Because you still love yourself too inordinately, you are afraid to resign yourself wholly to the will of others. Is it such a great matter if you, who are but dust and nothingness, subject yourself to man for the sake of God, when I, the All-Powerful, the Most High, Who created all things out of nothing, humbly subjected Myself to man for your sake? I became the most humble and the lowest of all men that you might overcome your pride with My humility.

Learn to obey, you who are but dust! Learn to humble yourself, you who are but earth and clay, and bow down under the foot of every man! Learn to break your own will, to submit to all subjection! Be zealous against yourself! Allow no pride to dwell in you, but prove yourself so humble and lowly that all may walk over you and trample upon you as dust in the streets!

What have you, vain man, to complain of? What answer can you make, vile sinner, to those who accuse you, you who have so often offended God and so many times deserved hell? But My eye has spared you because your soul was precious in My sight, so that you might know My love and always be thankful for My benefits, so that you might give yourself continually to true subjection and humility, and might patiently endure contempt.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 12

ACQUIRING PATIENCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CONCUPISCENCE

THE DISCIPLE

PATIENCE, O Lord God, is very necessary for me, I see, because there are many adversities in this life. No matter what plans I make for my own peace, my life cannot be free from struggle and sorrow.

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

My child, you are right, yet My wish is not that you seek that peace which is free from temptations or meets with no opposition, but rather that you consider yourself as having found peace when you have been tormented with many tribulations and tried with many adversities.

If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of purgatory? Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen. Therefore, in order that you may escape the everlasting punishments to come, try to bear present evils patiently for the sake of God.

Do you think that men of the world have no suffering, or perhaps but little? Ask even those who enjoy the most delights and you will learn otherwise. “But,” you will say, “they enjoy many pleasures and follow their own wishes; therefore they do not feel their troubles very much.” Granted that they do have whatever they wish, how long do you think it will last? Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke, and there shall be no memory of their past joys. Even in this life they do not find rest in these pleasures without bitterness, weariness, and fear. For they often receive the penalty of sorrow from the very thing whence they believe their happiness comes. And it is just. Since they seek and follow after pleasures without reason, they should not enjoy them without shame and bitterness.

How brief, how false, how unreasonable and shameful all these pleasures are! Yet in their drunken blindness men do not understand this, but like brute beasts incur death of soul for the miserly enjoyment of a corruptible life.

Therefore, My child, do not pursue your lusts, but turn away from your own will. “Seek thy pleasure in the Lord and He will give thee thy heart’s desires.”  If you wish to be truly delighted and more abundantly comforted by Me, behold, in contempt of all worldly things and in the cutting off of all base pleasures shall your blessing be, and great consolation shall be given you. Further, the more you withdraw yourself from any solace of creatures, the sweeter and stronger comfort will you find in Me.

At first you will not gain these blessings without sadness and toil and conflict. Habit already formed will resist you, but it shall be overcome by a better habit. The flesh will murmur against you, but it will be bridled by fervor of spirit. The old serpent will sting and trouble you, but prayer will put him to flight and by steadfast, useful toil the way will be closed to him.