The gratifications of this life can never satisfy our hearts, but only increase our hunger

November 13, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 198

This is the miserable condition which David described when he said: “They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water. They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted in them.” [Ps. cvi. 4, 5.]

A terrible characteristic of this hunger is that it is increased by the gratifications which are meant to appease it. The poisoned cup of this world kindles in the hearts of the wicked a fire to which pleasures only add renewed heat. Is it strange that they are consumed by a burning thirst?

Unhappy man! whence is it that you thirst so cruelly, if it be not that you “have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and sought broken cisterns which can hold no water”? [Jer. ii. 13.] You have mistaken the source of happiness. You wander in a wilderness, and, therefore, you faint with hunger and thirst.

When Holofernes besieged Bethulia he cut off the aqueducts, leaving to the besieged but a few little streams which served only to moisten their lips. The besieged city is an image of your condition. You have cut yourselves off from the source of living waters, and you find in creatures the little springs which may moisten your lips, but, far from allaying your thirst, will only increase it.

The blindness and vehemence of our desires often make us long for what we cannot possibly obtain; and when, after violent efforts, the object of our pursuit eludes our grasp, anger is added to our disappointment, and both combine to throw us into a state of confusion.

This gives rise to that internal warfare mentioned by St. James when he asks: "Whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not from your concupiscences, which war in your members? You covet, and have not.[St. James iv. 1, 2.]

Another lamentable feature of this condition is that very often when men have attained the summit of their wishes they are seized with a desire for some other worldly advantage, and if their caprice be not gratified all they possess is powerless to comfort them. Their unsatisfied desire is a continual thorn. It poisons all their pleasure.

“There is also another evil,” says Solomon, “which I have seen under the sun, and which is frequent among men. A man to whom God hath given riches, and substance, and honor, and his soul wanteth nothing of all that he desireth; yet God doth not give him power to eat thereof, but a stranger shall eat it up. This is vanity and a great misery.” [Eccles. vi. 1, 2.]

Does not the Wise Man here clearly point out the wretched condition of one in the midst of abundance, and yet unhappy because of his unsatisfied desires?

If such be the condition of those who possess the goods of the world, how miserable must be the lot of those who are in need of everything! For the human heart in every state is alike subject to unruly appetites, is alike the theatre of a most bitter warfare which rages among its opposing passions. When these importunate desires are unsatisfied at every point, the misery of their victim must be beyond description.

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