Without virtue, tribulations overwhelm us and we act even more self-destructively

November 22, 2021 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 215

But we feel that we have said sufficient to prove that God consoles the just in their sufferings, and therefore we shall next consider the unfortunate condition of the wicked when laboring under affliction.

Devoid of hope, of charity, of courage, of every sustaining virtue, tribulation attacks them unarmed and defenceless.

Their dead faith sheds no ray of light upon the darkness of their afflictions.

Hope holds out no future reward to sustain their failing courage.

Strangers to charity, they know not the loving care of their Heavenly Father.

How lamentable a sight to behold them swallowed in the gulf of tribulation! Utterly defenceless, how can they breast the angry waves? How can they escape being dashed to pieces against the rocks of pride, despair, rage, and blasphemy?

Have we not seen unhappy souls lose their health, their reason, their very life in the excess of their misery?

While the just, like pure gold, come out of the crucible of suffering refined and purified, the wicked, like some viler metal, are melted and dissolved.

While the wicked shed bitter tears, the just sing songs of gladness. “The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just,” [Ps. cxvii. 15.] while the habitations of sinners resound with cries of sorrow and despair.

Observe, moreover, the extravagant grief of the wicked when those they love are taken from them by death.

They storm against Heaven; they deny God’s justice; they blaspheme His mercy; they accuse His providence; they rage against men; and not unfrequently they end their miserable lives by their own hands.

Their curses and blasphemies bring upon them terrible calamities, for the Divine Justice cannot but punish those who rebel against the providence of God.

Unhappy souls! The afflictions which are sent for the cure of their disorders only increase their misery. May we not say that the pains of hell begin for them even in this life?

Consider, too, the loss which they suffer by their murmurings and impatience. No man can escape the trials of life, but all can lighten their burden and merit eternal reward by bearing their sorrows in patience.

Not only is this precious fruit lost by the wicked, but to the load of misery which they are compelled to carry they add the still more intolerable burden of their impatience and rebellion.

They are like a traveller who, after a long and weary journey through the night, finds himself in the morning farther than ever from the place he wished to reach.

What a subject is this for our contemplation!

“The same fire,” says St. Chrysostom, “which purifies gold consumes wood; so in the fire of tribulation the just acquire new beauty and perfection, while the wicked, like dry wood, are reduced to ashes.”

St. Cyprian expresses the same thought by another illustration: “As the wind in harvest time scatters the chaff but cleanses the wheat, so the winds of adversity scatter the wicked but purify the just.”

The passage of the children of Israel through the Bed Sea is still another figure of the same truth. Like protecting walls the waters rose on each side of the people, and gave them a safe passage to the dry land; but as soon as the Egyptian army with its king and chariots had entered the watery breach, the same waves closed upon them and buried them in the sea.

In like manner the waters of tribulation are a preservation to the just, while to the wicked they are a tempestuous gulf which sweeps them into the abyss of rage, of blasphemy, and of despair.

Behold the admirable advantage which virtue possesses over vice. It was for this reason that philosophers so highly extolled philosophy, persuaded that its study rendered man more constant and more resolute in adversity.

But this was one of their numerous errors. True constancy, like true virtue, cannot be drawn from the teaching of worldly philosophy. It must be learned in the school of the Divine Master, who from His Cross consoles us by His example, and from His throne in Heaven sends us His Spirit to strengthen and encourage us by the hope of an immortal crown.

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