Wed, 27 February 2019
(Sir.5:1-8; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:50; Mk.9:41-50)
“Mercy and anger are alike with Him;
upon the wicked alights His wrath.”
“The way of the wicked vanishes.” It must vanish. It cannot but vanish, for there is no place for wickedness in the kingdom of God. And so, what is wicked must “be thrown into Gehenna”: what is to “enter life” must be purified. Thus does the Lord command – Cut off your hand! Cut off your foot! Tear out your eye! Remove even with violence whatever causes you to sin to preserve your life unto heaven. For it is indeed better that you “enter life maimed” or “crippled” or “with one eye,” than to have your whole body cast into the fires of hell.
Do you fear being “plunged into the sea with a great millstone fastened around [your] neck”? Does this seem a terrible fate? The fires of hell are infinitely worse, and those of purgatory approach them. Know that “everyone will be salted with fire”; everyone must be purified of sin. And you can refuse this truth and so find yourself in the place “the worm does not die and the fire is never extinguished,” you can delay your purgation and suffer a measure of these flames in the state of purification after death – or you can remove the sin from your soul by the grace of God now, while there is yet time and His mercy is yet abundant.
“Great is His mercy; my many sins He will forgive,” you say, and you are not wrong. But do you know how the mercy of God affects the sinful soul? Do you think it a pleasant experience to be cleansed, to be refined as by fire? Do you not understand that the Lord’s love and justice, His mercy and anger, are one for the wicked. Yes, “the Lord will exact the punishment” that brings refreshment and renewal. He must. How else shall you be purged and purified for heaven? All the sins upon your blackened soul are removed only by the chastising flames of His love.
So, “delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day.” Be not a fool “adding sin upon sin,” for every transgression must be accounted for. But the Lord’s blood will wash me clean, you may say, if you have some sense of His redemptive sacrifice. Yes, but it is still your soul that must be cleansed, and you shall own the purgatorial fires. And so, hasten this day to the confessional; turn resolutely from your sin. Then pray for the Lord’s indulgence, and you may be spared even temporal punishment for your transgressions (and even serve in the Lord’s stead to release others from the pain of purgatorial flames).
O LORD, we will all be salted with fire –
may our souls be preserved from your wrath.
YHWH, let your wrath not suddenly flame forth to destroy our lives; the way of the wicked let us not walk that the unquenchable fire we shall never know. You cannot but be angry with those who persist in sin – you cannot pretend that such evil does not exist or look past the hardened heart. All will know your purgatorial flames, but may they be redeeming for every soul.
Why are we so foolish, O LORD? Why do we not turn to you this day, this hour, and delight in the Law you offer for our salvation? Should we not walk the way of love your Son has set forth for us and seek to soothe His desire for our love by meditating on your Word and serving those who bring it to us?
Let us not be cast into the sea with a millstone around our necks, LORD, but drink in the running water that comes from your Church, from the side of Christ. Only this will quench the fires of your wrath.