All of us start to feel weak, at some point in our lives, and we begin to wonder if perhaps the way to Heaven is too impossible of a goal for us to carry through...
I have recently been reading an excellent book, The Sinner’s Guide, by the Venerable Louis of Granada. One of the chapters of this book addresses this subject in particular, and I would like to share it with everyone:
CHAPTER 27 – FOR THOSE WHO ALLEGE THAT THE PATH OF VIRTUE IS TOO DIFFICULT
Virtue has nothing in its own nature that makes it burdensome. The difficulty with living a virtuous life comes from evil inclinations and appetites for sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their passions rebelled against reason and from this arose all the difficulties of living a virtuous life. Thus, many people appreciate virtue but refuse to practice it, just as sick people desire health, but refuse the unpalatable remedies that might restore it.
The principal cause of this problem comes from focusing only on the obstacles to virtue and not the graces God provides to overcome them. Don’t forget that God wants to pardon you and help you to avoid future sins. Remember that Jesus came to help you work on your salvation. He died to destroy sin and instituted the sacraments to strengthen you against sin.
Remember that virtues flow from His grace to sweeten the yoke of Christ, to facilitate the practice of virtue, to make you joyful in tribulations, hopeful in danger, and victorious in temptation. This comprises the teaching of the Gospel. Adam, an earthly and sinful man, made us earthly and sinful. Jesus Christ, a heavenly and just Man, makes us spiritual and just. Jesus assures that in addition to all this, He will give you the necessary strength to overcome the passions that torment you. With such assistance, you can overcome temptations and not fear your evil inclinations.
Some argue that they have so many sins that God will refuse His grace. Perish the thought, you are insulting God! By it, you say either that God cannot or will not help you. Do not yield to such a blasphemy. Rather pray, as St. Augustine taught. “Give me grace, Lord, to do what you command and command what you please.” (Conf. L.10, 31) God always answers this prayer for He always cooperates when you seek to do His will. He will help like a master painter guiding the hand of a pupil.
Let these words assure you that, however difficult God’s commandments may appear, His grace will make observing them very easy. And if you remain faithful to them, you will soon know His yoke as sweetness and His burden as light.
Moreover, remember how charity helps you pursue virtue. Charity, or the love of God, makes the law sweet and delightful, for as St. Augustine said, “Love knows no fatigue.” How willingly people fond of hunting, riding, or fishing bear the labor of these sports. Love makes a mother insensible to the fatigue she endures for her child. Love keeps a devoted wife day and night at the bedside of her sick husband. Filled with this power, St. Paul exclaimed, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” (Rom. 8:35)
Though trials and difficulties always come your way, the path of the wicked has many more hardships than that of the just. One necessarily grows weary on a long journey, but a blind man who stumbles at every step certainly tires sooner than the traveler who can see clearly. The sinner, guided by passion, walks blindly and therefore often falls. The just, guided by reason, sees and avoids the rocks and precipices, and travels with less fatigue and more safely.
Nothing provides greater astonishment or a more interesting spectacle than the action of the Holy Ghost upon a just person. How it transforms, sustains, strengthens, and comforts them. How it alters their affections, makes them love what they formerly abhorred, and abhor what they formerly loved. What peace it gives them. What light it pours into their souls to enable them to learn God’s will, to realize the vanity of the world, and to set a true value on the spiritual blessings that they formerly despised. Still more wonderful is how quickly they make these changes. They do not spend years studying, or wait until old age helps them by experience. People in the fire of youth sometimes change in the space of a few days and hardly seem the same beings. Hence, St. Cyprian says that the sinner finds himself converted without knowing how to make such a change, for grace does the work. The change needs neither study nor time and acts in an instant like a spiritual charm.
Behold the power of grace! What, then, prevents you from following this path? If you believe what I have related and that God wants to give you this grace, what prevents you from breaking your sinful bonds and embracing Jesus who so lovingly is calling to you? Why do you prefer this hell on earth, to gain another hell hereafter, rather than by a paradise here, gain Heaven hereafter? Do not despair, put your trust in God and resolutely enter the path of virtue. Have an unshaken confidence that you will meet Him there with open arms, to receive you as the father received his prodigal son.
Someday you will acknowledge these truths, if not in this life, then in the next. Think of the confusion and anguish on the day of your judgment when God condemns you for not following the path of virtue. Too late, you will recognize the excellence of this path that leads to eternal joy.
Let us impress the words of this venerable man upon our minds, so that, whenever we feel exhausted from waging war against the devil, we will remember them and find from within them the courage to persevere in the path of virtue until the end of our lives.