Third Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Luc.15.v.1. Tuesday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Luke 15: 1-10
At that time, the publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus to hear Him: and the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them. And He spoke to them this parable, saying: What man is there of you that hath a hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders rejoicing an coming home, call together his friends and neighbors, saying to them: Rejoice with me because I have found my sheep that was lost? I say to you that even so there shall be more joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need no penance. Or what woman having ten groats, if she lose one groat doth not light a candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, call together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me because I have found the groat which I had lost? So I say to you, there shall be joy before the Angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
The Poets feign that one Dedalus,a skillful and curious workmen, amongst his other curious works, made a labyrinth, or maze as the vulgar people call it, such a one as we see sometimes in imitation thereof in gardens, or places of pleasure,but never any comparable to that in the world; and put into it a horrible Monster, which by reason of the multitude of ways and windings thereof, one so like another, that one could not discern on from another, and leading one into another, was so intricate, that the Monster could never get out, but wandered to and fro utterly confounded & amazed: of which amazement it may be it is called in English a Maze, & in Latin Labyrinthus, as it were labor intus, a great labor in it, to get out.
So is it with a sinner, who having in his soul the foul and fearful monster of sin ( especially if he hath continued any time therein, and much more if he hath gotten into an inveterate custom thereof) hath made himself such a labyrinth,that it is exceeding hard, without the great mercy of God ever to find the way out, there being so many ways and windings in his will & understanding.
One way is fear of doing penance, or undertaking any rigorous course of life, to help make a satisfaction with the satisfaction of Christ, which though in themselves are all sufficient, yet as St. Paul saith, are not complete (God so ordaining,and reason telling us so) without our.
Another way is the inordinate love of his pleasures and delights; another shame of Confession another loathing to make restitution, another hope of long life and presumption to do it at last, another sloth and tediousness of good exercises, and a thousand ways and windings to hinder his conversion; all which the prophet David termeth no better indeed, then plain excuses, that they may continue in their sins, from which he desire of God, very earnestly, to be delivered , as from a cruel monster: and one of the worst excuses of all is, to sin upon presumption, that they will convert themselves at the latter end of their life, setting themselves, or rather setting almighty God a time when they will come unto him;but it happeneth unto such often times as it did unto the people of Israel, who went down into Egypt, thinking but to have sojourned there, by reason of the great dearth of corn in their own country, some four or five years, but being there, could not get away, being detained captives by the Egyptians, in four hundred years, and that not without main great miracles of God for their delivery, and being delivered were so tainted with the Idolatry of the Nation, that upon every occasion they were always ready to turn to the Idolatry of the Country again, yea and at first to return into the very Country to their old captivity, and servitude again: Even so many sinners think to get out of their sins in some short time, which they prefix to themselves, but sometimes they never get out at all.especially if they defer it till towards their death; sometimes they get out, though it be long first, but with a great deal of difficulty and hazard, and when they are out, they are so tainted and infected therewith, that upon every little occasion they are ready to slide away,and fall into it again, & then the latter end of that man, as Christ forwarneth us, is worse then the beginning.
Those that are in this labyrinth,and cannot get out, or rather will not get out (for all these turnings and windings aforesaid are in our will and understanding, blinded and seduced,as St. James sayth, by our own will, and therefore their case the less to be pitied, and themselves the more to be punished) those, I say, that procrastinate their conversion and post it over to the last, whereas we should, if we be wise for ourselves, seek first the Kingdom of heaven, and not last; let them hear what St Augustine telleth them, a man without all exception worthily to be heard, and (to use St. Paul's phrase) as a speech faithful and worthy of all acceptation, I have read, sayth he, the scriptures over again and again, and I do not find in five thousand years, but one saved at the last, meaning the good thief; one,that none should despair;but one, that none should presume: and if any defer his conversion to the last cast of his life, and then convert himself, and seem to repent, it is very doubtful whether it he leave his sins, or his sins leave him, because he can sin no more: well may a man repent him of his sins at last for fear of hell, but seldom out of the love of God, of whom I may say with St.Augustine:what do I say such a one shall be damned? no: neither do I say he shall be saved: will he be free from this doubt, and uncertainty? let him do penance while he is in health.