TWO KEYS TO PARADISE
SAVE THY SOUL! How much good might be done if only this glorious inscription could be flashed in the skies throughout all times and rest upon every pilgrim on earth, that he might never forget that which should concern him the most. The greater the misery of a soul, the more does that soul illicit the compassion and mercy of God. SIN IS THE GREATEST MISERY IN THE WORLD. THERE IS NOTHING MORE TERRIBLE! God’s mercy is above all shown in this, that He sent His only begotten Son to secure the redemption of mankind. Let us never doubt that God is willing to forgive us “till seventy times seven” if we will return to Him truly penitent. Cast your eyes upon a Crucifix, see on His Face the tender look of compassion towards His executioners! Oh, how is it, anyone of us can question His infinite mercy … hear the echo of His words ring out:
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
The greatest masterpieces of God are those souls whom He has rescued us from the deepest misery. The door of His mercy is never closed: It is always open however lightly it is touched. The door of His justice is shut and locked and opens only to those who force Him to do so.
With God, to forgive is to forget. Never do we read of Our Lord having reproached a single sinner for his past sins. The prodigal son is reinstated in the same high position as before his falling away. Our past sins will never stand between God and ourselves, as a sort of eternal reproach, for such is not the Will of God. When a sinner is truly penitent and strives to amend his life … ALL IS FORGOTTEN!
With Dismas, all hope had fled and around his soul gathered the somber gloom of the grave. From those lips, which had never prayed, lips terribly desecrated by impure talk, by curses and blasphemies, rang out a clear and perfect act of faith:
“Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom!”
INCOMPREHENSIBLE CHANGE! What was it that brought this change in the heart of him who was on the brink of hell? It was perfect contrition! Is not, then, perfect contrition some-thing marvelous if, in the last extremity, it is able to snatch a soul from hell and open to it the gates of Paradise?
Each future citizen of Heaven is given two keys to open the gates of Paradise in spite of guilt and sin. Sorrow for sin is an element essential to both means of entering Heaven. There are two distinct aims for contrition: LOVE of God and FEAR of God: the first is perfect contrition and the second imperfect contrition. Imperfect contrition or fear of God’s punishments is sufficient for Sacramental Confession. This is the first key of Heaven. Sacramental Confession is not always possible. God has given the human race a second key to paradise, which is always at hand. Perfect contrition remits sin and makes the sinner an heir to Heaven, even without the actual reception of Sacramental Penance. We look to the goodness of God and are aware of the profound debt of gratitude we owe Him in perfect contrition. The love of God, which looks to His goodness, rather than His punishments, is perfect love and it makes our contrition perfect.
But, you say, perfect contrition is only possible for very pious souls. Surely, this is a sordid and narrow view of God’s mercy. Was perhaps the penitent thief a person of extraordinary piety? Look at Mary Magdalene, the worldly minded public sinner. Was she overly pious? Yet, she sat at Christ’s feet and wept tears of perfect contrition for her past sins. What of the woman taken in adultery. Did He turn with horror from the vulgar sinner? Did He order her death? He challenged those present to find her more guilty than themselves…He showed forth His compassion in the face of her misery, and bid her to “GO AND SIN NO MORE.”
You are bought at a great price not with corruptible silver and gold, but with the Precious Blood of the Immaculate Lamb of God: one single drop of which is worth more than all the gold in the whole world.
“I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live!”
In the very hour Christ came to earth, He proclaimed the contrition of PEACE between Himself and sinful souls.
“Peace on earth to men of Good Will!”
Perfect Contrition, which until the coming of Christ was the only means of salvation for the greater part of mankind, is even now – A GOLDEN Key of Heaven.
Perfect Contrition is possible and simple!
While assisting at Holy Mass with devotion, making the Stations of the Cross, looking upon a Crucifix, hearing a sermon or doing spiritual reading, a simple sigh may break forth from your heart as you whisper:
“My God and My All!
This movement of the heart and total focus on the goodness of God is certainly a perfect act of contrition. With every perfect act of contrition, the sinner must have the will to sincerely confess his sins. But, it is to be understood that all those who really profess a love of God are ready to do HIS Will in ALL things.
Is not this Catholic doctrine consoling! And, if this is true, should not every Catholic make frequent use of it? It is a remedy always at hand to restore sanctifying grace to the soul.
“O my God, I love Thee with all my heart. I am sincerely sorry for all my sins
One Foolish Boy – Millions of Foolish Men!
Once, a very small boy found some walnuts. Never having seen them before and without any knowledge of their use, he proceeded to crack them open. He threw the kernels into the fire and kept the shells to use for fine little cups. This is the act of an unreasoning child. Yet, are there not found many older persons who are in the same way irrational? Do they not throwaway their most precious possession: their immortal soul – the kernel of life as it were? Do they not cast it into eternal hell-fire by their sins? Are they not extremely solicitous about health, riches, pleasure and honors – that which is of little worth, while they neglect their immortal soul which will live for all eternity? Can you imagine a greater misfortune!
At this very moment while you read these lines, a frightful fire is raging and hundreds of persons are in danger of becoming prey to its greedy flames. The doomed men and women are sinners. The flames in that abyss are leaping, struggling upward like hungry fiends in an effort to drag these sinners into the seething depths of hell. Can any good Christian remain indifferent and say, “I am not my brother’s keeper”?
There is no redemption for hell’s victims. This thought of imperiled souls must fill us with an all-consuming zeal. Christ sacrificed Himself for these souls and hung on the Cross for them in a most agonizing death. Has He not given us an example … “As I have done, do ye also”.
All true friends of Christ must bear in their breasts His Life-giving charity. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” How are you to do this? In the sick room of the dying man, the family and physician come with the intention of giving consolation, relief of suffering and healing, if possible. The sick man is confused by the profusion of advice and plans for health, medicine, massages, baths, tears and cordials. People speak only of a cure when it is obvious that, by sun up, the sick man will be dead. Not one person thinks of preparing the soul for its departure. How can a Christian, who believes in a judgment to come, in Heaven and Hell, in a future life, allow his brother Christian to die thus unprepared and perhaps eternally lost? It is utterly un-Christian; it is heartless and cruel! Our Catholic Faith tells us that suffering is not useless, that God has intended only good to come from pain and affliction, that sufferings borne well with Christian patience are an infallible source of blessing and merit.
There is no better place than the bedside to assist souls to make the perfect act of contrition. The dying man will hear an angel leaning over him, shouting into his ears these words: “My Jesus, Mercy! O Good Jesus, pardon my offenses! O Jesus, be merciful to me! O Jesus, forgive me all my sins! My God, I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee! I am sorry for all my sins, have mercy on me!” Thus will speak the angel of peace who will attend the bedside of a dying soul. The lips of the dying man, perhaps, can no longer move, yet his soul will contritely accompany those devout words with sighs of contrition. He will pass away, armed with those winged shafts of prayer, to appear before the merciful Judge Who, in lieu of the priest, will pronounce the blessed words:
“THY SINS ARE FORGIVEN THEE.”
But, you may ask, who is this angel of peace? Whence did he come this pious fellow Christian who has rendered such an important service to the dying sinner and who has helped him to make a perfect act of contrition which opened for him the very portals of Paradise. GO THOU AND DO LIKEWISE! Step up resolutely to those in danger of death; say aloud these prayers into their ears with a clear voice. Even though all motion has ceased, you do very well to offer a few ejaculations in his ear, for the soul remains in the body a considerable time, though it can no longer exercise its authority. Your powerful prayer of perfect contrition is a rescuing angel that frees the weary soul from the grasp of the infernal fiend and conducts it to the merciful arms of God.
O My God, may I never be separated from Thee;
by Fr. FISCHER SVD