THE PRICE OF
The first step for acquiring
salvation is that the sinner should repent of his sins. Then,
according to the Sacred Scriptures, he should redeem his sins by
alms-giving. Lastly, if he has not already done so, at least, he
should leave nothing untried when dying, and should come to the aid
of his soul by offering his substance at the last moment.
What if I only need one half of my
possessions to pay for my past sins, what do I do with the other
half? Well, firstly, the other half belongs to God also and,
besides, you have paid for your sins but have not paid up for
heaven. But this is sick reasoning.
First of all, imagine all the
kindness Christ has shown you. He has given you more than what you
need. He has granted you most of your prayers. Then think of all the
things He underwent while on earth to pay for your sins: he was born
in a manger, he underwent the frailties of human nature, he lived
with people befouled with sordid sins. . . and, the short of it, he
was reviled, cursed, insulted, condemned, mocked, spat upon,
flogged, crowned with thorns and crucified. . .and He did this to
pay for your sins and you say one-half of your possessions is enough
to pay for your sins?
Mankind has a universal debt
to pay to God. But payment must be done individually. And no one
must say: I owe less, my sins are less, I am less guilty, I am
better and the other is worse. In the first place, it is unbecoming
to a holy mind to think that he is better just because others are
worse. It is a most unfortunate kind of consolation to take comfort
from the misfortune of sinful men. Who of us can really be sure that
our judgment of ourselves is according to God's judgment?
So, is there no difference between
a saint and a sinner? Certainly, an immeasurable difference! A
saint feels he has to pay back all to God and even more. A sinner
thinks he has only to pay so much.
Do you have a way of finding out
how much you have to give up for the salvation of your soul? If not,
then strive with all the power of your goods to redeem, by a holy
death, whatever sins you may have committed during your lifetime.
Let us take our inspiration from
those who are disengaged from all burdens and follow the paths of
Christ, not in holiness only but in poverty. Let us honor such
examples because they are imitators of Christ; let us look up to
them because they are members of Christ. And let us pray that we may
become worthy of their remembrance.
St. Salvian, The Four Books of
the Church, Book II