In that event our case will be like that of the prodigal son, who put himself under the mastership of the world' and the devil; away from his father's house he thought he could enjoy himself without interruption, but there came a time when, despised by all, he became a swineherd, poor, without clothing, and suffering from hunger, with not even the husks that were fed to the swine to eat.
Supposing that for some years you should enjoy life to its full extent, lawlessly and without restraint, what would your feelings be at the hour of death? You would then experience the most bitter remorse. A great man when on his death-bed had his young son brought to him. "My son," he said, "do not believe in the promises of the world as I have believed; let me impress two things on your mind that are absolutely true: one is, that you will have but little pleasure in this world, and the second, that you will have much sorrow if you have enjoyed those pleasures unlawfully.'' If the devil is your master in life he will certainly be your master in eternity; he will be your companion, and not a peaceful one, or one that you will enjoy, but he will torment you in every way that his cruel ingenuity can suggest. Looking at this master in this light, do you really want to serve him? And yet you do serve him when you imitate him in his wickedness.
Your other and your real master is God. He, too , is anxious that you should serve Him. He is yearning after your soul. He is a beggar of souls. How different is He from that miserable creature, the devil! how good and loving God is! It is true He places a burden on you, but it is sweet and light. He desires that you take the cross on your shoulders and follow Him, and not only in the end, but even during your labors and trials, you will possess peace and consolation. You will understand that the serving of God is a calling so high 'and so noble that it is equal to a royal dignity. And when this life is at an end He will share with you His own glory in heaven.
What does it mean to have God not only on earth by grace, but to possess Him in heaven in all His glory? We cannot realize this while we are in the flesh; we see it only as it were in a glass. In heaven all your faculties will be full of life, your memory will be a life of universal recollection of the past; your intellect will understand the mystery of God's infinite goodness; your eyes will see heavenly and agreeable sights; your ears hear the most beautiful music. Is it not, then, really sad that we have to prove the necessity of the love of God, in order to induce us to do some-good; is it not awful that we should leave God and cling to that impious tyrant, Satan? There are so many people in this world who give Tip the service of God to associate with the prince of darkness, people who revel in wickedness and hate virtue.
You ruthlessly drive God out of your soul when you have a bad thought, or when you do a wicked action, and you set the devil up in your heart as its master and dictator. Say with determination to the devil, "Get behind me, Satan; never will I have anything to do with you;" but to God cry out, "Thou art the God of my heart and my portion for all eternity." Our divine Redeemer, after having told us that no one can serve two masters, that God must be served alone, gives us some clear and beautiful instructions which need no explanation. He says, "I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on God provides with munificence for the birds of the air, gives them what they need and keeps them alive. How beautifully He decks the field with flowers then how much more will He provide for us! Do not always think of earthly advantages, for the Gentiles, the pagans, and the worldlings look for these things. Still, notwithstanding all these promises of a good father, what anxiety do we not feel about the
comforts of life, our health; what fear we have of death. This is to a certain extent a want of faith and trust. "God, who giveth to beasts their food, and to the young ravens that call upon Him,'' will not desert us, though sometimes the prospect looks dark and discouraging. Ah, I hear somebody say, God does not provide for me; I work for myself; but in things over which I have no power, in sickness or poverty, where is His arm? Let this be my answer: If you would remove all misery and poverty from this world, first remove sin, and there will not be so much suffering. Who are those that are poor? They are the lazy loafers who do nothing, the frequenters of drinking-places, who earn no money or spend their earnings in the saloon. Perhaps God strikes them with poverty to show them that they ought to act differently. The crimes of the human race are often the cause of its sufferings.
We read in Leviticus the threats that God made to the people of Israel, unless they remained faithful to Him: "I will quickly visit you with poverty and burning heat, which shall waste your eyes and consume your lives; you shall sow your seed in vain, which shall be devoured by your enemies." "Trust in the Lord and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches." If you have this confidence in God, He will be specially kind to you, and you shall want for nothing.
The saints have always had this trust in God, and even when they gave away all they had, did they starve, or were they in want? They put their trust in Providence and were never disappointed. Let your greatest and first solicitude be to look for the kingdom of God and His justice, and all things else will be given you in due time.
Therefore look first for the kingdom of God. But, my dear young people, do we do this? Oh, there are so many who have their eyes constantly fixed on the earth and never raise them from it to look up to heaven. They think of nothing but this life, as if they were to remain here forever; as if the day would never come when they would be called out of the world; they are entirely occupied with the enjoyment of life; they have nothing before them but the goods and honors of this world. And thus they renounce their right to heaven; they seek not the kingdom of God and His justice. Poor, deluded beings! They are attracted by the false promises of the devil, which will never be realized, for these promises are further and further from fulfillment and the sinners pass their lives in a vain hope. My dear young people, be not deceived nor follow the example of the wicked; have your eyes fixed on God in all your work. "I am thy protector and thy reward exceeding great." The pilgrim pays little attention to the beauty of the scenery and the great possessions of the rich; his aim is to get to his fatherland as soon as possible; and we, following his example, should study the shortest paths to our celestial home. "Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900