By this abomination of desolation in the holy place is understood literally, the profanation of the Temple. A multitude of soldiers rushed into the sacred precincts, and with fire and sword destroyed everything. Many were killed there and the court of the Temple, a refuge and a place of safety for the persecuted, flowed with blood. Jerusalem had become a picture of hell. A furious army besieged the city, and terrible famine was the consequence; men tore one another like dogs: for after having fought the Romans, dissensions arrayed them against one another, and soon their blood-stained swords were turned to fratricidal slaughter.
Mothers forgot their motherly feelings to such an extent that they consumed their own children for food; those who made an effort to escape were caught to the number of five hundred a day, and were crucified before the gates of the city. This terrible spectacle, however, did not frighten them, for notwithstanding it, many attempted to get out in order to look for a little food. Outside the walls of the city it looked like a forest of crosses. Such was the terrible judgment against this city: Many died on crosses as a punishment for the crucifixion of Our Lord.
The Fathers of the Church who have explained this part of the Scriptures say that by the abomination of desolation is meant mortal sin. Our body, as the Apostle tells us, is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and God wishes to inhabit it. He wants to make a holy of holies of our bodies and souls. What would you think of a sacrilegious thief who would come into the church and despoil the tabernacle and defile the holy altar? What a profanation it would be considered to scatter the consecrated Host torn from its resting-place by sacrilegious hands. Would we not be furious at such a desecration? We would be indignant, and would want to punish the culprit severely; and yet this is what that one does who desecrates his own soul. He drives Our Lord Jesus out of 'his heart, takes hold of Him and forces Him out like an intruder. He has to yield His place to the devil. What a change there is in that soul; would that you could see it. Then you would realize why the Scripture calls such souls vipers, dogs, and swine.
What would you think, then, my dear young people, if, after having committed a sin of impurity, you found yourself changed into an unclean animal? But you are even worse than this, for you are changed into a devil. Our Lord says, "You are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father you will do." You have in your face the face of the devil; in your blood is his blood. Would you be delighted with such a transformation? What a horrible thing it is to think that you are not only sons of the devil, but are sons of hell; that is, you are destined for that place where the devils live for all eternity. In order to live far from sin and from the abomination it causes in us. Our Lord teaches us that we should avoid the occasions of sin by flying from its neighborhood. For He told His disciples, "When you see these things about to come to pass, those who are in Judea, should flee to the mountain, and he that is on the house-top, should not come down to take anything out of his house." Our Lord commands a most sudden flight from all that might lead to sin.
This measure of prudence is little relished by Christians, for they live blindly on in their sins; they will not listen to the wise words of Ecclesiasticus, "He that loves danger shall perish in it."
What, my dear young people, is your greatest occasion of sin? Your companions are, probably, the greatest source ofperil to you; avoid especially those companions who speak
against modesty. A young man is generally good until he falls in with bad companions, and then there is a wonderful change. After that he does not go to Mass on Sunday, confession is given up as well as holy communion. He is a totally different person from what he was before he met those bad companions.
It is related that there was in a certain city a virtuous young man, who went to a neighboring town to a picnic. Usually he kept good company, but on this occasion he met an acquaintance who was unscrupulous and of loose morals. He should have been on his guard against him, but he thought lightly of the danger just then. The conversation was on indifferent topics at first, but gradually they became more interested, and plans were made to commit a sin of impurity; he fell into the sin, and into disgrace in after life.
Our Lord warns us, too, against putting off our conversion from one day to another, as many do. He tells us that the woman about to give birth to a child, or who is suckling an infant is to be pitied, because she cannot fly. Pray, too. He says, that your flight be not on a Sunday or in bad weather. Woe to them if they put off their flight on account of these difficulties. Woe to those who defer their conversion, who refuse to change their lives and are determined to wait until old age or a grave sickness overtakes them, or till the end of their days. Woe to those who neglect to rectify the bad confessions made in the past, or those unworthy communions, or to repair the scandal by which they ruined so many. Woe to him who comes to the end of his life and then recognizes the fact that he has led a very bad life. Will those be really converted who wait to the end of their days? They think that then they will sin no more and they are right; for on account of sickness, they will no longer be able to indulge in their evil habits. We read in the Psalms that those that put off their conversion to the evening of their life will suffer hunger like dogs. Many different interpretations are given of these words, but here is a beautiful and spiritual one: "Thou," said Our Lord to the sinner, "hast treated Me like a dog in your days. Now I will treat you in the same manner." How are dogs treated? They come to the table of the master, whine, and beg for a morsel. Do you give them the best you have on your plate? No. You give them a bone, or something that you do not want to eat yourself. When we sin we treat God in the same way. We contemptuously throw Him something to keep Him quiet; we give Him the worst we have, as if it were good enough for Him; we are determined to enjoy our youth in sin and throw to God the remainder of our days, of old age, sickness and feebleness. But God is not content with that. Does God owe you His grace at that time of life? At no time of your life have you a right to it and certainly not at the end of your days, when you have done nothing to deserve it. My dear young people, impress this fact well on your minds, that your wasted days and opportunities will verify the words of Our Lord, which you may read in the Gospel that we shall look for Him and shall not find Him, and we shall die in our sins.
Yes, my dear young friends, firmly persuade yourselves of this generally accepted truth. "As your life so shall be your death." He who leads a bad life will also die a bad death. "As the tree is felled, so will it lie." The sinner is the tree, cut down by almighty God, and he will lie where he has fallen.
St. Jerome had the boldness to say that out of ten thousand sinners waiting till the end of their days, one may be converted and saved. Then do not walk in the path of iniquity, because when you wish to correct your bad habits you may not have the grace to do so. St. Augustine says, "It is the just judgment of God, that he who could have acted well and did not act well will lose the power of doing well, when he desires it."
The time of sickness and death is not a good time to change your mode of life. It is arrogance, it is presumption. I hope and pray that no such blind and obstinate people are among you. "Now is the acceptable time; hate and detest your sin now and dedicate the rest of your days to the service of God and the practice of religion. May God give us all a precious death in His sight.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900