THE sea on which the apostles embarked is the image of the world, — the sea strewn with . . . dangers and countless shipwrecks. The ship which carries them is the figure of your soul in its journey towards eternity. The tempest which threatens to submerge them represents the temptations of every kind, which embarrass us on our way to heaven.
FIRST POINT. - Every one experiences these temptations, the child and the young man, the full- grown man, and the aged; the Trappist in his solitude, as well as the worldly man in the midst of his festivities. The most scrupulous and exact piety is not even a safeguard from their attacks. Did not temptations come to those who were in closest companionship with Christ? Be careful, therefore, lest you believe that your love for God, your fervor in His service, your fidelity in the fulfillment of your duties shall shield you from temptations. This would be a dangerous error. On the contrary, your piety and your innocence shall be the reason for the demon to make greater efforts to bring you under his dominion. There are hearts enough who deliver themselves up as a prey to their enemy. He is assured of these, but he is desirous of choice souls like yours; to make a conquest of them he redoubles his seductive snares. Still you must not be discouraged by temptations, but see in them the consolation that you are not as yet under his dominion. St. Francis de Sales has said that the dogs do not bark after the people who belong to the house, but only after strangers; so the demon leaves in a sad peace those whom he knows belong to him, and wearies the others by his pursuits, and invents a thousand artifices to turn them away from the paths of virtue. Alas, he only succeeds too well! Just cast a glance about you: where are so many souls that were hitherto so fervent? What have become of them? They have become a prey to the demon, and now they languish far from God and from virtue, in a shameful slavery! Weep for them, and conjure our good Lord to keep you far from such misfortunes.
SECOND POINT — While the tempest raged and threatened to engulf the bark on which the apostles sailed, "Jesus slept." This sleep of Jesus is the occasion of our great temptations and the principle of all our falling; it is the symbol of the languor which conducts a soul to those negligences which she permits, the distractions in which she allows herself to be drawn — certain affections which are wholly natural and which have over her too great sway, and especially the facility to commit light faults. True, indeed, these faults do not deprive us of the presence of Jesus, but they diminish the effect of His presence; they do not destroy His grace, but they weaken and diminish it. Grave sins crucify Him in us, while light offenses cause Him to sink into a deep sleep. This sleep of Jesus in our soul is not always a crime, but it is always a misfortune. In fact, it is during His sleep that the storms arise, that the passions are awakened, that the enemy, who never sleeps, renews with greater activity all his dangerous attacks. He is too weak to conquer us when we are divinely assisted, but he awaits the moment to combat with us when we are not assisted by this heavenly aid. If, therefore, you perceive that Jesus sleeps in you, awaken Him immediately. That is to say, if you feel your fervor weakening or your heart growing cold towards God, your courage unequal to the fulfillment of your duties, promptly renew your ardor and take heart again. A soldier should not lay aside his arms when he perceives the approach of the enemy; on the contrary, then it is he should be animated by a new courage. However, be not presumptuous; and never forget that you can do nothing by yourself — your strength comes from God; ask Him for His grace most earnestly. Even as the apostles, have recourse to the divine Master, and cry to Him with a profound feeling of your weakness: ''Lord, save me, for without your aid I shall perish." Be assured, if you are faithful to invoke God in the moment of danger, if you invoke Him with confidence, the same prodigy which was wrought for the apostles shall be wrought for you; Jesus shall again command the tempest to be appeased, and tranquillity and calm shall be restored to your soul.
THIRD POINT — But when the temptation shall have passed be assured your work is not over. Either you have successfully resisted, or you have yielded. If you have been fortunate enough to have resisted, do not claim for yourself the glory of this triumph. Be careful to refer all the honor of your victory to God. Gratitude for benefits received shall gain for you new blessings and attract new graces. Moses, after his victory over the Amalekites, erected an altar on the battlefield and there offered to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. BoSwSuet praised the great Conde, the conqueror at Rocroy, for having intoned the Te Deum on the field of battle, thus recognizing that he was indebted to God for his first victory. Imitate these examples, for, since you are weak, it is impossible to triumph over the enemy by your own unaided strength. It is to the protection of the Virgin Mother and the assistance which God sends you by His angels that you are indebted for victory; why then take the glory as if it had come from yourself? If you are obliged to admit defeat, then deplore it, but be not cast down or discouraged.
Here there are two dangers to be feared: indifference and discouragement. Indifference, alas! is only too frequent. One commits sin and thinks of it no more; one is the enemy of God and remains tranquil. Should you see some loved one die you can- not restrain your tears; but your soul is dead in sin. Shall you be insensible to this spiritual death ? Be on your guard against this guilty carelessness. You have offended your God? then cast yourself on your knees and ask for pardon. Your soul is stained by sin? then do not remain in sin, but hasten to wash it away in the sacred waters of penance. Also avoid discouragement. This would be nothing less than a new outrage against God. And let us ask, What can be the motive for discouragement? You have sinned; do you think you are impeccable ? Are you stronger than Samson, holier than David, or wiser than Solomon? Whence come, therefore, your discouragement and anger? God opens His heart to you; have recourse to His mercy. Instead of being saddened or unduly discouraged, let the remembrance of your faults serve as a motive of greater humility, since you are so weak; more patience, since you have so much to expiate ; more charity, since you have so much need of indulgence. Oh, then shall your fault be a happy one, and even as God you shall draw good from evil.
O my God, how good Thou art! Thou experiencest more pity than anger at the sight of Thy children's faults. I wish hereafter to entertain for Thee a truly filial confidence. If I have the misfortune to offend Thee, I shall cast myself into Thy arms, feeling well assured that Thou wilt not reject Thy repentant child.
Source: Short Instructions for Every Sunday of the Year and the Principal Feasts, Imprimatur 1897