A little over a week over reading this book, I am convinced of the need of doing deeper examination of conscience, and how many ordinary situations we find ourselves in, can be occasions of sins—out of either malice or weaknesses.
To kick off Advent, here are the seven vices he mentioned, and what to keep in mind in our fight to prevail over them:
Here, as I wrote earlier, he mentioned that anger is not strictly a sin, and that rightly, it is a response to injustice. But it becomes a sin of lacking in charity, especially when we overlook the quality of mercy in dealing with the weaknesses of others.
Point to remember: that we are ignorant, hence there is room for mercy. If we have perfect knowledge, we have no excuse for our faults, thus we'd be condemned.
Here, he gave the example of an extreme case of envy—where our lack of charity once again may raise indignance instead of joy upon the eleventh hour salvation of a sinner, such as that of the good thief crucified next to Jesus.
To remember: mercy, once more!
Surely anyone who has had experience with the proud will bear witness to the truth of this statement: if my own eternal salvation were conditioned upon saving the soul of one self-wise man who prided himself on his learning, or one hundred of the most morally corrupt men and women of the streets, I'd choose the easier task of converting the hundred. Nothing is more difficult to conquer in all the world than intellectual pride. If battleships could be lined with it instead of with armor, no shell could ever pierce it.
And a strong poignant warning:
Self-praise devours merit; and those who have done good things to be seen by men, and who trumpet their philanthropies in the marketplaces, will one day hear the saddest words of tongue or pen: "Thou hast already had thy reward." (Matthew 6:2)
Heaven is a city on a hill. Hence, we cannot coast into it; we have to climb. Those who are too lazy to mount can miss its capture as well as the evil who refuse to seek it. Let no one think he can be totally indifferent to God in this life and suddenly develop a capacity for Him at the moment of death.
Here the bishop invited us to look at Christ broken on the cross. There is a higher Love there that demands the surrender of the lower. He portrayed Mary, refugium peccatorum, as a mother whom all of us should contemplate before we do anything that can make our mothers ashamed.
Labor for things that endure. He showed the distinction between the fasting and dieting:
The Church fasts; the world diets. The Christian fasts not for the sake of the body, but for the sake of the soul; the pagan fasts not for the sake of the soul, but for the sake of the body.
Darwin tells us in his autobiography that, in his love for the biological, he lost all the taste he once had for poetry and music, and he regretted the loss all the days of his life. Nothing so much dulls the capacity for the spiritual as excessive dedication to the material.
On this matter, he had something to say to both the rich and the poor:
To the poor:
[Covetousness] once was monopolized by the avaricious rich; now it is shared by the envious poor. Because a man has no money in his pockets is no proof that he is not covetous; he may be involuntarily poor with a passion for wealth far in excess of those who possess.
There are very few disinterested lovers of the poor today; most of their so-called champions do not love the poor as much as they hate the rich. They hate all the rich, but they love only those poor who will help them attain their wicked ends.
To the rich:
[He] is a fallen man, because of a bad exchange; he might have had Heaven through his generosity but he has only the earth. He could have kept his soul but he sold it for material things.
When a man loves wealth inordinately, he and it grow together like a tree pushing itself in growth through the crevices of a rock. Death to such a man is a painful wrench, because of his cose identification with the material. He has everything to live for, nothing to die for. He becomes at death the most destitute and despoiled beggar in the universe, for he has nothing he can take with him.
And these, about eternity:
That disproportion between the infinite and the finite is the cause of disappointment. We have eternity in our heart, but time on our hands. The soul demands a heaven, and we get only an earth. Our eyes look up to the mountains, but they rest only on the plains.
Everything is disappointing except the redemptive love of our Lord. You can go on acquiring things, but you will be poor until your soul is filled with the love of Him who died on the cross for you.
I found so many insights to the human heart that it is impossible to leave this book! I think I'll make it a point to read this book again and again, especially during Advent and Lenten seasons. It'd also make a good gift for anyone this Advent.
Happy Advent to all!