What must we do in order to be admitted
with the Saints into Heaven?
by Rev. John Evangelist Zollner, 1884
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross and follow me."--Matt. 16: 24.
In the Saints have been fulfilled the words of Christ: "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for your reward is very great in heaven." Who can describe the joys which they experience in that heavenly country? God has wiped away all tears from their eyes, they are free from all mourning, crying and sorrow, and all sufferings and tribulations of this mortal life (Apoc. 21: 4); they are most intimately united with God and enjoy that happiness of which the Apostle speaks: "The eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him."--I. Cor. 2: 9. This joy, this felicity, lasts forever, without interruption, as long as God is God. As unspeakably happy and blessed as our glorified brothers and sisters are we also must become; for it is the will of God that we all be saved. But what must we do in order to be admitted with the Saints into heaven? According to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ we must:I. Deny ourselves,
II. Take up our cross, and
III. Follow Him.
Self-denial or mortification consists in curbing our evil inclinations, desires and senses, such as the eyes, the ears and the tongue, and in courageously renouncing all things whatsoever which are an obstacle to salvation. This mortification is necessary for our salvation, for without it we can, neither avoid evil nor do good.1. We cannot avoid evil without mortification.
(a) Sacred history convinces us of this. What befell Cain when he disregarded the admonition of God?" The lust of sin shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it."--Gen. 4: 7. He committed the crime of fratricide. What happened to David when he gave free scope to his eyes? He became an adulterer and a murderer. What was the end of Judas, when he did not resist his inordinate desire for money? He betrayed and sold his Lord and Master for thirty pieces of silver, after which, in despair, he hanged himself.2. We cannot do good without mortification.
(b) Experience. There are many Christians who are infected with the vices of pride, avarice, impurity, drunkenness, anger, etc., who offend God most grievously. Whence does it come? Simply because they do not mortify themselves. They give full liberty to their senses, allow evil desires to grow in their hearts, like weeds, and never think of restraining them. Again we see Christians who, chained by their evil habits, live in sin for years; they repeatedly curse and blaspheme, sin against chastity, get drunk, absent themselves from their homes until late in the night, and live in strife and enmity with their neighbor. What is the cause of all this? Because they do no violence to themselves and will not consent to abandon their sinful habits and to curb their wicked lusts.
(c.) The example of the Saints. They knew well that without selfdenial one cannot avoid evil; for this reason-they often underwent the greatest austerities and practised the most astonishing mortifications. St. Paul says of himself: "I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a reprobate."--I. Cor. 9: 27. St. Jerome lacerated his breast with stones, St. Benedict rolled himself in briars and thorns, St. Bernard plunged himself in a frozen lake, in order to overcome impure temptations. St. Francis Borgia continually made war against the flesh, and thought only of mortifying himself; whatever was painful to his sensual nature he called his friend. When he made a long journey in the middle of summer and was burnt by the heat of the sun, he said: "How admirably my friend assists me." He used to say the same of cold, of rain, of rheumatism, and of slanderers. He often put little pebbles into his shoes in order to cause him pain; in winter when it was very cold, he walked more slowly. Learn from the examples of the Saints that you also must practise, if not extraordinary, at least lesser, mortifications in order to preserve yourselves from sin.
(a) Every man is naturally inclined to evil; to do good costs him more or less labor, because his sensual nature is opposed to it. Besides this, there are yet two other enemies of our salvation, the world and the devil, who endeavor by all possible means to lead us astray. We must pray, because prayer is not only a good work, but also one of the conditions upon which our salvation depends, and this being a gratuitous gift of God he has an unquestionable right to establish the conditions upon which it shall be obtained. But how much it costs to pray attentively and devoutly! Are we not every moment disturbed by worldly thoughts and assailed by various temptations, which we must banish? We should love to give alms. How often does it happen that our children, or our relations, or perhaps avaricious thoughts suggest to us: You have not an abundance of temporal goods, you can spare nothing, you may need every cent you have, you may yet end your days in the poor-house. We should be reconciled with our neighbor, and forgive him from our heart, but self-love arises, vividly calls to mind the injury and offence we have received and says to us: How is it possible for you to forgive this person who has treated you so badly. It would be a shame for you to humble yourself before him and speak to him. Thus every exercise of virtue, every good work, is connected with various difficulties, for the three enemies of our salvation labor indefatigably to hinder us from doing good, to draw us into sin and eternal damnation. "As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor."--Eccles. 24: 23. The vine needs to be pruned frequently, if it is to bear not only leaves, but grapes. In like manner we must curb our sensual emotions and inclinations, that they may not prevent us from bringing forth fruits of justice.Part II.
(b.) The examples of the Saints also convince us of this. We read of them that they distinguished themselves in virtue, and reached a high degree of perfection. They were exceedingly humble, meek, patient and merciful; they lived so chastely that they carried their robe of innocence with them unstained to the grave; they were so devout that they spent whole nights in prayer; so liberal that they distributed all their substance among the poor. How did they attain to such an extraordinary degree of virtue and holiness? Chiefly by self-denial, which they practised continually. St. Aloysius was an angel in human form; we know that he always bridled his eyes, and did not even look at his own mother. St. Francis of Sales was so meek that not even the greatest offence could excite him to anger; but he himself confesses that he obtained this meekness only by manifold mortifications. St. John the Almoner was so indefatigable in bestowing benefits, that before his death he had given away even the bed on which he died, but he arrived at this degree of benevolence only by combating every inordinate inclination to earthly goods, which he overcame by works of mercy and charity to the poor. Follow the example of the Saints and deny yourselves, that with the grace of God you may be enabled to avoid evil and to do good.
1. To take up the cross is for most people absolutely necessary for salvation.
(a) It is necessary for many sinners. God gives sinners numberless graces for conversion. He speaks to them through the voice of conscience, by the words of priests in the pulpit and in the confessional, he sends them special seasons of grace, such as missions, and jubilees, and seeks to make a salutary impression upon them by various events, such as the death of an acquaintance, but all in vain; they remain unconverted. Then in his longanimity and mercy God acts like a good father, who if his children do not profit by his admonitions and reprimands, has recourse to the rod and severely and sensibly punishes them; he sends the sinner into the school of sufferings, inflicting upon him poverty and need, sickness and pain, contempt and other afflictions. Behold, this opens the sinner's eyes and makes his hard heart soft, he perceives the error of his way, repents of his sins, and is converted to God. Examples. Manasses. This king had been guilty of much wickedness, and even induced his people to idolatry. By command of God he was often admonished to repentance, but in vain. Great punishments were visited upon him, he lost both crown and sceptre, and was carried to Babylon in chains. This caused him to repent of his crimes, and promise amendment. He kept his word and when he again came into possession of his kingdom, he restored the worship of the true God throughout the land and lived the life of a pious prince to the end of his days.--II. Chron. 33. The prodigal son, who was brought back to his senses and compelled to return repentant to his father, only by the great miseries into which he had plunged himself by his debaucheries.—Luke, 15: ii, et seq. Even so in our days, crosses and afflictions are often the only means for the conversion of the sinner.2. is expedient for all.
(b) Even for many just. There is scarcely any one so healthy that he does not need medicine sometimes, in order to remove some disorder and continue in good health. In like manner there are but few Christians who preserve their fervor for virtue, if they have always days of prosperity. Continued prosperity is frequently the cause of their becoming tepid, of placing their mind and heart upon earthly thing?, and even of their deep fall. Examples. David, who did not commit the two crimes of adultery and murder at the time when he was persecuted by an envious father-in-law, or when he was forced to live in the dens and caverns of the wilderness for concealment, or when he was despised and mocked by his own wife, pursued and dishonored by his own son, insulted by his own servants, and sorely oppressed on all sides, but only when he spent his days in idleness in the palace. Solomon, whose heart was so corrupted by pleasures of every kind during a long peace, that he became guilty of idolatry. The first Christians, who led a life of holiness, during the time of persecution, but when peace was obtained, degenerated in many ways and even apostatized from the true faith. Let us reflect upon ourselves. How soon we become lukewarm, how easily we forget God, if we live for a time without trouble and care! How perceptibly our desire for heaven decreases as earthly joys increase! How easily it might happen that we would turn away from God and sin grievously, if our days of prosperity would last long. If, therefore, God sometimes visits us with afflictions, let us not consider it an evil, for they are perhaps necessary for the salvation of our soul.
(a) In order to satisfy for temporal punishments due to sin. Many of those who now walk in the path of virtue, formerly committed great and grievous sins; true, they have sincerely confessed these sins and obtained the remission of them, together with the eternal punishment, but the temporal punishment remains, for which they must render satisfaction either here or in purgatory. They still commit venial sins, which likewise incur temporal punishments. We have various means for cancelling these temporal punishments, such as indulgences, interior and exterior mortifications, works of mercy, and the frequent reception of the Sacraments. But how lukewarm and careless most of us are in the employment of these means. Though we may be numbered among the just, is it not, therefore, most profitable for us if God, by sending us tribulations, affords us an opportunity to suffer our purgatorial pains in this world? Should we not thankfully accept these sufferings and pray with St. Augustine: Lord, here cut, here burn, but spare me in eternity?
(b) For the increase of our future happiness. The Apostle assures us of this: "Our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory."--II. Cor. 4: 17. And Christ Himself says in the Gospel: "Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for my sake; be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven." We need not wonder, therefore, that the Saints during the time of their earthly pilgrimage carried their cross not only with patience, but even with joy, and longed for it with a greater desire than the children of the world long for honors and sensual enjoyments. Thus St. Theresa said: "Lord, let me suffer or die." St. Magdalen of Pazzi: "Lord, not to die, but to suffer." Bear, then, the cross which God places upon your shoulders with patience, for it is the key that opens heaven for you.
Self-denial and mortification are necessary for salvation, but not sufficient;
we must also follow Christ. Now, we follow Him,
1. When we believe in Him, that is, believe without doubting, all that God has revealed and all that the Catholic Church proposes to our faith. The necessity of faith is expressed numberless times in the Sacred Scripture. "He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting, but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."--John, 3: 36. "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be condemned."--Mark, 16: 16. The Apostle writes: "Without faith it is impossible to please God."--Heb. 11: 6. The Saints were convinced of the necessity of faith; for this reason the Apostles and their successors preached it with the greatest zeal both to Jews and Gentiles, for this reason millions of them sacrificed their life for the faith under the most cruel tortures. Do not permit yourselves to be led astray by men who say that it matters not whether one believes, or does not believe, whether one has this or that faith, provided one be honest. He who speaks thus, contradicts divine revelation, and is not on the road to salvation but to damnation. Adhere firmly to the Catholic faith and follow the example of the Saints, who in this faith found the sweetest consolation in life and in death, and would not renounce it for all the treasures of the world.PERORATION
2. When we love Him with our whole heart. Charity also is absolutely necessary for salvation, for without charity faith has no sanctifying virtue. We are taught this by the parable of the man who appeared at the marriage feast without a wedding garment.--Matt. 22. Without charity even the gift of working miracles, and the most beautiful virtues, are as naught: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries; and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."—I. Cor. 13: 1-3. The Saints became holy and worked out their salvation, not by the miracles they wrought, not by means of the individual good works which they practised, but only through the love of God, from which their virtues and good works proceeded. As the planets receive their light from the sun and would remain obscure if the sun would not show his light, so all virtues receive their value from-charity, without which they are of no merit before God.
You know now what you must do in order to be admitted among the Saints in heaven. Deny yourself, mortify the lusts of the flesh and all sinful desires, bridle your senses and with constancy refuse to yourself all that is sinful and all that leads to sin. Take up your cross, accept cheerfully all the sufferings and tribulations you receive from the hand of God, for they are graces which will lead you on in the path of salvation, confirm you in good, expiate the temporal punishmerits due your sins and increase your glory in heaven. Follow Christ. Hold fast to the faith and have charity, and manifest both by an unceasing fervor in the practice of Christian virtues and good works. Even though self-denial, mortification, the carrying of your cross and following Christ be connected with difficulties, let not your courage fail; God is with you, and assisted by his grace you can do all things. Labor, combat and suffer with the Saints on earth, that you may triumph with them in heaven. Amen.