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The Last Sin
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The Crossroads at 23rd Street


"For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)


"When FEAR knocks on your door, send FAITH to answer it."

The Last Sin: The Priests of the Congregation of Saint Paul (1886)

GOSPEL: Romans 6:19-23

"I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification. For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from justice. What fruit therefore had you then in those things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of them is death. But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This is not the only place in Holy Writ, my brethren, where eternal life and death are set before us as the wages we shall someday be paid. The word of God frequently admonishes us of the choice we are compelled to make between eternal sorrow and eternal joy, and for this most evident reason: we are always actually engaged in making the choice.

The very essence of our merit hereafter will be that we shall have freely and deliberately chosen Almighty God and his friendship, in preference to any and everything besides. And the reason, and the only reason, why a man will lose his soul will be because he committed mortal sin and died unrepentant that is to say, choosing to love what God bids him to hate.

What we call the choice between virtue and vice St. Paul calls the choice between life and death. And with that choice we are constantly confronted. Not that we always realize it, nor do I mean to say that the first time one grievously offends God he settles his fate eternally; but that each mortal sin really earns the wages of eternal death, and only the blessed mercy of God saves us from our deserved punishment.

And furthermore, it is some mortal sin or other that at last breaks down God's patience. If at any particular occasion he does not see fit to take us at our word, so to speak, and leave us forever in that state of enmity that we have chosen, it is NOT because we do not deserve it ...

It is because He is a loving Father to us, and is often willing to stand a great deal of wickedness on our part; or

  • Because we have some dear friends who are servants of God and who pray for us; or

  • Because the Blessed Virgin has acquired some special attachment to us and intervenes for us; or

  • Because God reserves us for a later day, when he will make such an example of us as will save other sinners; or

  • Because, again, he saves us for a later day to make us models of true penance.

But just look around you, brethren; just call to mind what you have heard or perhaps seen of God's judgments and the Apostle’s lesson becomes object-teaching. Have you not heard of a sudden and unexpected death and then remembered how years ago that man started a disreputable business? It was thus then that he made his decision for all eternity.

On the other hand, a man now temperate, once a drunkard, will tell you that long ago he took the pledge and broke it, and broke it again, but still persevered, and finally, by the grace of God, has managed to keep it. He was fighting the battle of fate and he won the victory. That dreadful appetite overcome, the practice of religion became easy to him.

In another case a man is led away little by little from the rules of honest dealing; at last he refuses to pay a certain just debt, one that he can easily pay if he wishes. After that, avarice eats into the core of his heart and he is lost forever. And, brethren, what a relief to hear after a sudden death that the poor soul, in question, was a monthly ”communicant” [a person who receives Holy Communion]!

Many are tested by Almighty God demanding that they shall withdraw from the proximate occasions of mortal sin. The voice of conscience, a sermon heard in the church, the private advice of some good friend for all these are the voice of God admonishing them against what leads them to mortal sin; against very bad company, or the saloon, or the Sunday excursion, or dangerous reading, or lonely company keeping. Perhaps one’s conduct about such dangers has more to do with his choice in eternity than anything else.

I do not mean to say that this fateful decision is a mere lottery, but it is a moment at the end of years of rebellion against God when an effort is made by the grace of God to save the sinner; and for weal or for woe it is the last chance. Some time or other the last sin will be committed, the last grace will be granted.

Oh my brethren, how very reasonable is the holy fear of God. Oh, how wise are they who have joined fear and love of God together so that the fire of love has burned the dross of slavishness out of fear, and fear has mingled reverence and humility with love. Alas, that so many should live as if eternal life and death had no meaning for the present hour.

Some are like that rich man I heard of. Walking home one day, a heavy shower of rain began; he stopped a hack [taxi / carriage driver] and asked what the he would charge to take him home. Fifty cents, was the answer. He began to quibble with the driver trying to reduce the price, and finally, refusing to pay more than twenty-five cents, he walked home in the rain.

But he caught cold, went to bed, and died. He had played the miser many a time before, but "the last time" had come. So many a one thinks his one sin more, his one other rejection of grace, is but like the multitude of other such offences gone before; and all the time he is deciding an eternal fate.


- Pax Tecum


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