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The Penalty of Neglect

The Penalty of Neglect

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Published by glennpease

By FULTON J. SHEEN PH.D., D.D., Lirrl)., LL.D.


By FULTON J. SHEEN PH.D., D.D., Lirrl)., LL.D.

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Published by: glennpease on Feb 20, 2013
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THE PENALTY OF NEGLECTBy FULTON J. SHEEN PH.D., D.D., Lirrl)., LL.D.Since the universe ismoral and therefore a valeof soul-making and charac-ter-building, it follows thateveryone must work out hissalvation. The goal of morallife may be missed not onlyby serious violations of themoral law, but also by mereneglect to use the faculties,talents, and graces whichhave been given to us byGod.s.>INCE God chose to makea moral universe in which, by the right of the giftof freedom, characters might emerge, then this worldis a battleground of the forces of good and evil. Thisbeing so, it is important to ask ourselves if we maybe disinterested in that struggle. There are two an-swers to this question: one, the answer of the world;the other, the answer of our Blessed Lord. The an-swer of the world is summed up in one word "in-difference"; the answer of our Blessed Lord in thewords, "The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violenceand the violent bear it away/'In religious matters, the modern world believes inindifference. Very simply, this means it has no greatloves and no great hates; no causes worth living for,and no causes worth dying for. It counts its virtuesby the vices from which it abstains, asks that religionbe easy and pleasant, sneers the term "mystic" atthose who are spiritually inclined, dislikes enthusiasmand loves benevolence, makes elegance the test of virtue and hygiene the test of morality, believes thatone may be too religious but never too refined. Itholds that no one ever loses his soul, except for somegreat and foul crime such as murder. Briefly, the in-3738 THE MORAL UNIVERSEdifference of the world Includes no true fear of God,
 
no fervent zeal for His honor, no deep hatred of sin,and no great concern for eternal salvation. Such in-difference, has always been in the world, and ourBlessed Lord has warned that it shall be in it untothe end: "And as it came to pass in the days of Noah,so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.They did eat and drink, they married wives andwere given in marriage, until the day that Noe en-tered the ark: and the flood came and destroyed themall. Likewise as it came to pass, in the days of Lot:they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, theyplanted and built. And in the day that Lot wentout of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone fromheaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall itbe in the day when the Son of Man shall be re-vealed/'It is important to remember that such indifferenceto our souls and the conflict of good and evil iswholly wrong. As a matter of fact, we lose our soulsby the very process of not resisting the forces whichpull us down. This is true in the natural order aswell as in the spiritual. What is life, for example, butthe sum of those forces which resist death? What isthe biological principle of reversion to type but aproof of how we may lose ourselves by neglect? Sup-pose a bird fancier, through industry and skillfulmating, has brought a flock of pigeons to a high de-THE PENALTY OF NEGLECT 39gree o perfection as regards color and form. Suppose,furthermore, they were brought to a desert isle, andthere abandoned. After many years the bird fancierreturns for his pigeons. He would discover that theyhad lost the improvement which was due to his skilland knowledge, and that their highly developedcolors had changed to a dull slate-gray.What is true of the animal order, as regards rever-sion to type, is true also of man. Man, too, degener-ates by the mere fact that he neglects. Though thereis within him a spiritual principle which, like aflame, mounts upward to the heavens heavenly withGod, there is also within him something which dragshim down to the earth earthly with the beasts.Hence, man is always conscious of being a dualbeing: of wanting the better but of sometimes choos-ing the worse. This force of degeneration within him,the consequence of original sin, if it be not resistedby nature and grace, will eventually end in his re-version to the type Adam, or sin. Hence, the degen-eration of the moral and intellectual faculties of manfollows like an inexorable law upon his neglect tocombat the forces which make for spiritual death.
 
To illustrate this principle, suppose a man hadfallen from the eightieth floor of the Empire StateBuilding. In his rapid descent he might still be aliveas he passed the twenty-fifth floor, and yet no onewho saw him falling at that point would be suffi-40 THE MORAL UNIVERSEciently an optimist to believe that he would escapedeath, simply because the principle of death is alreadyin him. The man had neglected to take the precau-tions which would prevent the principle of deathfrom working itself out in his life, and because heneglected, he must succumb. Or, suppose a man hadtaken poison. As it begins to eat its way through thegates and alleys of his body an antidote is broughthim. In order that the poison work out its law of death, it is not necessary that the sick man violentlycast the antidote out of the window, or with a blas-phemy against the one who brought it, throw it onthe floor. It merely suffices that he neglect to takethe remedy. So it is with the moral life of man. Heloses his soul not only by committing grave sins, butalso by neglecting to respond to the grace which pre-vents sin and brings everlasting union with God.What is it that dries up the wells of repentance butthe neglect of meditating on the heinousness of sin?What makes devotion well-nigh impossible, but theneglect of prayer? What makes God seem so far awayand so unreal, but the neglect of living in His HolyPresence? What is it that drags a soul down to hellbut the neglect to lift itself up to heaven? Let a manbe solely at ease in himself, satisfied with what he is,consenting to the customs of the world, drawing inthe unwholesome breath of refined evil and lettinghis moral inclinations run their natural course with-THE PENALTY OF NEGLECT 41out check or stay, and he will most surely tide on-ward, with an easy and gentle motion, down thebroad current of eternal death, for in the languageof Paul, "How shall we escape, if we neglect?"Even in this life there is a terrible penalty forneglect. That penalty is the warping and the atrophy-ing and the dulling of those faculties which weremeant to feed on the things of God. God gave us amind to know Him, a will to love Him, and a bodyto serve Him. If these energies of body and soul areneglected by not lifting them up in adoration of theFather from whom all gifts come, nature takes a ter-rible revenge. Something happens to us that happens

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