St. Alphonsus de Liguori on Judgment and Mercy

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, teaches,

“Brother, when the devil tempts you again to sin, if you wish to be lost, you have it in your power to commit sin; but do not then say that you wish to be saved. As long as you wish to sin, regard yourself as damned, and imagine that God writes the sentence of your damnation, and that he says to you:

Ungrateful soul, what more ought I to do for you, that I have not done? But, since you wish to be lost, go into eternal fire; the fault is your own.

[Jude 1:7: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”]

But you will say, Where then is the mercy of God? Ah, unhappy soul. Do you not feel that God has shown you mercy in bearing with you for so many years, after so many sins? You should remain forever prostrate on the earth, thanking him for his mercy, and saying: The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed?

By committing a single mortal sin, you have been guilty of a greater crime than if you have trampled under foot the first monarch in the world.

You have been guilty of so many mortal sins, that if you had committed against your brother the injuries which you have offered to God, he would not have borne with you.

God has not only waited for you, but he has so often called you and invited you to pardon. What is there that I ought to have done more?

If God had stood in need of you, or if you had conferred a great favour upon him, could he show you greater mercy? If, then, you offend him again, you will change his mercy into wrath and vengeance.

Consideration – The Mercy of God

Mercy exalteth itself above judgement.”—St James, ii.13.


GOOD is naturally diffusive—that is, inclined to communicate its good even to others. But God, who is by nature infinite, goodness, as St Leo expresses himself,332 has an infinite desire to impart his own felicity to us; and therefore his inclination is, not to chastise, but to show mercy to all. To punish is, according to Isaias, a work opposed to the inclination of God.

He shall be angry . . . that he may do His work, His strange work: His work is strange to Him. — Isa.xxviii.21

And when the Lord chastises in this life, he does it in order to show mercy in the next.

O God! . . . Thou hast been angry, and hast had mercy on us.

He appears angry that we may enter into ourselves and detest our sins. Thou hast shown Thy people hard things; Thou hast made us drink the wine of sorrow.

And when he sends us any chastisement, he does it because he loves us, and wishes to deliver us from eternal punishment. “Thou hast given a warning to them that fear Thee that they may flee from before the bow, that Thy beloved may be delivered.”

And who can sufficiently admire and praise the mercy of God toward sinners in waiting for them, in calling them, and in receiving them when they return? Oh! How great is the mercy of God in waiting for our repentance!

My brother, when you offended God, he could have struck you dead; but he waited for you, and instead of chastising you, he conferred favours upon, he preserved your life, and provided for you. He pretended not to see your sins that you might repent.

Thou overlookest the sin of men for the sake of penance.

But, O Lord, how does it happen that Thou canst not bear to behold a single sin, and beholdest so many of them in silence? Thou canst not look on iniquity; why lookest Thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest Thy peace?338

Thou beholdest the blasphemer, the unchaste, the vindictive man, multiplying iniquities from day to day; and Thou dost not chastise him; and why so much patience. Therefore the Lord waiteth that He may have mercy on thee.

God waits for sinners, that they may amend and that thus he may pardon and save them.

St Thomas says that all creatures, fire, the earth, air, water, by a natural instinct, would wish to punish and to take vengeance on the injuries done to their Creator. But God in his mercy restrains them. But, O Lord! Thou waitest for these impious wretches that they may see their wickedness; but dost not Thou see that they ungratefully take advantage of Thy mercy to offend Thee still more? Thou hast been favourable to the nation: Thou hast been favourable to the nation; art Thou glorified?

And why so much patience? Because God wills not the death of the sinner; but that he be converted and live. O patience of God! St Augustine goes so far as to say that God were he not God, would be unjust on account of his excessive patience toward sinners. To wait for those who abuse patience to become more insolent, appears to be an injustice to the divine honour. “We sin,” continues the holy Doctor “we adhere to sin.”

Some make peace with sin, and sleep in sin for months and years. “Gaudemus de peccato”—We rejoice at sin; others go so far as to boast of their wickedness; and Thou art appeased. We provoke Thee to anger—Thou invitest us to mercy. We appear to be engaged with God in a contest in which we labour to provoke him to chastise our guilt; and he invites us to pardon.

AFFECTIONS AND PRAYERS. Ah, my Lord! I know that I deserve to be at this moment in hell. Hell is my house. But through Thy mercy, I am not now in that place of woe, but I am here at Thy feet, and fell that Thou wishes and commandest me to love Thee. Thou shall love the Lord thy God. I hear Thee tell me that Thou wilt pardon me if I repent of the injuries I have done Thee. Yes, my God: since Thou wishest me, a miserable rebel against Thy majesty, to love Thee, I love Thee with my whole heart, and I feel more regret for the outrages I have offered to Thee, than for any evil that could have befallen me. Ah! Enlighten me, O infinite Goodness; make me sensible of the wrongs I have done Thee. I will no longer resist Thy calls. I will give no more displeasure to a God who has loved me so tenderly, who has pardoned me so often and with so much love.

Ah! That I had never offended Thee, my Jesus ; pardon me, and grant that, from this day forward, I may love nothing but thee: that I may live only for Thee who didst die for me; that I may suffer for Thy love, since Thou hast suffered so much for the love of me. Thou hast loved me from eternity: Grant that for eternity I may burn with Thy love. I hope for all things, O my Saviour, through Thy merits; I trust also in thee, O Mary, save me by thy intercession.

— from “The Saint Alphonsus de Liguori Collection ” by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Catholic Way Publishing