Rorate Caeli

"Let none despair, but let none presume in himself"

Ait Iesus: "Tollite lapidem." Dicit ei Martha, soror eius, qui mortuus fuerat: "Domine, iam fœtet, quatriduanus est enim." Dicit ei Iesus: "Nonne dixi tibi quoniam si credideris videbis gloriam Dei?" (From the Gospel for Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, John xi, 39-40: Jesus saith, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to Him, "Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he is now of four days." Jesus saith to her, "Did not I say to thee that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God?")
If... the Lord, in the greatness of His grace and mercy, raises our souls to life, that we may not die for ever, we may well understand that those three dead persons whom He raised in the body have some figurative significance of that resurrection of the soul which is effected by faith: [1] He raised up the ruler of the synagogue's daughter, while still lying in the house; [2] He raised up the widow's young son, while being carried outside the gates of the city; [3] and He raised up Lazarus, after four days in the grave. Let each one give heed to his own soul: in sinning he dies: sin is the death of the soul.

Yet sometimes sin is committed only in thought. You have felt delight in what is evil, you have assented to its commission, you have sinned; that assent has slain you: but the death is internal, because the evil thought had not yet ripened into action. The Lord intimated that He would raise such a soul to life, in raising that girl, who had not yet been carried forth to the burial, but was lying dead in the house, as if sin still lay concealed.

If you have not only harbored a feeling of delight in evil, but hast also done the evil thing, you have, so to speak, carried the dead outside the gate: you are already outside and being carried to the tomb. Yet such an one also the Lord raised to life. and restored to his widowed mother. If you have sinned, repent, and the Lord will raise you up, and restore you to your mother Church.

The third example of death is Lazarus. A grievous kind of death it is, and is distinguished as a habit of wickedness. For it is one thing to fall into sin, another to form the habit of sinning. He who falls into sin, and straightway submits to correction, will be speedily restored to life; for he is not yet entangled in the habit, he is not yet laid in the tomb. But he who has become habituated to sin, is buried, and has it properly said of him, "he stinketh;" for his character, like some horrible smell, begins to be of the worst repute. Such are all who are habituated to crime, abandoned in morals. You say to such an one, "do not do so!". But when will you be listened to by one on whom the earth is thus heaped, who is breeding corruption, and pressed down by the weight of habit?

And yet the power of Christ was not unequal to the task of restoring such one to life. We know, we have seen, we see every day men changing the very worst of habits, and adopting a better manner of life than that of those who blamed them. You detested such a man: look at the sister of Lazarus herself (if, indeed, it was she who anointed the Lord's feet with ointment, and wiped with her hair what she had washed with her tears), who had a better resurrection than her brother; she was delivered from the mighty burden of a sinful character. For she was a notorious sinner; and had it said of her,"Her many sins are forgiven her, for she has loved much."

We see many such, we know many: let none despair, but let none presume in himself. Both the one and the other are sinful. Let your unwillingness to despair take such a turn as to lead you to make choice of Him in whom alone you may well presume.
Saint Augustine
In Evangelium Ioannis - Tractatus XLIX