"If thou hadst known!" - Luke 19:42
The thought which filled the mind of Our Lord when He uttered these words may well haunt every serious mind, - the sad thought of lost opportunities. God's mercies towards His chosen people had been countless and their re sponse had been miserably inadequate. The crown ing grace was vouchsafed in the coming of Christ himself. But "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." Jerusalem in particular was hostile to Him from beginning to end, and this, politically and religiously, sealed her fate. And so Our Lord, as He crossed the summit of Mount Olivet and looked down on the doomed city, forgot the clamor of triumph which surrounded Him, and shed tears of pity on the fate of His people blind to the value of the gift offered to them for the last time. If only thou couldst understand, even at this last day, what would bring thee peace and happiness.
What Christ saw in the destiny of Jerusalem, each man has to recognize in his own life; opportunities of all kinds lost through thoughtlessness, or blindness, or carelessness, or weakness. Who does not find himself with natural gifts undeveloped, which, if cultivated in due time, would have added con siderably to his usefulness? How many are constrained to acknowledge that impatience of discipline, disregard of counsel, love of ease and self-indulgence in early life have unfitted them for the noblest tasks of later years? How often do men let go the chances of making a due return in love and kindness until those to whom they owe most are beyond their reach? How often have they not to grieve over occasions they let slip, to be morally, spiritually beneficial to others, especially to those they knew and loved? Kindness implying little sacrifice, a word of sympathy, of encouragement, of timely advice, would have done much; but it was not forthcoming. And now when they would give anything to be able to make up for their coldness or carelessness, it is too late.
There are few, if any, more open to this manner of regret than priests. Their opportunities for doing good are so many and so great that it is difficult to keep alive to them all. Yet they all bring with them their corresponding responsibilities. Every soul that opens itself to the influence of a priest, as he speaks from the pulpit, or sits in the tribunal of penance, or visits the sick, or listens to the story of trials, perplexities, and sorrows that are poured into his ear day after day - every soul gives him a fresh opportunity to do God's work and to gather fruit for life eternal. Of those he misses, some he can never recall: that unique occasion to stand up and speak out at any cost for what was noble and true; that great charity which appealed to him in vain, because it could be done only at the cost of some great sacrifice; that long-wished-for advantage, finally secured, but at the cost of self-respect; that friend ship preserved only by being unfaithful to principle. These opportunities are rare, and if not grasped at once are gone forever - gone like the souls a priest might have won from sin, or lifted up to sanctity, if he had been watchful, but which he suffered to go before God as he found them.
Happily there are occasions which come back, opportunities which remain. The action of the priest is mostly continuous, and what is missing in it at one time may be made up for at another. Souls neglected may become the objects of special care; works allowed to languish for a time may receive a fresh infusion of vigor and recover all their useful ness. In many ways the past may be redeemed. Saint Paul speaks on several occasions of "redeeming the time" (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5); that is, making the most of the present and its opportunities. This is a means ever open to those who have to grieve over past losses. While life remains, they can always begin afresh, take up new and still higher purposes, organize new campaigns, fight new battles and win them.
- from , by Father John Baptist Hogan, S.S., D,D., 1899; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop John Joseph Williams, Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts