DEATH OF THE SINNER
“When distress cometh upon them, they will seek for peace, and there shall be none.
Trouble shall come upon trouble.”
At present sinners banish the remembrance and thought of death; and thus they seek after peace, though they never find it, in the sinful life which they lead. But when they shall be found in the straits of death, on the point of entering into eternity, “they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.” Then they shall not be able to fly from the torture of their sinful conscience. They shall seek peace; but what peace can be found by a soul loaded with sins which devour her like so many vipers? What peace can the sinner enjoy when he sees that he must in a few moments appear before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, whose law and friendship he has till then despised? “Trouble shall come upon trouble.” The news of death, which has been already announced, the thought of being obliged to take leave of every thing in this world, the remorses of conscience, the time lost, the want of time at present, the rigor of the divine judgment, the unhappy eternity which awaits sinners–all these things shall form a horrible tempest, which shall confuse the mind, shall increase diffidence; and thus, full of confusion and distrust, the dying sinner shall pass to the other world.
Trusting in the divine promise, Abraham, with great merit, hoped in God against human hope. “Who against hope believed in hope” (cf Romans 4:18). But sinners, with great demerit, hope falsely and to their own perdition, not only against hope, but also faith; because they despise the menaces of God against all who are obstinate in sin. They are afraid of a bad death, but they fear not to lead a wicked life. But who has assured them that they shall not be suddenly deprived of life by a thunderbolt, by apoplexy, or by the bursting of a blood-vessel? And were they at death even allowed time for repentance, who assures them that they shall sincerely return to God? To conquer bad habits, St. Augustine had to fight against them for twelve years. How shall the dying man, who has always lived in sin, be able, in the midst of the pains, the stupefaction, and the confusion of death, to repent sincerely of all his past iniquities? I say sincerely because it is not enough to say and to promise with the tongue; it is necessary to promise with the heart. O God! What terror and confusion shall seize the unhappy Christian who has led a careless life, when he shall find himself overwhelmed with sins, with the fears of judgment, of hell, and of eternity! O, what confusion shall these thoughts produce when the dying sinner shall find his reason gone, his mind darkened, and his whole frame assailed by the pains of approaching death! He will make his confession; he will promise, weep and seek mercy from God, but without understanding what he does; and in this tempest of agitation, of remorses, of pains and terrors, he shall pass to the other life. “The people shall be troubled, and they shall pass”(cf Job 34:20 Douay). A certain author says that the prayers, the wailings, and the promises of dying sinners, are like the tears and promises of a man assailed by an enemy who points a dagger to his throat to take away his life. Miserable the man who takes to his bed in enmity with God, and passes from the bed of sickness to eternity.
Affections and Prayers
O wounds of Jesus, you are my hope. I should despair of the pardon of my sins, and of my eternal salvation, did I not behold you, the fountains of mercy and grace, through which a God has shed all his blood, to wash my soul from the sins which I have committed. I adore you, then, O holy wounds, and trust in you. I detest a thousand times, and curse those evil pleasures by which I have displeased my Redeemer, and have miserably lost his friendship. Looking then at you, I raise up my hopes, and turn my affection to you. My dear Jesus, thou dost deserve to be loved by all men, and to be loved with their whole heart. I have so grievously offended thee, I have despised thy love; but not withstanding my sinfulness, thou hast borne with me so long, and invited me to pardon with so much mercy. Ah my Savior, do not permit me ever more to offend thee, and to merit my own damnation. O God! What torture should I feel in hell at the sight of thy blood and of the great mercies thou hast shown me. I love thee, and will always love thee. Give me holy perseverance. Detach my heart from all love which is not for thee, and confirm in me a true desire, a true resolution henceforth to love only thee, my sovereign good. O Mary, my mother, draw me to God, and obtain for me the grace to belong entirely to him before I die.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Le soir ou La TempÃªte (The Evening or The Tempest), Claude Joseph Vernet, between 1734 and 1753, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.