MEANS OF PREPARING FOR DEATH
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
All confess that they shall die, and die only once, and that nothing is of greater importance than to die well; because on death depends whether we shall be forever in bliss or forever in despair. All know that their dying well or ill depends on their leading a good or a bad life. How, then, does it happen that the greater part of Christians live as if they were never to die, or as if to die well or ill was of little moment? They live in sin because they do not think of death. “Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin” (Sirach 7:36). We must be persuaded that the hour of death is not fit for settling the accounts of the soul, and securing the great affair of eternal salvation. In worldly matters, prudent men take measures in due time to secure temporal gain Ã¢â‚¬“ to obtain a situation of emolument. To preserve or restore bodily health, the necessary remedies are not deferred a single moment. What would you say of the man who should put off his preparation for a trial on which his life depended, till the day of trial arrived? Would you not stigmatize as a fool the general who should not begin to lay in a supply of provisions and arms, till the city is besieged? Would it not be folly in a pilot to neglect till the time of the tempest to provide the vessel with an anchor and a helm? Such precisely is the folly of the Christian who neglects to tranquilize his conscience till death arrives. “When sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction, as a tempest, then shall they call upon me, and I will not hear….Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way” (Proverbs 1:27-28, 31a). The time of death is a time of storm and confusion. At that awful hour, sinners call on God for assistance; but they invoke his aid through the fear of hell, which they see at hand, and not with true contrition of heart. It is for this reason that God is deaf to their cry; it is for this reason also that they shall then taste the fruit of their wicked life. What they have sown they shall reap. “For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap” (Galatians 6:7). Ah! It it will not then be enough to receive the sacraments; it is necessary at death to hate sin, and to love God above all things. But how can he, then, hate forbidden pleasures, who has loved them till that moment? How can he love God above all things, who has till then loved creatures more than he loved God?
The Lord called the virgins foolish, who wished to prepare their lamps when the spouse came. All have a horror of a sudden death, because there is no time to settle the accounts of conscience. All confess that the saints have been truly wise, because they prepared for death during life. And what are we doing? Will we expose ourselves to the danger of preparing for death when it shall have arrived? We ought to do at present what we shall then wish to have done. O, what pain shall then arise from the remembrance of time lost, and still more from the remembrance of time spent in sin!–time given by God, to merit eternal life; but now past, and never to return! What anguish shall the sinner feel when he shall be told, “You can be steward no longer! There is no more time for doing penance, for frequenting the sacraments, for hearing sermons, for visiting Jesus Christ in the holy sacrament, or for prayer. What is done is done. To make a good confession, to remove several grievous scruples, and thus tranquillize the conscience, would require a better state of mind, and time more free from confusion and agitation. ‘But time shall be no longer’ (Revelation 10:6).”
Affections and Prayers
Ah, my God, had I died on the nights known to thee, where should I be at present? I thank thee for having waited for me; I thank thee for all those moments which I should have spent in hell from the first moment that I offended thee. Ah! Give me light, and make me sensible of the great evil I have done thee in voluntarily losing thy grace, which thou didst merit for me by the sacrifice of thy life on the cross. Ah! My Jesus, pardon me; I am sorry from the bottom of my heart, and above all things, for having despised thee, who art infinite goodness. Ah! Assist me, O my Savior, that I may never lose thee again. Alas! My Lord, if I return again to sin, after so many lights and graces which thou hast bestowed upon me, I should deserve a hell to be made on purpose for myself. Through the merits of that blood which thou hast shed for my sake, do not permit me ever more to offend thee. Give me holy perseverance, give me thy love. I love thee, and I will never cease to love thee till death. My God, have mercy on me for the love of Jesus Christ. O Mary, my hope, do thou have pity on me; recommend me to God; thy recommendations are never rejected by that God who loves thee so tenderly.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art for this post on preparing for death: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Ernest Karlovich Lipgart, 1886, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.