ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SALVATION
“But we entreat you, brethren…that you do your own business.”
cf 1 Thessalonians 4:10, 11
The business of eternal salvation is to us the most important of all business; but it is also the most neglected by Christians. They are diligent, and lose no time in seeking to gain a lawsuit or a situation of emolument. How many measures taken to attain these objects! How many means adopted! They neither eat nor sleep. And what efforts do they make to secure their eternal salvation? How do they live? To save their souls, the greater number of Christians do nothing; on the contrary, they do everything to bring their souls to perdition; they live as if death, judgment, hell, heaven, and eternity were not truths of faith, but fables invented by the poets. If a person lose a lawsuit, or a harvest crop, how great is his pain and distress of mind! With what zeal does he labor to repair the loss! If worldlings lose a horse, or a dog, with what diligence do they seek after it! But if they lose the grace of God, they sleep, and jest, and laugh. All blush at being told that they neglect their worldly affairs; but how few are ashamed to neglect the business of eternity, which is the most important of all business. The worldling says that the saints were truly wise, because they sought only the salvation of their souls; and still he attends to all worldly business, but utterly neglects the concerns of the soul. Brethren, says St. Paul, let the great business of your eternal salvation be the sole object of all your care. This is to you the most important of all affairs. “Rogamus vos, ut vetrum negotium agatis.” Let us then be persuaded that eternal salvation is for us the most important business–the only business–and that, if once neglected, it is an irreparable business.
It is the most important business; because, if the soul be lost, all is lost. We ought to set a higher value on the soul than all the goods of the earth. “The soul,” says St. Chrysostom,” is more precious than the whole world!” To be convinced of this truth, it is enough to know that God himself has condemned his Son to death in order to save our souls. “For God so loved the world,, as to give his only-begotten Son” (John 3:16). The Eternal Word has not refused to purchase them with his own blood. “You are bought with a great price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Hence a holy father says that man appears to be of as much value as God. “Tam pretioso munere humana redemptio agitur, ut homo Deum valere videatur.” Hence Jesus Christ has asked, “What exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (cf Matthew 16:26). If, then, such is the value of the soul, for what earthly good shall a man exchange and lose it?
St. Philip Neri had just reason to say that he who does not attend to the salvation of his soul, is a fool. Were there on this earth two classes of men, one mortal and the other immortal, and were the former to see the latter seeking after the things of this world, its honors, goods and amusements, they should certainly exclaim, “O fools that you are! You have it in your power to acquire eternal riches; and do you fix your thoughts on those miserable and transitory things? Will you, for these, condemn yourselves to an eternity of torments in the next life? Leave us, for whom all shall end at death, to seek after the earthly goods.” But no; we are all immortal. How, then, does it happen that so many lose their souls for the miserable pleasures of this life? How does it come to pass, says Salvian, that Christians believe in judgment, hell and eternity, and still live as if they feared them not? “Quid causae est quod Christianus, si futura credit, futura non timeat?”
Affections and Prayers
Ah, my God! How have I spent so many years, which thou hast given me in order to secure my eternal salvation? Thou, my Redeemer, hast purchased my soul with thy blood, and hast consigned it to me that I might attend to its salvation; and I have labored only for its perdition by offending thee, who hast loved me so tenderly. I thank thee for giving me time to be able to repair the great loss which I have suffered. I have lost my soul and thy grace. Lord, I am sorry with my whole heart for my past offenses, and I resolve, henceforth, to lose every thing, even my life, rather than forfeit thy friendship. I love thee above all things, and I resolve always to love thee, my Sovereign Good, who art worthy of infinite love. Assist me, my Jesus, that this purpose may not be like my past resolutions, to which I have been always unfaithful. Take me out of life rather than suffer me ever again to offend thee, or ever to cease to love thee. O Mary, my hope after Jesus, save me by obtaining for me holy perseverance.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Cielo e infierno [Heaven and Hell] (Dura subexposición del atardecer desde el balcón de casa) [Timed underexposure of nightfall from the balcony of my house], Andrés Nieto Porras from Palma de Mallorca, España, uploaded by russavia, 1 September 2010, CC; Portrait von Philipp (Filippo) Neri [1615-1595], Federico Zuccaro, 1593, PD-US copyright expired; both Wikimedia Commons.