“THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH THE WORLD, OUR FAITH.”
A false balance is in his hand (Osee xii. 7). In these words the Holy Spirit warns us not to be deceived by the world, because the world weighs its goods in a false balance; we should weigh them in the true balance of Faith, which will show us what are the true goods. Oh, how wretched I have been, O Lord, in having, for so many years, gone after the vanities of the world, and left Thee, the Sovereign Good!
The thought of the vanity of the world, and that all things that the world values are but falsehood and deceit, has made many souls resolve to give themselves wholly to God. What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26). How many young persons has this great maxim of the Gospel brought to leave relatives, country, possessions, honours, and even crowns, to go to shut themselves up in cloisters or deserts, there to think of God alone! The day of death is called the day of destruction: The day of destruction is at hand (Deut. xxxii. 35). It is a day of destruction, because all the goods we have gained on earth must be left on the day of our death. Wherefore St. Ambrose wisely says that we falsely call these good things our good things, for we cannot carry them with us into the other world, where we must dwell forever. It is our holy deeds alone that accompany us, and they alone will comfort us in eternity.
All earthly fortunes, the highest dignities, gold, silver, the most precious jewels, when contemplated from the bed of death lose their splendour; the dark shadow of death obscures even sceptres and crowns, and makes us see that whatever the world values is but smoke, dust, vanity, and misery. And, in truth, at the time of death, what profit is there in all the riches acquired by the dying person, if nothing belongs to him after death except a wooden box, in which he is placed to grow corrupt? For what will vaunted beauty of body serve when there remains of it only a little polluted dust and four fleshless limbs?
What is the life of man upon earth? Behold it, as described by St. James: It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards will pass away (James iv. 15). Today this great man is esteemed, feared, praised; tomorrow he is despised, contemned, and abused. I have seen the wicked highly exalted and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus. And I passed by and, lo, he was not! (Ps. xxxvi. 35, 36). He s no longer to be found in his beloved house, in this great palace which ne built; and where is he? He is become dust in the grave!
A false balance is in his hand (Osee xii. 7). In these words the Holy Spirit warns us not to be deceived by the world, because the world weighs its goods in a false balance; we ought to weigh them in the true balance of Faith, which will show us what are the true goods which never end. St. Teresa said we should never take account of anything that ends with death. O God, what greatness has remained to those many first ministers of state, commanders of armies, princes, Roman emperors, now that the scene is changed, and they find themselves in eternity! Their memory has perished with a noise (Ps. ix. 7). They made a great figure in the world, and their names resounded among all; but when they were dead, for them was changed rank, name, and everything. It is useful here to notice an inscription placed over a certain cemetery in which many great men and ladies are buried: See where end all greatness, all earthly pomp, all beauty. Worms, dust, a worthless stone, a little sand, close the brief scene at the end of all.”
Oh, how wretched I have been, O Lord, in having for so many years gone after the vanities of the world, ask! left Thee, the Sovereign Good!
The fashion of this world passeth away (1 Cor. vii. 31). Our life is but a scene that passes away and speedily ends; and it must end for all, whether nobles or commoners, kings or subjects, rich or poor. Happy he who, in this scene, has played his part well before God. Philip III., King of Spain, died a young man, at the age of forty-two years; and before he died he said to those who stood by “When I am dead proclaim the spectacle that you now see; proclaim that, in death, to have been a king serves only to make one feel the pain of having reigned,” And then he lamented, saying: “Oh that during this time I had been in a desert, becoming a Saint, that now I might appear with more confidence before the tribunal of Jesus Christ!”
We know the change of life of St. Francis Borgia at the sight of the corpse of the Empress Isabella, who, in life, was most beautiful, but, after death, struck horror into all who saw her. Borgia, when he saw her, exclaimed, “Thus, then, end the good things of this world!” and he gave himself wholly to God. Oh, that we could all imitate him before death comes upon us! But let us make haste, because death runs towards us, and we know not when it will arrive. Let us not so act that the light that God will then give us will cause us nothing but remorse, when we hold in our hands the candle of death. Let us resolve to do now what we shall then wish to have done, and shall not be able to do.
No, my God, it is not enough that Thou hast hitherto borne with me; I do not wish that Thou shouldst wait longer to see me give myself wholly to Thee. Thou hast warned me many times to have done with this world, and to give myself all to Thy love. Now Thou tellest to me to turn to Thee; behold, I come, receive me into Thy arms. I abandon myself wholly to Thee. O spotless Lamb, sacrificed on a Cross for me, wash me first with Thy Blood, and pardon all the injuries Thou hast received from me; and then inflame me with Thy holy love. I love Thee above everything; I love Thee with all my heart. And what can I find in the world more worthy of love than Thou art, or that has loved me more? O Mary, Mother of God, and my advocate, pray for me; obtain for me a true and lasting change of life. In thee I trust.