PREPARATION FOR DEATH
I. PREPARE AT ONCE.
Would not that general be thought mad who did not begin to lay in stores of provisions and arms till the city was besieged by the enemy? And the captain of the ship insane who neglected to provide anchors and cables till overtaken by the storm? Such, precisely, is the folly of the Christian who waits till the hour of death to settle the affairs of his conscience.
All admit that they must 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 our eternal happiness or our eternal unhappiness depends on 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 were of little moment! They live in sin because they do not think of death. In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii. 40). 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 — to obtain a position 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 settle his conscience till death is at hand.
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 (Prov. i. 27-31). 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. Hence it is that God is deaf to their cry; and hence also will they then taste the fruit of their wicked life. What they have sown they shall reap. Ah! 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 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 has loved God?
O my Jesus, by the merits of that Blood 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 too have pity on me; recommend me to God: thy recommendations are never rejected by that God Who loves thee so tenderly.
The Lord called those virgins foolish who wished to prepare their lamps when the bridegroom was nigh. 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? Shall we expose ourselves to the danger of having little time to prepare for death? We ought to do at present what we shall then wish to have done. Oh! what pain will 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 will the sinner feel when he shall be told: Thou canst be steward no longer! (Luke xvi. 2). 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 more (Apoc. x. 6).
Ah, my God, had I died on one of the nights known to Thee, where should I be at present? I thank Thee for having waited for me; I thank Thee for giving me the time 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. Assist me, O my Saviour, that I may never lose Thee again. Alas, my Lord, if I return again to sin, after the many lights and graces Thou hast bestowed upon me, should I not deserve a hell for myself?