SALVATION ALONE IS NECESSARY.
The affair of eternal salvation is not only the most important, it is the only affair to which we have to attend in this life. Only one thing is necessary. If you save your soul, it will do you no harm to have lived here in poverty, afflictions and contempt.
But one thing is necessary (Luke x. 42). It is not necessary that in this world we should be honoured with dignities, favoured with riches, with good health, and earthly pleasures; but it is necessary that we should be saved; for there is no middle course — we must either be saved or be damned. After this short life, we shall be either eternally happy in Heaven, or eternally wretched in hell.
How many worldly persons there are who, loaded with riches and honours in this life, and lifted up to high positions, and even to thrones, now find themselves in hell, where all their fortune in this world serves only to increase their pains and their despair. This is what the Lord warned us of: Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth destroy (Matt. vi. 19). The acquisition of earthly goods perishes with death; but the acquisiton of spiritual goods is an unrivalled treasure, and is eternal.
God has taught us that He wills the salvation of all, and to all He gives the power of being saved. Miserable is he who is lost; it is all his own doing: Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in me (Osee xiii. 9). And this will be the greatest pain of the damned, the thought that they are lost through their own fault. Fire and the worm (that is, the remorse of conscience) will torture the damned in punishment for their sins, but the worm will forever torment them more terribly than the flame. How much pain do we not suffer through the loss of any object of value — a diamond, a watch, a purse of money — especially when this happens through our own carelessness! We cannot eat or sleep, for thinking of our loss, so long as there is hope of repairing it in some way or other. What, then, will be the torment of one who, through his own fault, has lost God and Paradise, without a hope of ever recovering them!
O my God! what is it that will befall me? Shall I be lost? One lot or the other must be mine. I hope to be saved; but who shall assure me of it? I know that I have repeatedly deserved hell. Yes, my Saviour, Thy death is my hope.
We have erred from the way (Wis. v. 6). The eternal complaint of the souls miserably damned will be: We have gone astray, destroying ourselves of our own accord, and there is no remedy for our error! In most of the misfortunes that occur to persons in this life, a remedy comes with time, or with a change of state, or, at least, through a holy resignation to the will of God. But none of these remedies will help us when we have reached eternity, if in this life we have wandered from the path to Heaven.
Therefore, the Apostle St. Paul exhorts us to labour for our eternal salvation with a continual fear of losing it: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. ii. 12). This fear will cause us to walk with caution, and to avoid occasions of evil; it will aid us continually to recommend ourselves to God, and thus we shall be saved. Let us pray the Lord that He will fix this thought in our hearts — that upon the life we lead in this world depends the question whether we shall be eternally blessed or eternally miserable without hope of remedy.
My God, many times have I despised Thy grace; I deserve no mercy, but Thy Prophet teaches me that Thou showest mercy to all who seek Thee. In the past I have fled from Thee; but now I seek nothing, I ask nothing, I love nothing but Thee. Do not despise me in Thy goodness. Remember the Blood Thou hast shed for me. This Blood, and thy intercession, O Mary, Mother of God, are my only hope.