THE JUST HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR AT DEATH.
Hell will not cease to attack and tempt even the Saints at the hour of their death. But it is also true that God will not cease to assist and multiply helps for His faithful servants. The souls of the just are in the hands of God and the torment of death shall not touch them (Wis. iii. 1).
The souls of the just are in the hands of God. If God holds fast in His hands the souls of the just, who can snatch them from Him? It is true that hell does not cease to tempt and attack even the Saints at the hour of death; but it is also true that God does not cease to assist and to multiply helps for His faithful servants, whenever their danger is increased. “There is greater aid,” says St. Ambrose, “where there is greater peril, because God is a Helper in due time.” The servant of Eliseus was struck with terror when he saw the city encompassed with enemies; but the Saint inspired him with courage, saying: Fear not, for there are more with us than with them (4 Kings vi. 16). He then showed him an army of Angels sent by God to defend the city. The devil will come to tempt the dying Christian, but his Angel Guardian will come to strengthen him; his holy advocates will come. St. Michael whom God has appointed to defend His faithful servants in their last combat with hell, will come; the Divine Mother will chase away the devils and protect her servant; above all, Jesus Christ will come to guard against every temptation of hell, the innocent or penitent sheep for whose salvation He gave His life. He will give that confidence and strength of which the soul will stand in need in that last struggle with its enemies. Hence, full of courage, it will say: The Lord hath become my helper (Ps. xxix. 11). The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. xxvi. 1). God, says Origen, is more solicitous for our salvation than the devil is eager for our perdition; for the Lord loves our souls far more than the devil hates them.
God is faithful, says the Apostle, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able (1 Cor. x. 13). But you will say: Many Saints have died with great fear of being lost. I answer: We have but few examples of persons who, after leading a holy life, died with fears for their eternal salvation. To purify them at the hour of death from some defect, God sometimes permits holy souls to be disturbed by such fears. But generally the servants of God have died with a joyful countenance. At death the Judgment of God excites fear in all; but if sinners pass from terror to despair, the Saints rise from fear to confidence. St. Antoninus relates that in a severe illness, St. Bernard trembled through fear of Judgment and was tempted to despair. But thinking of the merits of Jesus Christ, he drove away all fear, saying to his Saviour: Thy wounds are my merits! Vulnera tua, merita mea! St. Hilarion also was seized with fear; but he said: “Go forth my soul! What do you fear? For nearly seventy years you have served Christ, and are you now afraid of death?” My soul, what do you fear? Have you not served a God Who is faithful and knows not how to abandon at death the Christian who has been faithful to Him during life?
Ah, my Jesus, when will the day arrive on which I can say: My God, I can never lose Thee! When shall I see Thee face to face, and be sure of loving Thee with all my strength for eternity? Ah, my Sovereign Good, my only Love, as long as I have life I shall be in danger of offending Thee and of losing Thy grace. There was an unhappy time when I did not love Thee, but on the contrary, despised Thy love. I am sorry for it with my whole soul, and hope that Thou hast already pardoned me. I now love Thee with my whole heart, and desire to do all in my power to love and please Thee.
Father Joseph Scamacca, of the Society of Jesus, being asked if in dying he felt confidence in God, said: “Have I served Mahomet, that I should now doubt of the goodness of my God, or of His desire to save me?”
Should the thought of having offended God at some time in the past molest us at death, let us remember that He has protested that He forgets the iniquities of all penitent sinners. If the wicked do penance, — I will not remember all his iniquities (Ezech. xviii. 21). But you may ask: How can I be sure of having received pardon from God? St. Basil asks the same question: “How can any one be certain that God has forgiven his sins?” “He can be certain of pardon,” answers the Saint, “if he can say: I have hated and abhorred iniquity.” He who detests sin can rest secure of having obtained pardon from God. The heart of man cannot exist without loving some object; it must love creatures or God. If it loves not creatures, it loves God. And who are they that love God? All who observe His commands. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (Jo. xiv. 21). He, then, who dies in the observance of the Commandments, dies in the love of God, and he that loves fears not. Charity casteth out fear (1 Jo. iv. 18).
But I am still in danger of refusing Thee my love, O my Jesus, and of again turning my back upon Thee. Ah, Jesus, my Life, my Treasure, do not permit it! Should this misfortune ever happen to me, take me this moment out of life by the most cruel of deaths. I am content to suffer such a death, and I entreat Thee to send me such a death, sooner than permit me ever to cease to love Thee. Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus Christ, do not abandon me to so great an evil. Chastise me as Thou wishest. I deserve and accept any chastisement Thou art pleased to inflict upon me; but preserve me from the punishment of seeing myself deprived of Thy grace and Thy love. My Jesus, recommend me to Thy Father. Mary, my Mother, recommend me to thy Son. Obtain for me perseverance in His friendship, and the grace to love Him, and then may He do with me according to His will.