THE VANITY OF THE WORLD – THE GOODS OF THIS WORLD ARE FALSE GOODS
The world! And what is the world but mere show! A scene which quickly passes away! The fashion of this world passeth away! Death approaches, the curtain falls, the scene closes, and all comes to an end!
What doth it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26). O great maxim, which has conducted so many souls to Heaven, and bestowed so many Saints on the Church! What doth it profit to gain the whole world, which passes away, and lose the soul, which is eternal?
The world! And what is the world but mere show, a scene which quickly passes away! The fashion of this world passeth away (I Cor. vii. 31). Death approaches, the curtain falls, the scene closes, and all comes to an end!
Alas! at the hour of death, how will all worldly things appear to a Christian – those vessels of silver, those heaps of gold, that rich and vain furniture – when he must leave them all forever!
O Jesus, grant that henceforward my soul may be wholly Thine! Grant that I may love no other but Thee. I desire to renounce all things before death tears me away from them.
St. Teresa says: “Nothing ought to be considered of consequence which must come to an end.” Let us, therefore, strive to gain that treasure which will not fail with time. What does it avail a man to be happy for a few days (if indeed there can be any happiness without God), if he must be unhappy forever in eternity.
David says that earthly goods, at the hour of death, will seem as a dream to one waking from sleep: As the dream of them that awake (ps. lxxii. 20). What disappointment does he feel who, having dreamt he was a king, on awaking finds himself still as lowly and poor as ever?
O my God, who knows but that this meditation which I am now reading will be the last call for me? Enable me to root out of my heart all earthly affections, before I enter into eternity. Grant that I may be sensible of the great wrong I have done Thee, by offending Thee, and by forsaking Thee for the love of creatures. Father, I am not worthy to be called thy son (Luke xv. 21). I am grieved for having turned my back upon Thee; do not reject me, now that I return to Thee.
No position of dignity, no magnificence, no wealth, no nice points of honour, no pastimes, will console a Christian at the hour of death; the love of Jesus Christ, and the little that he has suffered for His love, will alone console him.
Philip II, when dying, said “Oh, that I had been a Lay-Brother in some Monastery, and not a King!” Philip III said “Oh, that I had lived in a desert! Alas, now I shall appear with but little confidence before the tribunal of God!” Thus, at the hour of death, do those express themselves who have been esteemed the most fortunate in this world.
In short, all earthly goods generally bring, at the hour of death, only remorse of conscience and fear of eternal damnation. O God! will the dying sinner say, I have had sufficient light to withdraw myself from worldliness, and yet I have followed the world, and its maxims; and now what sentence will be pronounced upon me? Fool that I have been! I might have been a saint, with the means of grace and the advantages I enjoyed! I might have led a happy life in union with God; and now what have I but remorse of conscience and a dread of damnation! But when will he say this? When the scene is about to close, and himself about to enter into eternity, and at the moment on which will depend his happiness or misery forever.
O Lord, have pity on me! For the past I have not been so wise as to love Thee. From this day forward Thou alone shalt be my only Good: My God and my all! Thou alone deservest all my love, and Thee only will I love.