THE GOODS OF THIS WORLD ARE CONTEMPTIBLE.
St. Augustine bids us to regard not what the rich man possessed in life but what he took with him in death, — a fetid body and a rag of garment to rot with him. We should labour to become Saints, rich in those goods that will accompany us into the other world and content us for all eternity.
There is a deceitful balance in his hand (Osee xii. 7). We must weigh things in the balance of God, and not in the deceitful balance of the world. The goods of this life are miserable goods; they do not content the heart; they soon end. My days have been swifter than a post: they have passed by as ships carrying fruits (Job ix. 25, 26). The days of our life pass and fly away, and of all the pleasures of this earth, what remains? They have passed like a ship which leaves no trace behind! As a ship that passeth through the waters, whereof, when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found (Wis. v. 10). Ask the many rich and learned of the world, the many princes and emperors who are now in eternity, what they possess of all the pomps and delights and grandeur they enjoyed in this life? They all answer: Nothing! Nothing! “O man,” says St. Augustine, “you attend to what he had here; but attend rather to what he brings with him.” You, says the Saint, regard only the goods the rich man possessed; but observe what he took with him at death, — a fetid body and a rag of garment to rot with him.
After death the grandees of the world are spoken of for a little while; but they are soon forgotten. Their memory hath perished with a noise (Ps. ix. 7). And if they have gone to hell, what do they do and say in that place of woe? They weep and say: What hath pride profited us? Or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow (Wis. v., 8, 9). What have pomps and riches profited us now that they are passed away like a shadow and for us nothing remains but eternal torments, wailing and despair?
Ah, my Redeemer, Thou hast suffered so many pains and ignominies for my sake; and I have loved the pleasures and vanities of this earth to such an excess, that, for sake of them I have often trampled on Thy grace. But, since Thou didst not cease to seek after me when I despised Thee, I cannot, O my Jesus, fear that Thou wilt now cast me away, when I seek and love Thee with my whole heart, and am more sorry for having offended Thee than for any other misfortune. O God of my soul, from this day forward I wish never more to offend Thee, even by a venial thought. Make known to me what is displeasing to Thee. I will not, for any earthly good, do what I know to be offensive to Thee. Make known to me what I must do in order to please Thee. I am ready to do it. I wish to love Thee with a true love.
The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light (Luke xvi. 8). How prudent are worldlings in earthly affairs! What toils do they endure in order to obtain a situation, or to acquire an estate! With what care do they attend to the preservation of bodily health! They adopt the safest means, they select the best physicians, the best remedies, the purest air. But how careless are they about the concerns of the soul! And it is certain that health, situations, and possessions shall one day end; but the soul and eternity are everlasting. What do not the unjust, the vindictive, and voluptuous endure in order to attain their wicked purposes! And for their souls, they will suffer nothing! O God, in the light of the death-candle, worldlings know and confess their folly! Then they say: Oh, that I had left the world, and led a life of sanctity! Pope Leo the Eleventh said at the hour of death: It were better for me to have been Brother Porter in my convent, than to be Pope. Honorius the Third also said in his last illness: It would have been better for me to have remained in the kitchen of my Monastery to wash the plates. In his dying moments, Philip the Second, King of Spain, sent for his son, and throwing off his royal robes, showed him his breast eaten away by worms, and said to him: “Prince, behold how we die and how the grandeurs of this world end. Oh, that I had been a Lay Brother in some Religious community, and not a king.” He then ordered a wooden cross to fastened round his neck by a cord, and having made all his arrangements for death, he said to his son: “I wished you to be present at this scene, that you may see how this world treats monarchs in the end. Their death is like that of the poorest subjects. In short, he who leads the most holy life is in the greatest favour with God.” This same son, who was afterwards Philip the Third, dying at the age of forty-three years, said: “My subjects, in the sermon to be delivered at my funeral, let nothing be preached but this spectacle you now behold. Say that to be king, serves at death to excite regret and pain.” He then exclaimed: “Oh, that I had never been a king! Oh, that I had lived in a desert to serve God! I should now go with greater confidence to present myself at God’s tribunal, and should not now find myself in danger of being damned for ever.” But these desires at the hour of death serve only to increase the anguish and despair of those who have not loved God. “Therefore,” says St. Teresa, “we should make no account of what ends with life; the true life consists in living in such a manner as not to have any reason to fear death.” If, then, we wish to see the true value of earthly things, let us look at them from the bed of death, and say: These honours, these amusements, shall one day have an end: we ought, then, to labour to become Saints and rich in those goods alone which will accompany us into the other world, and content us for all eternity.
O my Jesus, I wish to make peace with Thee and to desire Thy grace more than any earthly good. For Thy sake I now renounce all the pleasures the world can give and I resolve to lose all rather than Thy grace. I embrace, O Lord, all the pains and crosses which shall come to me from Thy hands: give me the resignation which I stand in need of: here burn, here cut. Chastise me in this life, that in the next I may love Thee for ever. Mary, my Mother, to you I recommend my soul; do not ever cease to pray to Jesus for me.