How ardently shall we desire at death the time we have squandered away! This being true, our folly and misfortune will be all the greater, if after knowing these things during life, we neglect to apply a remedy in time.
I. Oh, how clearly are the Truths of Faith seen at the hour of death! But then they only serve to increase the anguish of the dying Christian who has led a bad life, particularly if he has been consecrated to God, and has had greater facilities for serving Him, more time for exercises of piety, more good example and more inspirations. O God, what torture will he feel in thinking: I have admonished others, and my life has been worse than theirs! I have left the world, and yet have cherished attachment to worldly pleasures and vanities! What remorse will he feel in thinking that with the lights he had received from God a very pagan would become a Saint! With what pain will his soul be racked when he remembers that he ridiculed in others certain practices of piety, as if they were weaknesses of mind; and that he praised certain worldly maxims of self-esteem, or of self-love, such as: We should seek our own advancement; We ought to avoid suffering, and indulge in the amusements within our reach.
The desire of the wicked shall perish (Ps. cxi. 10). How ardently shall we desire at death the time we now squander away! In his Dialogues, St. Gregory relates that a certain rich man called Crisorius who had led a wicked life, seeing at death the devils come to carry him off, exclaimed: Give me time! Give me time until tomorrow! They replied: O fool! Do you now ask for time? You have had so much time, but you wasted it and spent it in committing sin! And now you seek for time! Time is now no more! The unhappy man continued to cry out and call for assistance. To his son Maximus, a monk, who was present, he said: O my son, assist me! O Maximus, come to my aid! With his face all on fire he flung himself furiously from side to side in his bed, and in that state of agitation and screaming aloud, like one in despair, he breathed forth his unhappy soul.
O my God, I will no longer abuse Thy mercy. I thank Thee for the light Thou now givest me, and I promise to change my life. I see that Thou canst not bear with me any longer. I will not wait till Thou send me to hell or abandon me to a wicked life, which would be a greater punishment than death itself. Behold, I cast myself at Thy feet; receive me into Thy favour. I do not deserve Thy grace; but Thou hast said: The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, in whatsoever day he shall turn from his wickedness (Ezech. xxxiii. 12). If, then, O my Jesus, I have hitherto offended Thy infinite goodness, I now repent with my whole heart and hope for pardon. I will say with St. Anselm: Ah, since Thou hast redeemed me by Thy Blood, do not permit me to be lost on account of my sins. Look not on my ingratitude, but have regard to the love which made Thee die for me. If I have lost Thy grace, Thou hast not lost the power of restoring it to me.
II. Alas! during life, these fools love their folly; but at death they open their eyes, and confess that they have been fools. But this only serves to increase their fear of repairing past evils; and dying in this state, they leave their salvation very uncertain. You who are now reading this — I imagine that you say: This is indeed true. But if this is true, then your folly and misfortune will be still greater, if after knowing these truths during life, you neglect to apply a remedy in time. This very point which you have read will be at death a sword of sorrow for you.
Since, therefore, you now have time to avoid a death so full of terror, begin instantly to repair the past. Do not wait for the time in which you can make little preparation for Judgment. Do not wait for another month, nor for another week. Perhaps this light which God in His mercy gives you now may be the last light and the last call for you. It is folly to be unwilling to think of death, which is certain, and on which eternity depends; but it would be still greater folly to reflect on it, and not prepare for Judgment. Make now the reflections and resolutions which you would then make. They may be made now with profit — then without fruit: now with confidence that you will save your soul — then, with diffidence of your salvation. A genteman who was about to take leave of the court of Charles the Fifth, to live only for God, was asked by the emperor why he thought of quitting the court. The gentleman answered: To secure salvation it is necessary that some time in penitential works should intervene between a disorderly life and a happy death.
Have mercy on me, then, O my Redeemer. Pardon me, and give me grace to love Thee, for I purpose henceforth to love nothing but Thee. Among so many possible creatures Thou hast chosen me to love Thee. I make choice of Thee, O Sovereign Good, to love Thee above every good. Thou goest before me with Thy Cross; I am willing to follow Thee with the cross Thou wilt give me to carry. I embrace every mortification and every pain which shall come from Thee. Do not deprive me of Thy grace and I am content. Mary, my hope, obtain for me from God perseverance and the grace to love Him, and I ask for nothing more.
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