Jesus Christ said, ‘I will come as a thief, unseen and in secret.
Jesus Christ said, ‘I will come as a thief, unseen and in secret.’ Your merciful Saviour warns you in season, for He desires that you may be saved. Do what God desires of you, profit by the warning, prepare yourself to die well before death itself comes. ‘Be ready,’ for when there is no more time for preparation, it is necessary to be already prepared. (Examine here your besetting sins.)
It is certain that you must die. The drama of this world must close for you, and you know not when. Who knows whether you will live a year, a month, or even till to-morrow? Jesus! enlighten me and pardon me. (Arouse your soul to contrition, and make a firm resolution.)
Consider how you will lie, at the hour of death, stretched upon a bed, surrounded by your weeping friends, a priest by your side to assist your soul; a crucifix at your head, the lighted taper at your feet; in fine, already just at the entrance of eternity. Dreadful pains afflict your distracted head, it grows dark around you, your tongue is parched, your breath is short, your breast is burdened, your blood chilled, your flesh shrunken, your heart rent with anguish, all you have is gliding from you, and, poor and naked, you will be thrown into a grave to rot. There worms and insects will gnaw your flesh, and nothing of you will be left but the crumbling bones and a little dust. Open some grave and look! what has become of that rich, that avaricious man, that vain and worldly woman?
Thus ends this earthly pilgrimage
Thus ends life. At the hour of death you will find yourself surrounded by evil spirits, who will bring up before you all the sins you have committed from your childhood. Now the devil conceals and excuses your sins, that he may lead you into sin; he says to you, This vanity, this pleasure, this dangerous company, this inclination is no great sin; you have no bad intention in this acquaintance; but at the hour of death he will show you all the enormity of your sins. (Examine yourself thoroughly as to your besetting sin.) By the light of that eternity into which you are just entering, you will then see what an evil it was to have offended an infinite God. Now, while there is yet time, while you can do it, remedy the evil, for then it will be too late. (Awaken your contrition, and make a firm resolution.)
Consider that death is a moment upon which a whole eternity depends. Behold! here lies a man just dying, and therefore near to both eternities: near an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery. See, his fate for eternity depends upon his last breath, after which his soul will be forever happy or forever lost.
The moment on which eternity depends
Oh, the end of life! the last breath! that last moment, on which eternity depends – an eternity of glory or of pain – of happiness or of misery; of joy, or of despair; an eternity of every good, or an eternity of every evil; an eternity in heaven, or an eternity in hell! For, if in that last moment you are saved, you will have nothing more to suffer, you will be forever happy and blessed; but if you die in sin, and are damned, you will be wretched, and in despair, so long as God is God. In death, you will see what mean those words, heaven, hell, sin, an offended God, contempt of the divine Law, sins hidden in confession, good of others not restored. ‘O, miserable being that I am,’ the dying man will exclaim, ‘I must now, in a few moments, appear in the presence of God! Who knows what judgment will meet me there? Whither am I going, to heaven or to hell? Shall I rejoice forever with the angels, or shall I burn eternally with the damned? Shall I be a child of God, or a slave of the devil? Alas! soon, too soon, I shall know, and where I find myself the first moment, there shall I remain through eternity.
Ah! what will become of me in a few hours, in a few moments? What will become of me when I can no longer repair that scandal? when I cannot restore those ill-gotten goods? when I cannot pardon my enemies from my heart? when I cannot any longer make good that confession?’ (Examine yourself as to your principal sin.) Then will you curse a thousand times that day in which you sinned; you will curse that pleasure, that revenge which you have taken, but too late, and without avail, because you will do it then only from the fear of punishment, and not from love of God! Ah! Lord, behold – now, at this very moment, I turn to thee; I will not wait for death; now, and always, I will love thee; I embrace thee, and in thy embrace will I die! My Mother, Mary, let me die under thy protecting mantle; help me in my death! Amen. (Awaken your contrition, and make a firm resolution.)
– St Alphonsus