Meditation for Wednesday
by St. Alphonsus Liguori


Death

I.

Consider that this life may soon terminate. The sentence is already passed: You must die. Death is certain, but the moment of it is uncertain: we know not when it will come. But to how many casualties and accidents is human life constantly exposed? The bleeding of an artery, a stroke of apoplexy, the bite of a venomous animal, an inundation, an earthquake, a thunderbolt, and numberless other causes that we can neither foresee nor prevent, may deprive you instantly of human life. Death may surprise you when you least expect it. How many have gone to bed at night in apparent good health, and in the morning have been found dead? And may not the same happen to you? Numberless others, who have been visited by sudden death, never expected to die in that manner; and, if they were then found in mortal sin, what is now their fate, and what will it be through all eternity? But, at all events, it is certain that either the night, or the day will come, when you will no more see the night. "I shall come," says Jesus Christ, "like a thief in the night, when I am the least expected." Matt. xxiv.44. Your good master warns you of this beforehand, because he wishes your salvation. O Sinner! Correspond, then, with this mercy, profit by this admonition, hold yourself always in readiness for death. When that moment comes there will be no time for preparation. Consider well that you must certainly die. The scene of this world must soon terminate for you, though you know not when. Who can tell whether it will be within a year, within a month, within a week, or even whether you will be alive tomorrow? Oh my Jesus! Give me light, and pardon me.

II.

Consider that, at the hour of your death, you will be extended on a bed, with your relatives and friends weeping over you, a priest to assist you, a lighted taper by your side, within one step of the terrible passage into eternity. Your head will be oppressed with pain, your eyes will become dim, your tongue parched with heat, your blood cooling in your veins, and your heart in agony: you will see the world passing from before you. No sooner will your soul become separated from your body than you will be stripped of all things, and cast into the earth to rot. There you will become the food of worms, which will gnaw and devour your flesh, and in a short time nothing will remain of your body but a few withered bones and a little dust. Open a grave, and take a view of the state of that rich and avaricious man! of that vain woman! Ah! Such is the termination of human life; such is the end of mortal man, and such will soon be yours. But penetrate with the eyes of faith into the other world, and see the condition in which your soul will be placed. It will instantly be surrounded by the monsters of hell, representing before you all the sins that you have committed from your very childhood. At present the devil hides from you the malice of your crimes: he persuades you that there is little evil in this act of vanity, this indulgence, this resentment, this dangerous company; but in death he will display before your eyes the enormity of your sins, to make you despair. Then you will discover in the light of God himself the evil which you have committed in offending his infinite goodness. Ah! Hasten then, whilst time remains, to make reparation for what is past: at the hour of death it will be too late.

III.

Consider that death is a moment on which eternity depends. Take a view of a man who is on the point of expiring, and reflect that he is just going to enter into one or other of two eternities; his fate is pending but for a moment: when that is expired, he is either saved or condemned forever. O this last breath! O this moment on which depends an eternity!an eternity either of torment or of glory; an eternity either always happy or always miserable; an eternity either of all that is good or of all that is evil; an eternity either of heaven or of hell. If you are then saved, you will be secure from all evils, and at the summit of happiness and content; if you are condemned, you will live in punishment and despair as long as God will be God. In death you will understand the meaning of heaven, hell, sin, an offended God, the contempt of divine laws, sins concealed in confession, ill-gotten goods unrestored, injustices not pardoned. "Unhappy me!" will the dying man say, "in a few moments I must appear in the presence of God. What will my sentence be? Whither shall I go? To heaven or to hell? Shall I be happy with the saints or burned with the damned? Shall I be a child of God or a slave of the devil? Alas! But a minute more and I shall know; and the destiny which I shall then receive will last for all eternity." Then will you detest a thousand times the day on which you had the misfortune to sin. But it will be too late; your sorrow will be fruitless, because it will proceed from the fear and not from the love of God. Ah, my God! from this hour I will turn to thee: I will not delay my repentance until death. I now love thee, I embrace thee, and I wish to die in Thy embraces. O Mary! my true Mother, let me die under thy protection: help me at that critical and decisive moment.

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