Death is Certain,
But Nothing is Less Certain Than the Hour

4last.jpg (224113 bytes)
The Four Last Things and the Seven Deadly Sins - by BOSCH, Hieronymus - from Museo del Prado, Madrid . . . . . . .
The circular layout with God in the centre represents God's all seeing eye: No sin goes unnoticed. In the corners
of the image appear the "Four Last Things" (the last four stages of life): Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

 

The active study of the four last things
and the deep consideration of them,
is the thing that will keep you from sin.

--Saint Thomas More

 

 Death is Certain,
But Nothing is Less Certain Than the Hour


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain: "Nothing", says the author who styles himself the Idiot, is more certain than death; but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death. My brother, God has already fixed the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when you and I are to leave this earth and go into eternity; but the time is unknown to us. To exhort us to be always prepared, Jesus Christ tells us that death will come unawares, and like a thief in the night. "The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night" - (1Thessalonians 5:2). He tells us to be always vigilant; when we least expect Him, He will come to judge us. "At what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come" - (Luke 12:40). Saint Gregory says that, for our good, God conceals from us the hour of death, that we may always be prepared to die. "Since, then," says Saint Bernard, "death may take away life at all times and in all places, we ought, if we wish to die well and save our souls, to live always in expectation of death."

All know that they must die: but the misfortune is, that many view death at such a distance, that they lose sight of it. Even the old, the most decrepit, and the most sickly, flatter themselves that they will live three or four years longer. But how many, I ask, have we known, even in our own times, to die suddenly - some sitting, some walking, some sleeping? It is certain that not one of these imagined that he should die so suddenly, and on that day on which he died. I say, moreover, that of all who have gone to the other world during the present year, no-one imagined that he should die and end his days this year! Few are the deaths which do not happen unexpectedly.

When, therefore, Christian soul, the devil tempts you to sin by saying, "Tomorrow you will go to confession", let your answer be, "How do I know but this will be the last day of my life? If this hour, this moment, in which I would turn my back on God, were the last of my life, so that I would have no time for repentance, what would become of me for all eternity?"

To how many poor sinners has it happened, that in the act of feasting on the poison of sin they were struck dead and sent to hell?  "As fishes are taken with the hook," says Ecclesiastes, "so men are taken in the evil time". The evil time is that in which the sinner actually offends God. The devil tells you that this misfortune will not happen to you, but you should answer him: "If it should happen to me, what will become of me for all eternity?"

 

Prayer

Lord, the place in which I ought to be at this moment is not that in which I find myself, but in hell, which I have so often merited by my sins! Thou hast had so much patience with me, and hast waited for me, because Thou wishest me not to be lost, but return to Thee by repentance. My God, I return to Thee; I cast myself at Thy feet, and supplicate mercy. Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.

Lord, to pardon me requires a great and extraordinary act of mercy, because I offended Thee after I had been favored with a special light. Other sinners also have offended Thee, but they have not received the light which Thou gavest to me. But, in spite of all my sinfulness and ingratitude, Thou commandest me to repent of my sins, and to hope for pardon. Yes, my Redeemer, I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee, and I hope for pardon through the merits of Thy Passion.

O Eternal Father! Pardon me for the sake of Jesus Christ! But it is not enough to receive pardon; I desire also to love Thee, O Sovereign Good, and I offer Thee henceforth to avoid not only grievous, but also venial offences. I will fly from all evil occasions. Lead us not into temptation: for the love of Jesus Christ, preserve me from the occasions in which I would offend Thee. But deliver us from evil: deliver me from sin, and then chastise me as Thou pleasest. I accept all infirmities, pains, and losses which Thou mayest be pleased to send me: it is enough for me not to lose Thy grace and Thy love. Ask, and you shall receive. Thou promisest to grant whatsoever we ask: I ask these two graces - holy perseverance and the gift of Thy love.

O Mary, Mother of Mercy! Thou dost pray for me: in thee do I put my trust.

Amen