Death Deprives Us of Everything


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 Deprives Us of Everything


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

By worldlings, they only are esteemed happy who enjoy the pleasures, the riches, and the pomps of this world; but death puts an end to all these earthly goods. For what is your life? It is a vapor which appeareth for a little while - (James 4:15). The vapors exhaled from the earth, when raised in the air and clothed with light by the sun, make a splendid appearance; but how long does their splendor last? It vanishes before the first blast of the wind. Behold that nobleman: today he is courted, feared, and almost adored; tomorrow he is dead, despised, reviled and trampled upon. At death we must leave all things. The brother of that great servant of God, Thomas Kempis, took delight in speaking of a beautiful house which he had built for himself: a friend told him that it had one great defect. "What is it?" said he. "It is," answered the other, "that you have made a door in it". "What," rejoined the brother of Kempis, "is a door a defect?" "Yes," answered the friend; "for through this door you must be one day carried dead, and must leave the house and all things". Death, in fine, strips man of all the goods of this world. Oh, what a spectacle to behold an prince banished from his palace, never more to return to it, and to see others take possession of his furniture, of his money, and of all his other goods! The servants leave him in the grave, with a garment scarcely sufficient to cover his body. There is no longer anyone to esteem or flatter him, no longer any one to attend to his commands. Saladin, who had acquired many kingdoms in Asia, gave directions at death, that when his body should be carried to the place of burial, a person should go before, holding his winding-sheet suspended from a pole, and crying aloud: "This is all that Saladin brings with him to the grave".

When the body of the prince is laid in the grave, his flesh drops off; and behold, his skeleton can no longer be distinguished from others. "Contemplate", Saint Basil says, "the sepulchers of the dead, and see if you can distinguish who has been a servant, and who has been a master". Diogenes was one day seen by Alexander the Great seeking with great anxiety for something among the bones of the dead. Alexander asked him what he was in search of. "I am looking", replied Diogenes, "for the head of Philip your father. I am not able to distinguish it: if you can find it, show it to me". "Men," says Seneca, "are born unequal; but after death all are equal". And Horace says that death brings down the sceptre to the level of the spade. In a word, when death comes, the end comes; all ends, we leave all things; and of all that we possess in this world, we bring nothing to the grave.

 

Prayer

My Lord! since Thou givest me light to know that whatever the world esteems is smoke and folly, grant me strength to detach my heart from earthly goods, before death separates me from them. Miserable that I have been! How often, for the miserable pleasures and goods of this earth, have I offended and lost Thee, Who art an infinite good! O my Jesus! My Heavenly Physician, cast Thine eyes on my poor soul, look at the many wounds which I have inflicted on it by my sins, and have pity on me. If Thou wishest, Thou canst make me clean. I know that Thou art able and willing to heal me; but in order to heal me, Thou wishest me to repent of the injuries which I have committed against Thee. I am sorry for them from the bottom of my heart. Heal me, then, now that it is in Thy power to heal me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. I have forgotten Thee; but Thou hast not forgotten me; and now Thou makest me feel that Thou wilt even forget the injuries I have done Thee, if I detest them. "But if the wicked do penance . . . I will not remember all his iniquities" -  (Ezekiel 21-22). Behold, I detest my sins. I hate them above all things. Forget, then O my Redeemer, all the displeasures I have given Thee. For the future I will lose all things, even life, rather than forfeit Thy grace. And what can all the goods of this earth profit me without Thy grace?

Ah, assist me! Thou knowest my weakness. Hell will not cease to tempt me: it already prepares a thousand attacks to make me again its slave. No, my Jesus, do not abandon me. I wish to be henceforth the slave of Thy love. Thou art my only Lord; Thou hast created and redeemed me; Thou hast loved me more than all others; Thou alone hast merited my love; Thee alone do I wish to love.

Amen