Death is Our only Certainty

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 Our only Certainty


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

The sentence of death has been written against all men: you are a man; you must die. "Our other goods and evils," says Saint Augustine, "are uncertain; death alone is certain." It is uncertain whether the infant that is just born will be poor or rich, whether he will have good or bad health, whether he will die in youth or in old age. But it is certain that he will die. The stroke of death will fall on all the nobles and monarchs of the earth. When death comes there is no earthly power able to resist it. Saint Augustine says, "Fire, water, the sword, and the power of princes may be resisted; but death cannot be resisted." Belluacensis relates: "Behold, with all my power, I cannot induce death to wait one more hour for me." When the term of life arrives, it is not deferred a single moment. Thou hast appointed His bounds, which cannot be passed.

Dearly beloved reader, though you should live as many years as you expect, a day will come, and on that day an hour, which will be the last for you. For me, who am now writing, and for you, who read this, has been decreed the day and the moment when I will no longer write, and you will no longer read. "Who is the man that shall live and not see death?" - (Psalm 88:49). The sentence has already been passed. There never has been a man so foolish as to flatter himself that he will not have to die. What has happened to your forefathers will also happen to you. Of the immense numbers that lived in this country in the beginning of the last century there is not one now living. Even the princes and monarchs of the earth have changed their country; of these nothing now remains but a marble mausoleum with a grand inscription, which only serves to teach us that of the great ones of this world nothing is left but a little dust enclosed in the tomb. "Tell me," says Saint Bernard, "where are the lovers of the world? Of them nothing remains save ashes and worms."

Since our souls will be eternal, we ought to procure, not a fortune which soon ends, but one that will be everlasting. What would it profit you to be happy here (if it were possible for a soul to be happy without God), if hereafter you must be miserable for all eternity? You have built that house to your entire satisfaction; but remember that you must soon leave it to rot in a grave. You have obtained that dignity which raises you above others; but death will come and reduce you to the level of the poorest peasant.

 

Prayer

Ah! Unhappy me, who have spent so many years only in offending Thee, O God of my soul. Behold these years are already past: death is perhaps at hand; and what do I find but pains and remorse of conscience? Oh, that I had always served Thee, O my Lord! Fool that I have been! I have lived so many years on this earth, and instead of acquiring merits for Heaven, I have laden my soul with debts to the Divine Justice.

Ah, my dear Redeemer, give me light and strength now to adjust my accounts. Death is perhaps not far off. I wish to prepare for that great moment, which will decide my eternal happiness or misery. I thank Thee for having waited for me till now; and since Thou hast given me time to repair the past, behold me, O my God! Tell me what I am to do for Thee. Dost Thou wish me to weep over the offences I have offered to Thee? I am sorry for them, and detest them with my whole soul. Dost Thou wish me to spend the remaining years and days of my life in loving Thee? I desire to do so, O God; I have even hitherto frequently resolved to do so; but I have violated my promises. O my Jesus, I will be no longer ungrateful for the great graces Thou hast bestowed upon me. If I do not now change my life, how shall I be able at death to hope for pardon and for Paradise? Behold, I now firmly resolve to begin to serve Thee in earnest. But give me strength; do not abandon me. Thou didst not abandon me when I offended Thee: I therefore hope more confidently for Thy aid, now that I purpose to renounce all things to please Thee. Accept me, then, as one of Thy lovers, O God worthy of infinite love! Receive the traitor that now casts himself with sorrow at Thy feet - that loves Thee, and asks Thy mercy. I love Thee, O my Jesus; I love Thee with my whole heart; I love Thee more than myself. Behold, I am Thine; dispose of me, and of all that I possess, as Thou pleasest. Give me perseverance in obeying Thy commands; give me Thy love; and then do with me whatsoever Thou wishest. Mary, my mother, my hope, my refuge, to thee I recommend myself; to thee I consign my soul: pray to Jesus for me.

Amen