The Importance of Our Last End.
Consider, O man! How important it is to you to save your soul. Your dearest interests are there concerned, because, if you attain salvation, you will be eternally happy in the enjoyment of every good both of soul and body; but, in losing it, you lose your soul and body; heaven and God: you will be eternally miserable, eternally damned. Your only important, your only necessary affair, therefore, is to serve your God and to save your soul. Do not, then, O Christian! think of serving your passions now, and of giving yourself to God hereafter. Oh, how many has this false and deceitful hope precipitated into hell! Thousands of sinners have flattered themselves with the hope of future repentance; but the day in which they hoped never arrived, and they are now suffering without resource the torments of the damned. And who amongst them all ever thought of falling into the place of woe? Which of them had not the intention of saving his soul? But God curses him that sins in the hope of pardon. You say, perhaps within yourself, I will commit this sin and then repent: but are you sure that time will be allowed you for repentance? You may die the moment you have sinned. By sinning you lose the grace of God; and what if you never more recover it? God shows mercy to those who fear him, but not to those who contemn and despise him. Think not, therefore, that it will cost you know more to repent of and confess three sins than to repent of and confess one sin. No: in this thought you are deceived; God might pardon you a first or a second sin, but not a third. He has patience with the sinner for a time, but not forever. When the measure of iniquity is filled up, his mercy ceases, and he punishes the impenitent sinner either by death, or by abandoning him to a reprobate sense, in which state he goes on from sin to sin without remorse, and at length is precipitated into hell. O Christian! attend seriously to this. It is time you should put an end to your disorders and return to God; you should fear lest this will be the last warning that he will ever send you. You have offended him long enough, and he has borne with you long enough in your sins: tremble, then, lest he should forsake you after the next mortal sin. Oh! how many souls has this striking thought of eternity caused to retire from the disorders and dangers of the world, to live in cloisters, solitudes, and deserts! Unfortunate sinner that I have been! What is the fruit of all my crimes? --a conscience gnawed with despair, a troubled heart, a soul overwhelmed with grief, hell deserved, and God lost! Ah! My God, my heavenly Father! Bind me to thy love.
Consider, O man! that this affair of eternity is above all others the most neglected. Mankind have time to think of everything but God and salvation. If a man of the world is advised to frequent the sacraments, or to spend a quarter of an hour daily in meditation, he will immediately say: I have a family to provide for, I have my business to attend to, I have sufficient to keep me employed. Good God! And have you not a soul to save? Will your riches and your family be able to assist you at the hour of your death, or deliver you from hell if you are condemned? No, no: flatter not yourself that you are able to reconcile God and the world, heaven and sin together. Salvation is not to be attained by a life of indolence and ease. It is necessary to use violence and to make great efforts in order to obtain the crown of immortality. How many Christians have flattered themselves with the idea of serving God and saving their souls hereafter, who are at this moment, and will forever be, in the flames of hell! How great is the folly of men in attending to what will so shortly terminate, and thinking so little of that state which will never end! Ah, Christian! put your affairs in order; reflect that your all is at stake: remember that, in a very short time, your body will be deposited in the earth, and your soul will go to dwell in the house of eternity. How dreadful, then, will be your misfortune if you are condemned to an eternity of woe! Reflect well on this; for then you can have no remedy.
Consider and say within yourself: I have a soul, and if I lose it all is lost; I have a soul, and if in losing it I were to gain the whole world, what would it profit me? I have a soul, but if I lose it, although I were to arrive at the highest pinnacle of glory, of what advantage will it be to me? If I hoard up riches, if I get forward in the world, but in the end lose my soul, what will be my consolation? Where are now the dignities, pleasures, and vanities of those great ones of the world whose bodies are mouldering in the dust and whose souls are a prey to the flames of hell? Since, then, I have a soul, and only one, to save, and if I lose it once it is lost forever, I ought to endeavor to save it. This is an affair of the highest importance to me. Eternal happiness and eternal misery are at stake. O my God! I am forced to acknowledge with shame and confusion that I have hitherto wandered astray from thee: I have scarcely ever thought seriously of saving my soul. O my Father! Save me, through Jesus Christ. I am willing to part with everything here, provided I do not lose Thee. O Mary, my surest hope! Save me by thy powerful intercession.
Meditation for Monday
by St. Alphonsus Liguori