Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Death of the Sinner as opposed to that of the Just man

1. The sinner must die also. For him death is really terrible. Imagine him lying on his deathbed, instinctively aware that his life is over. The past will rise up to reproach him, a past full of sin and of ingratitude towards his Creator and Redeemer. The plans which he has centred around profit, ambition, and honour will have vanished like smoke. His friends will have either deserted him or will be at hand to utter useless words which will have no power to comfort him. Now he must stand alone, alone before God.

What will happen at that moment? Perhaps despair will overcome his soul, as it overcame the soul of Judas? Perhaps the innumerable graces which he has despised will tip the balance of Divine Justice towards the abyss of damnation? Or will a final ray of mercy pierce his tired mind, burning with remorse, so that with its last throb his poor heart will turn towards God and implore His pardon? Who can say? It is certain, however, that of the two thieves dying beside the Cross of our Redeemer, only one heard him say: "This day you will be with me in Paradise!" The other remained obdurate in his sin. It is the height of stupidity to wait to be converted at the hour of death.

2. Consider now the death of the just man. Through his dying tears he also will see the world slipping away from him. But one thing will remain to comfort him, namely, the memory of his good actions, of the virtues he acquired, of his fervent prayers, and of his voluntary mortifications. Above all, there will remain his great love for God, for Whom he has lived, worked and drawn breath. In that moment, this love will even increase the flaming desire consuming his poor, frail body to be united to God. He will be able to say, as some of the Saints have said: "I never thought it would be so sweet to die." With St. Louis, he will be able to say: I am going joyfully to meet my God. He will be able to exclaim with St. Charles: "I long for my body to be dissolved so that I may be with Christ!" (Phil. 1:23)

In the sight of God, the death of the good man is a very precious thing. Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones (Ps. 115:6).

3. Now that we have witnessed these contrasting scenes, let us examine ourselves in the presence of God. Let each of us ask: What will be my fate? If we can rank ourselves amongst the just, let us thank God. We are not there on our own merits. By the grace of God I am what I am (I Cor. 15:10).

Perhaps we need only reproach ourselves with some deficiency or weakness, but have at the same time a strong desire to serve God and a great love for Him. In this case, we can take heart. We can cast ourselves into the merciful arms of God. But if, on the other hand, we are hardened and habitual sinners, then woe betide us! Perhaps this meditation is the last grace which God will bestow on us.

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