“Like an hourglass with a certain number of grains of sand within it, God has appointed your life to last only a certain number of days, and you have absolutely no idea how many there are. … In God’s presence, consider: I have no idea when my life will end. All I know is that death will come for me eventually. Am I doing anything to prepare for the real possibility that God may call me, sooner rather than later? If he called me into eternity today, would I be ready?” — Patrick Madrid
Many of us would quite likely respond in the negative to this last question, and yet there’s nothing more certain than that we shall die! We should all be asking ourselves: ‘how much time do I have left to make up for so much wasted time, and to store up treasure in Heaven instead of on Earth?’
In one of his sermons Blessed John Henry Newman warns us:
“Each of us must come to the evening of life. Each of us must enter on eternity. Each of us must come to that quiet, awful time, when we will appear before the Lord of the vineyard, and answer for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad. That, my dear brethren, you will have to undergo. … It will be the dread moment of expectation when your fate for eternity is in the balance, and when you are about to be sent forth as the companion of either saints or devils, without possibility of change. There can be no change; there can be no reversal. As that judgment decides it, so it will be for ever and ever. Such is the particular judgment. … when we find ourselves by ourselves, one by one, in his presence, and have brought before us most vividly all the thoughts, words, and deeds of this past life. Who will be able to bear the sight of himself? And yet we shall be obliged steadily to confront ourselves and to see ourselves. In this life we shrink from knowing our real selves. We do not like to know how sinful we are. We love those who prophecy smooth things to us, and we are angry with those who tell us of our faults. But on that day, not one fault only, but all the secret, as well as evident, defects of our character will be clearly brought out. We shall see what we feared to see here, and much more. And then, when the full sight of ourselves comes to us, who will not wish that he had known more of himself here, rather than leaving it for the inevitable day to reveal it all to him!”
What great truth these words hold! And yet with our fallen natures, how hard we find it to reach the holiness we are called to, and which we so desire to achieve in the most innermost part of our heart.
The wise and holy Father Willie Doyle wrote in his diary: “I am convinced that generally we reach sanctity of life only through a long series of falls from which we get up.” That is the important thing – getting up again after every fall, never allowing the devil to lead us to despair at our weakness.
In fact St Paul even says we should ‘delight’ when we recognise how weak and inconstant we truly are, in the insults, hardships etc. that befall us, for then we must rely only on Gods grace to strengthen and protect us from evil, rather than our prideful selves. This is the secret of the joy that radiates from all saintly souls, often amidst great physical or emotional suffering; they live enveloped in the Holy Presence of God “from Whom cometh my strength”. They got up from their falls; they did not waste time in scruples or lamenting their backsliding, for time was running out down here on earth; with a firm purpose of amendment and a burning desire to love and obey God alone, they had their eyes fixed on Eternity. We should do the same.
St Francis de Sales encourages us with these words: “We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent,our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed solely on God.”
So let us pick up our daily crosses (including those frustrations we suffer at our frequent failings) and follow in the ‘footsteps’ of Our Divine Saviour on His journey to Calvary. For Calvary will lead us to Easter at the end of the road where, one day, when our “hourglass” has run out, and through the Goodness and Mercy of God, we shall be partakers in Christ’s triumph over death, as He has promised us.
Saint Joseph, holy patron of the dying, pray for us!