Death is not the time for making our preparation, but the time to find ourselves already prepared. Be ye ready! At the hour of death we can do nothing. What is done is done. And what are we doing? We know for certain that ere long, and maybe at any hour, our most important affair, the affair of our eternal salvation, will have to be decided, and we lose time.
Walk whilst you have the light. (John xii. 35). We must walk in the way of the Lord during life, whilst we have light, because in death we lose that light. Death is not the time for preparation, but to find ourselves already prepared: Be ye ready. At the hour of death we can do nothing; what then is done is done. O God, if a person were told that ere long a trial would take place on which his life or all his property depended, what haste would he make to procure an able counsel to plead his cause, and to find means for obtaining favour! And what do we do? We know for certain that ere long, and maybe at any hour, our most important affair, that is to say the affair of our eternal salvation, will have to be decided, and we lose time.
Some will say: I am young; later I will give myself to God. But remember, I reply, that the Lord cursed the fig-tree that He found without fruit, although it was not the season for fruit, as the Gospel remarks: It was not the time for figs. (Mark xi. 13). By this Jesus wished to signify that men should at all times, even in youth, bring forth the fruit of good works, otherwise they will be cursed, and bring forth no more fruit in future. May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. Thus did our Redeemer say to that tree, and thus does He curse whoever is called by Him and resists. The devil considers the whole of our life as short, and he therefore loses not a moment in tempting us: The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. (Apoc. xii. 12). Our enemy, then, loses no time in trying to destroy us; and shall we delay to save our souls?
Another will say: But what harm do I do? O God, and is there, then, no harm in losing time in play, in useless conversations, that are of no profit to the soul? Has God, then, given you this time merely that you should waste it? No, says the Holy Ghost: Defraud not thyself of the good day. (Ecclus. xiv. 14). The labourers mentioned by St. Matthew did no evil; they only lost time; and for this they were rebuked by the master of the vineyard: Why stand you here all the day idle? (Matt. xx. 6).
No, my God, I will no longer lose the time which Thou givest me in Thy mercy. I deserve now to be weeping fruitless tears in hell. I thank Thee for having preserved my life; I will live only for Thee during the remainder of my days. If I were now in hell, I should weep, but in despair and unavailingly. I will weep over my offences against Thee; and in weeping I am certain of Thy pardon, as the Prophet assures me: Weeping thou shalt not weep; he will surely have pity on thee. (Is. xxx. 19). If I were in hell, I could never more love Thee; and now I love Thee, and hope always to love Thee. If I were in hell, I could not ask of Thee more graces; but now I hear Thee say: Ask, and you shall receive. Since, then, I still have time to beg for Thy graces, I ask of Thee two. O God of my soul, give me perseverance in Thy grace, and give me Thy love; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
On the Day of Judgment, Jesus Christ will demand an account of every idle word. All time that is not spent for God is lost time. Therefore the Lord thus exhorts us: Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly: for neither work, nor reason…shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening. (Eccles. ix. 10). The venerable Sister Jane of the Most Holy Trinity, a Teresian nun, said that there is no tomorrow in the life of Saints; tomorrow is only in the life of sinners, who always say, By-and-by, by-and-by; and thus they go on till death arrives. Behold, now is the acceptable time. (2 Cor. vi. 2). Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps. xciv. 8). Today God calls on you to do good; do it today, because tomorrow either there may be no more time, or God may no longer call on you.
If in the past you have unfortunately spent your time in offending God, endeavour, like King Ezechias, to weep over it during the remainder of your life: I will recount to thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul.(Is. xxxviii. 15). God gives you life in order that you may repair lost time: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephes. v. 16). Commenting upon this, St. Anselm says: “Thou wilt redeem the time, if thou dost what thou hast neglected to do.” St. Jerome says of St. Paul, that although he was the last of the Apostles, yet he was the first in merit, on account of what he did after he was called. Let us reflect, were there nothing else, that in each moment we can increase our store of eternal goods. If you were allowed to acquire as much land as you could walk round in a day, or as much money as you could count in a day, what haste would you not make! And you can acquire in a moment eternal treasures, and yet you lose time. Say not that you can do tomorrow that which you can do today, because this day will be lost to you and will return no more. St. Francis Borgia turned to God with holy affections when others spoke of worldly affairs; so that when his opinion was asked, he knew not what to reply; being admonished of this, he said: “I prefer being thought dull of intellect to losing my time.”
O my God, grant that in every remaining moment of my life I may always recommend myself to Thee, my Jesus, and say: Lord, help me; Lord have mercy on me; grant that I may never more offend Thee; grant that I may love Thee. Mary, my most holy Mother, obtain for me the grace to recommend myself always to God, and to ask of Him perseverance and His holy love.
(Thursday Meditation for the Third Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)