The Prophet says: shall go, to denote that each one shall go into that house which he himself chooses. Oh, how much pains do men not take to build themselves a convenient, airy, and healthy dwelling, reflecting that they will have to inhabit it during the whole of their lives! And why, then, are men so careless in regard to the house in which they shall have to dwell for eternity?
Man shall go into the house of his eternity. (Eccles. xii. 5). The Prophet says shall go to denote that each one shall go into that house which he chooses; he will not be carried there, but he shall go of his own accord. It is certain that God wishes every one to be saved; but He will not force us to be saved. He has placed before each of us life and death, and that which we choose shall be given to us: Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he shall choose shall be given to him. (Ecclus. xv. 18). Jeremias likewise says that the Lord has given us two ways in which to walk–one the way of Heaven, and the other of hell: Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death. (Jer. xxi. 8).
It is for us to choose. But how can he who chooses to walk in the way of hell ever find himself arrived in Heaven? All sinners desire to be saved; and in the meantime they condemn themselves to hell, saying: “I hope to save myself.” But who, says St. Augustine, is so mad as to take poison with the hope of being cured? “No one wishes to fall sick with the hope of being cured.” And yet so many Christians, like madmen, kill their souls by sinning, saying, “Hereafter I will think of a remedy.” O delusion, which has sent so many to hell!
Let us not be mad, as these are; let us remember that eternity is at stake. How much pains do men take to build themselves a convenient, airy, and healthy habitation, reflecting that they will have to inhabit it during the whole of their lives! And why, then, are they so careless with regard to that habitation in which they will have to dwell forever?
There is, then, O my God, no middle way: I must either be for ever happy, or for ever miserable; plunged either in an ocean of delights or of torments; either with Thee in Heaven, or for ever at a distance and separated from Thee in hell. And this hell, I know for certain that I have often merited it; but I also certainly know that Thou dost pardon him who repents, and deliverest from hell whoever hopes in Thee. Thou assurest me of it; He shall cry to me … I will deliver him, and will glorify him. (Ps. xc. 15). Make haste, then, O Lord — make haste and pardon me, and deliver me from hell. I grieve for having offended Thee, O my Sovereign Good above every other evil. Make haste to restore me to Thy favour, and give me Thy holy love. Were I now in hell I could no longer love Thee; I should be compelled to hate Thee for ever. Ah, my God, what hast Thou done to me, that I should hate Thee? Thou hast loved me even unto death; Thou art worthy of infinite love. O Lord, do not permit me ever again to be separated from Thee.
“The business for which we strive is eternity,” says St. Eucherius. The choice is not between a house more or less convenient, more or less airy, but between an abode replete with every delight amidst the friends of God, or a pit of every torment with the infamous crew of the wicked, of heretics, and idolaters. And for how long? Not for twenty or forty years, but for all eternity. This is a most important matter, not an affair of small moment; it is one upon which all depends. When Blessed Thomas More was condemned to death by Henry VIII, his wife Louisa endeavoured to persuade him to consent to the will of Henry; upon which he said to her: “Tell me, Louisa, –you see that I am now live?” His wife answered: “You might yet live twenty years more.” “Ah, foolish woman,” he replied, “for already old, –how many years think you I might still twenty years more, then, of life on this earth you would have me lose an eternity of happiness, and condemn myself to an eternity of pain!”
O God, give me light. If eternity were a doubtful thing, if it were only a probable opinion, still we ought to make it our whole study to live well, in order not to expose ourselves to the danger of being eternally miserable, should this opinion perchance prove true. But no, it is not doubtful, but certain; it is not an opinion, but a truth of Faith: Man shall go into the house of his eternity. Alas! it is the want of Faith, says St. Teresa, that is the cause of so many sins, and of the damnation of so many Christians. Let us, then, always reanimate our Faith by saying, I believe in the life everlasting; I believe that after this life there is another life which never ends. And with this thought ever before our eyes, let us adopt every means to secure our eternal salvation. Let us frequent the Sacraments; let us every day make Meditation and reflect upon eternal life; let us fly dangerous occasions; and if it be necessary to leave the world, let us leave it, because no precautions can be too great to secure the great point of eternal salvation. “No security is too great where an eternity is at stake,” says St. Bernard.
I love Thee, O my Jesus, and will ever love Thee. Who shall separate me from the charity of Christ? Ah, my Jesus, sin alone can separate me from Thee; ah, by that Blood which Thou hast shed for me, do not permit it; let me rather die. My Queen and my Mother, aid me by thy prayers; obtain for me death, and a thousand deaths, rather than that I ever again be separated from the love of thy Son.
(Thursday Meditation for the Fourth Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)