Thursday, 4 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XI

Value of Time.
“Son, observe the time.” – Ecclus. iv. 23.
Time is a Treasure of the Earth.
Son, says the Holy Ghost, be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life. The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that “no price is an equivalent for it.”1 But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Sienna, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory.2
Time is a treasure which is found only in this life; it is not found in the next, either in hell or in heaven. In hell the damned exclaim with tears: Oh! that an hour was given to us!3 They would pay any price for an hour of time, in which they might repair their ruin: but this hour they will never have. In heaven there is no weeping; but, were the saints capable of weeping, all their tears would arise from the thought of having lost the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time will never again be given to them. A deceased Benedictine nun appeared in glory to a certain person, and said that she was perfectly happy, but that if she could desire anything, it would be to return to life, and to suffer pains and privations in order to merit an increase of glory. She added, that, for the glory which corresponds to a single Ave Maria, she would be content to endure till the day of judgment the painful illness which caused her death.
My brother, how do you spend your time? Why do you always defer till to-morrow what you can do to-day? Remember that the time which is past is no longer yours: the future is not under your control: you have only the present for the performance of good works. “Why, O miserable man,” says St. Bernard, do you presume on the future, as if the Father had placed time in your power?”4 St. Augustine asks: “How can you, who are not sure of an hour, promise yourself to-morrow?”5 If then, says St. Teresa, you are not prepared for death today, tremble lest you die an unhappy death.
Affections and Prayers.
O my God! I thank Thee for the time which Thou givest me to repair the disorders of my past life, Were I to die at this moment, the remembrance of the time I have lost should be one of my greatest torments. Ah, my Lord! Thou hast given me time to love Thee, and I have spent it in offending Thee. I deserve to be sent to hell from the first moment in which I turned my back upon Thee; but Thou hast called me to repentance, and hast pardoned me. I promised to offend Thee no more; but how often have I returned to sin? how often hast Thou pardoned my ungrateful relapses? Blessed forever be Thy mercy! If It were not infinite, how couldst Thou have had so much patience with me? Who could have borne with me so long? Oh! how sorry do I feel for having offended so good a God! My Saviour! the patience alone with which Thou didst wait for me ought to enamour me of Thee. Ah! do not suffer me to live any longer ungrateful to the love Thou hast had for me. Detach me from every creature, and draw me entirely to Thyself. O my God! I will no longer dissipate the time Thou givest me to repair the evil that I have done; I will spend it all in serving and loving Thee. Give me holy perseverance. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness, and hope to love Thee for eternity. I thank thee, O Mary! by thy advocacy thou hast obtained for me this time which is given to me. Assist me now, and obtain for me the grace to spend it all in loving thy Son, my Redeemer, and in loving thee, my queen and my mother.
Neglect of Time.
There is nothing more precious than time; but there is nothing less esteemed and more despised by men of the world. This is what St. Bernard deplores when he says: “Nothing is more precious than time, but nothing is regarded more cheaply.”6 The same saint adds: “The days of salvation pass away, and no one reflects that the day which has passed away from him can never return.”7 You will see a gambler spend nights and days in play. If you ask him what he is doing, his answer is: I am passing the time. You will see others standing several hours in the street, looking at those who pass by, and speaking on obscene or on useless subjects. If you ask them what they are doing, they will say: We are passing the time. Poor blind sinners! who lose so many days; but days which never return.
O time despised during life! you will be ardently desired by worldlings at the hour of death. They will then wish for another year, another month, another day; but they will not obtain it: they will then be told that time shall be no longer. How much would they then pay for another week, or another day, to settle the accounts of their conscience? To obtain a single hour, they would, says St. Laurence Justinian, give all their wealth and worldly possessions.8 But this hour shall not be given. The assisting priest shall say to the dying sinner: Hasten, hasten your departure from this world; for your time is no more.
The prophet exhorts us to remember God, and to procure his friendship, before the light fails. Remember Thy Creator . . . before the sun and the light be darkened.9 How great the distress and misery of a traveler who, when the night has come, perceives that he has missed the way, and that there is no time to correct the mistake. Such at death will be the anguish of the sinner who has lived many years in the world, and has not spent them for God. The night cometh, when no man can work.10 For him, death shall be the night in which he will be able to do nothing. He hath called against me the time.11 Conscience will then remind the worldling of all the time that God gave him, and that he has spent in the destruction of his soul; of all the calls and graces that he has received from God for his sanctification, and that he has voluntarily abused. The sinner will then see that the way of salvation is closed forever. Hence he will weep and say: O fool that I have been! O time lost! O life misspent! O lost years, in which I could have, but have not, become a saint! And now the time of salvation is gone forever. But, of what use are these sighs and lamentations, when the scene is about to close,—the lamp on the point of being extinguished,—and when the dying sinner has reached that awful moment on which eternity depends?
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! Thou hast spent Thy whole life for the salvation of my soul. There has not been a single moment of Thy life in which Thou hast not offered Thyself to the eternal Father to obtain for me pardon and eternal glory, I have been so many years in the world, and how many of them have I hitherto spent for Thee? Ah! all that I remember to have done produces remorse of conscience. The evil has been great, the good very little, and all full of imperfections and tepidity, of self-love and distractions. Ah, my Redeemer! all this has arisen from my forgetfulness of what Thou hast done for me. I have forgotten Thee, but Thou hast not forgotten me; when I fled from Thee, Thou didst follow me, and call me so often to Thy love. Behold me, O Jesus! I will resist no longer. Shall I wait till Thou abandon me? I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having separated myself from Thee by sin. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! worthy of infinite love. Ah! do not permit me ever again to lose this time, which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. Ah! remind me always, O my beloved Saviour! of the love Thou hast borne me, and of the pains Thou hast endured for me. Make me forget all things, that, during the remainder of my life, I may think only of loving and pleasing Thee. I love Thee, my Jesus, my love, my all! I promise, whenever Thou remindest me, to make acts of love. Give me holy perseverance. I place all my confidence in the merits of Thy blood. I also trust in thy intercession, O my dear Mother, Mary!
We must Profit by the Time.
Walk whilst you have light.12 We must walk in the way of the Lord during life, now that we have light; for, at the hour of death this light is taken away. Death is not the time for preparing, but for finding ourselves prepared. Be ye ready. At the hour of death we can do nothing: what is then done is done. O God! were a person told that in a short time a trial should take place, on which would depend his life and his entire property, with what haste would he seek an able counsel to plead his cause! how little time would he lose in adopting every means of securing a favorable result! And what are we doing? We know for certain that the most important of all causes—the affair of eternal salvation—will soon be decided; the decision may take place every hour, and still we lose time.
Some may say: I am young; I will hereafter give myself to God. But remember that, as the Gospel remarks, the Lord cursed the fig-tree the first time he found it without fruit, although the season for figs had not arrived. By this Jesus Christ wished to signify that men should at all times, even in youth, bring forth fruits of good works; otherwise they will be accursed, and will never more bring forth fruit. May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more forever.13 Such the malediction of the Redeemer on the fruitless fig-tree, such is his malediction against all who resist his calls. Satan regards the whole time of our life as short, and, therefore, in tempting us he loses not a moment. The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.14 Then the devil loses no time in seeking our perdition; and shall we lose the time given to us to secure our salvation?
Some will say, What evil am I doing? O God, is it not an evil to lose time in gaming, in useless conversations, which are unprofitable to the soul? Does God give you time, that you may squander it? No: the Holy Ghost says, Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not the part of a good gift overpass thee.15 The workmen mentioned by St. Matthew, though they did no evil, but only lost time, were rebuked by the master of the vineyard. Why stand ye here all the day idle?16 On the day of judgment Jesus Christ will demand an account of every idle word. All the time that is not spent for God is lost time. “Believe,” says St. Bernard, “that you have lost all the time in which you have not thought of God.”17 Hence the Holy Ghost says, Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly, for neither work nor reason shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening.18 The Venerable Sister Jane of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Order of St. Teresa, used to say that, in the lives of the saints, there is no to-morrow. To-morrow is found in the lives of sinners, who always say, Hereafter, hereafter; and in this state they continue till death. Behold, now is the acceptable time.19 To-day, if you shall hear his voice, harden nor your hearts.20 If God call you to-day to do good, do it; for to-morrow it may happen that for you time will be no more, or that God will call you no more.
If you have hitherto spent the time in offending God, endeavor, like King Ezechias, to weep, during the remainder of your life, over your misspent years. I will recount to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul.21 God spares your life, that you may repair the time you have lost.22 In explaining this passage, St. Anselm says: “You will redeem the time if you do what you have neglected to do.”23 Of St. Paul, St. Jerome says that, though the last of the apostles, he was, on account of his great labors after he was called, the first in merits. Let us reflect that at each moment of time we may acquire new treasures of eternal riches. Were all the land round which you could walk, or all the money which you could count in a day, promised to you, would you not hasten to walk over the ground, or to count the money? At each moment you can acquire eternal treasures: will you, notwithstanding, squander your time? Say not what you can do to-day you will be able to do to-morrow; for this day will then be lost, and never return. When his companions spoke of the world, St. Francis Borgia conversed with God by holy affections; and so recollected was he, that when his opinion was asked on the subject of conversation, he knew not what to answer. Being corrected for this, he said: “I would rather be regarded stupid and unlearned, than lose time.”
Affections and Prayers.
No, my God, I will no longer lose the time which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. I should at this hour be in hell weeping without fruit. I thank Thee for having preserved my life: I wish during the remainder of my days to live only for Thee. Were I now in hell I should weep in despair, and without profit: I will now bewail the offences I have offered to Thee: and if I weep over them, I know for certain that Thou wilt pardon me. Of this the prophet assures me: Weeping, thou shalt not weep; He will surely have pity on thee.24 Were I in hell, I could never more love Thee; and now I love Thee, and hope always to love Thee. Were I in hell, I could ask no more graces; but now I hear Thee say: Ask, and ye shall receive. Since, then, I still have time to ask Thy graces, O God of my soul! I ask two graces: give me perseverance in Thy grace: give me Thy love; and then do with me what Thou pleasest; grant that in all the remaining moments of my life I may recommend myself to Thee, saying: Lord! assist me; have mercy on me; grant that I may never more offend Thee; make me love Thee. Most Holy Mary, my Mother! obtain for me the grace always to recommend myself to God, and to ask him for perseverance and for his holy love.

1“Nullum temporis pretium.” – De Brev. vit. c. 8.
2“Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus, quippe tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.”
3“O,. si daretur hora!”
4“Quid de futuro, miser, præsumis, tamquam Pater tempora in tua posuerit potestate?” – De Cont. Mund. c. 16.
5Diem tenes, qui horam non tenes?
6Nihil pretiosius tempore sed nihil vilius æstimatur.
7Transeunt dies salutis, et nemo recogitat: nemo sibi non reditura momenta periisse causatur.” – De Cont. mundi, c. 16.
8“Mundi substantiam, honorem, voluptates, pro unius horæ spatio, commutarent.” – Dt Vit. sol. c. 10.
9“Memento Creatoris tui . . . antequam tenebrescat sol et lumen.” – Eccles. xii. 1.
10“Venit nox quando nemo potest operari.” – John, ix. 4.
11“Vocavit adversum me tempus.” – Lament. i. 15.
12Ambulate dum lucem habetis.” – John, xii. 35.
13“Jam non amplius in æternurn ex te fructum quisquam manducet.” – Mark, xi. 14.
14“Descendit diabolus ad vos habens iram magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus habet.” – Apoc, xii. 12.
15“Particula boni doni non te prxtereat.” – Ecclus. xiv. 14.
16“Quid hic statis iota die otiosi?” – Matt. xx. 6.
17Omne tempus in quo de Deo non cogitas, hoc te computes perdidisse.” – Medit., c. 6.
18“Quodcumque facere potest manus tua, instanter operate; quia nec opus, nec ratio . . . erunt apud inferos quo tu properas.” – Eccles. ix. 10.
19“Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile.” – 2 Cor. vi. 2.
20“Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.” – Ps. xciv. 8.
21“Recogitabo tibi omnes annos meos in amaritudine animæ meæ.” – Isa. xxxviii. 15.
22“Redimentes tempus quoniam dies mali sunt.” – Eph. v. 16.
23Tempus redimes, si, quæ facere neglexisti, facis.
24“Plorans nequaquam plorabis, miserans miserebitur tui.” – Isa. xxx. 19.

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