Preparation for Death
The Shortness of Life
by St. Alphonsus de Liquori
“What is thy life? It is a vapor, which appeareth for a little while.”
St. James 4,15
St. James 4,15
First Point - Death Comes QuicklyWhat is your life? It is vapor, which is dissipated by a blast of wind, and seen no more. All know that they must die; but the delusion of many is, that they imagine death as far off as if it were never to arrive. But Job tells us that the life of man is short.
“Man born of a woman, living a short time … who cometh forth like a flower, and is destroyed.” (Job 14, 1)
“Cry … All flesh is grass … Indeed, the people is grass. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen.” (Isa. 40, 6-8)
- “My days,” says Job, “have been swifter than
a post.” (Job 9, 25) Death runs to meet us more swiftly than a post,
and we at every moment run towards death. Every step, every breath
brings us nearer to our end.
“What I write,” says Jerome, “is so much taken away from life.” “During the time I write, I draw near to death.”
“We all die, and, like the waters that return nor more, we fall into the earth.” (2 Kings 14, 14)
“And only the grave remaineth for me.” (Job 17, 1)
Second Point - The Lighted Candle at DeathKing Ezechias said with tears:
“My life is cut off as by a weaver; while I was yet beginning, He cut me off.” (Isa. 38, 12)
“He hath made me,” says Job, "as it were a byword of the people, and an example before them.” (Job 17,6)
“The small and great are there.” (Job 3, 19)
Third Point - Importance of the Last Moment
Antisthenes, though a pagan, being asked what was the greatest blessing which man could receive in this world, answered, “A good death.”
And what will a Catholic say, who knows by faith, that at the moment of death eternity begins, and that at that moment he lays hold of one of two wheels, which draws with it either eternal joy or everlasting torments? If there were two tickets in a lottery, on one of which might be written Hell and on the other Heaven, what care would you not take to draw that which gives you a right to Paradise, and to avoid the other, by which you would win a place in Hell! O God! How the hands of those unhappy men tremble who are condemned to throw the dice on which their life or death depends! How great will be your terror at the approach of that last hour, when you will say: On this moment depends my life or death for eternity; on this depends whether I shall be forever happy or forever in despair!
St. Bernardine of Sienna relates, that at death a certain prince exclaimed, with trembling and dismay:
“Behold, I have so many kingdoms and palaces in this world; but
if I die this night I know not what apartment shall be assigned to me.
“Who knows what will be my lot in the next life? Shall I be saved or damned?”