Lenten Meditation 23: The Vanity of the World

1. Only the grave, saith holy Job, remaineth for me [Job 17:1]. Days and years pass away, pleasures, honors, and riches pass away, and what will be the end? Death will come and strip us of all, and we shall be buried in the grave to corrupt and moulder into dust, deserted and forgotten by all. Alas! how, in the end of our lives, will the remembrance of all we have acquired in this world serve for nothing but to increase our anguish and our uncertainty of salvation!

2. My life is cut off as by a weaver [Isa 38:12]. How many, in the midst of executing their long-contemplated designs, are overtaken by death and deprived of all things! Ah, with what pain and remorse will the goods of this world be regarded, on the bed of death, by those who have been unduly attached to them! To worldlings who are spiritually blind the goods of this present life appear great; but death will discover what they really are–dust smoke, and vanity. Before the light of this last lamp all the dazzling grandeur of this world will vanish and disappear. The greatest fortunes, the highest honors, when considered on the bed of death, will lose all their value and splendor. The shade of death will obscure even crowns and sceptres.

Grant me, O God! Thy holy grace, for this alone is all I desire. I am grieved for having ever despised such a treasure. Jesus, have pity on me.

3. Of what avail then will riches be at the hour of death, when nothing will remain for us but a wooden coffin and a winding-sheet? Of what avail will be the honors which we have acquired, when no others will remain for us but a funeral procession and a tomb, which will not be able to afford us the least satisfaction, if our souls should be lost?

My dear Redeemer, although I knew that by sinning I should forfeit Thy friendship, yet did I sin; but I hope for pardon from Thee who hast died to purchase pardon for me. Oh that I had never offended Thee, my good God! I behold the love which Thou hast shown me; and this increases my grief for having displeased Thee who art so good a Father. I love Thee, O Lord! and will never live without loving Thee; give me perseverance. Mary, my mother, pray to Jesus for me.

Text from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Way of Salvation and Perfection, ed. Eugene Grimm, 2d ed. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1886).

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