Lenten Meditation 31: The Happy Death of the Just

1. To the just man death is not a punishment, but a reward; it is not dreaded by him, but desired. How can it be dreadful to him if it is to terminate all his pains, afflictions, and conflicts, and all danger of losing God? Those words, “Depart, Christian soul, out of this world,” which strike such terror into the soul of the sinner, fill the soul that loves God with joy. The just man is not afflicted at leaving the good things of this world, because God has always been his only good; not at leaving honors, because he has always regarded them as smoke; not at being separated from his friends and relatives, because he has always loved them in God and for God. Hence, as in life he frequently exclaimed, “My God and my all!” he now repeats the same in death, with ecstasies of delight; the time being at hand for him to return to his God who made him, to love him face to face forever and ever in heaven.

2. The sorrows of death do not afflict him; he even rejoices to sacrifice the last remnants of his life as a testimony of his love for God, uniting the sufferings of his death to the sufferings of Jesus when dying on the cross. The thought that the time of sin and the danger of losing God are now past overwhelms him with delight. The devil fails not to suggest to his mind thoughts of despondency at the recollection of his past sins; but as he has for many years bewailed them, and loved Jesus Christ with his whole heart, he is not dismayed, but comforted.

O Jesus! how good and faithful art Thou to a soul that seeks and loves Thee!

3. As the sinner who dies in mortal sin experiences, in the internal troubles and rage which he suffers in death, a foretaste of hell; so does the just man experience in death a foretaste of heaven. His acts of confidence and of the love of God, and his ardent desire to see God, afford him a beginning of that happiness which is soon to be completed for him in heaven. With what gladness does he welcome the holy Viaticum when brought into his chamber! He exclaims like St. Philip Neri when he was on his death-bed, “Because I have offended Thee, my God, I will say to Thee, with St. Bernard, ‘Thy wounds are my merits.'”

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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