A sermon from St. Alphonsus Liguori during this Holy Season of Lent:
It is a thing to be marveled at that God unceasingly threatens sinners with an unhappy death. “Then they shall call upon Me, and I will not hear” [Proverbs I, 28]. Will God hear the sinner’s cry when distress shall come upon him?
The Lord pronounces the same threat in so many other places, yet sinners live in peace as securely as if God had certainly promised to give them, at death, pardon and paradise. It is true that at whatsoever hour the sinner is converted God promises to pardon him. But He has not promised that sinners will be converted at death: on the contrary, He has often protested that they who live in sin shall die in sin. “You shall die in your sins” [Jn VIII, 24]. He has declared that they who seek Him at death shall not find Him. We must, therefore, seek God while He may be found. A time shall come when it will not be in our power to find Him. Poor blind sinners! They put off their conversion till death, when there will be no more time for repentance. “The wicked,” says Oleaster, “have never learned to do good unless when the time for doing good is no more.” God wills the salvation of all, but He takes vengeance on obstinate sinners.
Should any man in a state of sin be seized with apoplexy and be deprived of his senses, what sentiments of compassion would be excited in all who should see him die without the sacraments and without signs of repentance! And how great should be their delight, if he recovered the use of his senses, asked for absolution, and made acts of sorrow for his sins! But is not he a fool who has time to repent and prefers to continue in sin? Or who returns to sin, and exposes himself to the danger of being cut off by death without the sacraments, and without repentance? A sudden death excites terror in all, and still how many expose themselves to the danger of dying suddenly, and of dying in sin?
Weight and balance are the judgments of the Lord. We keep no account of the graces which God bestows upon us, but He keeps an account of them, He measures them; and when He sees them despised to a certain degree, He then abandons the sinner in his sin, and takes him out of life in that unhappy state. Miserable the man who defers his conversion till death. St Augustine says that “the repentance which is sought from a sick man is infirm.” St Jerome teaches that, of a hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin till death, scarcely one will be saved. St Vincent Ferrer writes that it is a greater miracle to bring such sinners to salvation, than to raise the dead to life.
What sorrow, what repentance, can be expected at death from the man who has loved sin till that moment? St. Augustine says that by a just chastisement the sinner who has forgotten God during life shall forget himself at death.
Be not deceived,” says the Apostle, “God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall he reap corruption” [Galatians VI, 7-8]. It would be a mockery of God to live in contempt of His laws, and afterward to reap remuneration and eternal glory. But God is not mocked. What we sow in this life, we reap in the next. For him who sows the forbidden pleasures of the flesh, nothing remains but corruption, misery, and eternal death.
Beloved Christian, what is said for others is also applicable to you. Tell me, if you were at the point of death, given over by the physicians, deprived of your senses, and in your last agony, with what fervour would you ask of God another month or week to settle the accounts of your conscience! God at present gives you this time: thank Him for it, and apply an immediate remedy to the evil you have done; adopt all the means of finding yourself in the grace of God when death comes; for then there will be no more time to acquire His friendship.
This sermon should make one reflect on the state of their soul. The most important objective in life is to stay in the state of sanctifying grace and by doing so, pleasing the good God. This Lent, let us remember to always be prepared for death by making frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance. One should flee from mortal sin (and all sin for that matter) like it is the most dreaded plague. St. Dominic Savio always said “death, but not sin.” It is also important to reflect on the Passion of Our Lord, which our sins caused and continue to cause symbolically. Our sins nail our Savior to the cross. Repent and do penance or you all shall all likewise perish, the Scripture say. This has been the message of the Mother of God in all of her approved apparitions. Like a good Mother, she has continuously told us what we must do to save our souls. Prayer and penance. This is the message of Lent. Repent, confess and do penance.
~Damsel of the Faith