It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain. “Nothing,” says the author who styles himself Idiota, “is more certain than death; but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” My brother, God has already fixed the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when I and you are to leave this earth and go into eternity; but the time is unknown to us. To be always prepared, Jesus Christ tells us that death will come unawares, and like a thief in the night. The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.” (Lk. 12:40) He now tells us to be always vigilant; because, when we least expect Him, He will come to judge us. St. Gregory says that, for our good, God conceals from us the hour of death, that we may always be prepared to die. “Since, then,” says St. Bernard, “death may take away life at all times and in all places, we ought, if we wish to die well and save our souls, to live always in expectation of death.”
All know that they must die: but the misfortune is that many view death at such a distance, that they lose sight of it. Even the old, the most decrepit, and the most sickly, flatter themselves that they will live three or four years longer. But how many, I ask I have known, even in our own times, to die suddenly—some sitting, some walking, some sleeping? It is certain that not one of these imagined that he should die so suddenly, and on that day on which he died. I say, moreover, that of all who have gone to the other world during the present year, no one imagined that he should die and end his days this year. Few are the deaths which do not happen unexpectedly.
When, therefore, Christian soul, the devil tempts you to sin by saying, tomorrow you will go to confession, let your answer be: How do I know? This might be the last day of my life? If this hour, this moment, in which I would turn my back on God, were the last of my life, so that I would have no time for repentance, what would become of me for all eternity? To how many poor sinners has it happened, that in the act of feasting on the poison of sin they were struck dead and sent to hell? As fishes are taken with the hook, says Ecclesiastes, so men are taken in the evil time.” (Eccles. 9:12) The evil time is that in which the sinner actually offends God. The devil tells you that this misfortune will not happen to you; but you should say to him, in answer: If it should happen to me, what will become of me for all eternity? (St. A. L.)