"Then He will say to those on His left hand, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for Me.’ And these will go into everlasting, punishment, but the just into everlasting life." (St. Matthew v, 41-46 - from the Gospel for Monday of the First Week in Lent)
Of the judgment day.
Moralities. Behold here a gospel of great terror, where our spirit, like the dove of Noah, is placed upon the deluge of God's wrath, and knows not where to find footing. Everything is most dreadful, but what can be more terrible than the certainty of God's judgment, joined with the great uncertainty of the hour of our death? It is an unchangeable decree, that we must all be presented before the high tribunal of the living God, to render a just account of all which our soul has done while it was joined with our body, as we are taught by St. Paul. We must make an account of our time spent, of our thoughts, words, actions: of what we have done, and what we have omitted; of life, death, and of the blood of Jesus Christ; and thereupon receive a judgment of everlasting life or death.All men know that this must certainly be done, but no man knows the hour or moment when it shall be. So many clocks strike for us every day, and yet none can let us know the hour of our death.
O how great is the solitude of a soul in its separation from so many great inticements of the world, wherein many men live, and in an instant to see nothing but the good or ill we have done on either side; what an astonishment will it be for a man suddenly to see all the actions of his life, as upon a piece of tapestry spread before his eyes; where his sins will appear like so many thorns, so many serpents, so many venomous beasts? Where will then be that misleading veil of reputation, and of reason of state, which as of now cover so many wicked actions?
The soul shall, on that day of God, be displayed openly to all the world, and its own eyes will disturb it, witnessing so plainly what it has done.
O what a parting water is God's judgment, which in a moment shall separate so diverse substances! O what a division will then be made of some men who now live upon the earth! Some shall be made clear and bright like the stars of heaven, and others like coals burning in hell. O what a dreadful change will it be to a damned soul at its separation from this life to live only in the company of devils, in that piercing pain of torments and eternal punishment! It is a very troublesome thing to be tied with silken strings in a bed of roses for eight straight days: what may we then think of a damned soul, who must dwell in a bed of flames as long as there shall be a God?
Make use of the time given you to work your salvation, and live such a life as may end with a happy death, and so obtain that favorable judgment which shall say: "Come, O soul, blessed of God my Father, possess the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world."
There is no better means to avoid the rigor of God's judgments than to consider them continuously. Imitate the tree ... which, being designed to make a ship, and finding itself wind-shaken as it grew upon the land, said, "What will become of me in the sea?" If we be already moved in this world by the sole consideration of the punishment due to sin, think what it will be in that vast sea and dreadful abyss of God's judgment.
Aspirations: "King of dreadful majesty, who justly damns, and undeservedly saves souls: save me, o Fountain of Mercy. Remember thy self, sweet Jesus, that I was the cause of that great journey which thou tookest from God to man; and do not destroy me in that dreadful day which must decide the question of my life or death for all eternity. Take care of my last end, since thou art the cause of my beginning and the only cause of all that I am. O Father of Bounties, wouldst thou stop a mouth which desires so earnestly to praise and confess thee everlastingly? Alas, o Eternal sweetness, wouldst thou damn a soul which hath cost thee so much sweat and blood, giving it forever to those cruel and accursed powers of darkness? Rather, O Lord, pierce my heart with such a sear of thy judgments, that I may always dread and never feel them: if I forget, awake my memory; if I fly from thee, recall me again: if I defer my amendment, stay with me; if I return, do not despise my soul, but open those arms of mercy which thou didst spread upon the cross with such rigorousness against thyself, for satisfaction of my sins."
Nicolas Caussin, S.I.
La sagesse évangelique pour les sacrés entretiens de carême
(Transl.: Sir Basil Brooke, adapted)