Meditation for the first Friday of the Month of the Sacred Heart

detail of a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Ott Frères, 1892; Church at the Saint-Bernard-Abbé de Donnenheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France; photographed on 27 June 2016 by Ralph Hammann; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsIt is Sweet to Die in the Heart of Jesus.

At the hour of our death, when life, like a false friend, is about to forsake us, we must, in a special manner, increase our confidence in the heart of Jesus.

It is said that our Lord appeared one day to a holy soul who had conjured him to grant to a pious person a happy passage from this life, and addressed to her these consoling words:

“My daughter, where is the pilot who, having brought into port a vessel laden with precious stones, throws it into the sea at the moment of his arrival? Can you suppose that, after having granted so many graces to this soul in the course of her life, that I shall abandon her at the end thereof?”

Let us lean on the heart of Jesus; and driven on the stormy sea of this world, under the protection which he grants to those who love him, we shall one day triumphantly enter the desired port, and enjoy the eternal blessings of that holy guidance.

Death was always precious in the sight of God, for Jesus was to pass through its portal; it is precious to him still, for Jesus has died.

No one who is devout to the heart of Jesus will fail to find at the moment of his death more excellent and abundant treasures than he had ever expected to receive. Death, to himself precious, will not our Lord render it inexpressibly so to us? Faith cannot mistake the proofs of his tenderness. If we may venture to say so, the exile of the being he created is a sorrow to him as much as to the soul itself: for, like a tender father, God desires that his children should be with him in his kingdom. Of all the hours of life, this is the one which is the most precious in the sight of God, exerts the greatest power over his love, and for this very reason has such a mighty influence over his mercy and justice.

In order to receive the fullness of the new life to be merited by repentance through the divine reparation, every man must undergo the frightful trial of death; but is not this trial, caused by sin, like all other trials, a token of love on the part of God? Without death, life could not attain to its end; without death how could the soul ever reach eternal life?

The rebel angel escaped the sentence of death, but for him there was no resurrection. It is decreed that man should die, or rather, the soul cleansed by the blood of our Lord, and vivified by his love, passes into eternity before the body which it shall one day glorify, and united together, are called by Jesus to reign in heaven in a state so exalted that it could not have been won by primeval innocence.

Even in this world, without awaiting the eternal glorifying of humanity, the most beloved amongst the friends of God experience through their whole being a marvellous transformation which robs death of its terrors, and wholly disengages them from this transitory world. The interior light by which they are led is no longer human, but divine, through Jesus, and a supernatural love is substituted for that natural love which they made their law; and not only are their criminal affections destroyed, but the love of God above all things, gives them, even in this life, a foretaste of heaven. They feel no longer that engrossing care for the preservation of the body, but sigh after death, crying incessantly to God, with Saint Paul, Cupis dissolvi et esse cum Christo. They exult when they hear the clock strike, at the thought that one hour less remains for them to pass in this exile; death is no longer a passage of sorrow, but the desired way by which they shall go to the Lord; they sigh after it, they desire it, and would fain hasten the moment of its approach by the ardour of their desire for the enjoyment of a never-ending eternity. One single thing restrains them; it is when the perfection of love imposes on them a law of charity yet stronger, which would detain them in tins world for the glory of God, and the good of their brethren; “for,” says Saint Theresa, “thus do souls arrive at a strict union with Jesus.”

Thus ardently they have desired to die, in order to enjoy the presence of our Lord; this is their martyrdom at their exile being prolonged; yet they are so inflamed with the desire of knowing him, of making his name hallowed, of being useful to the souls of others, that far from sighing after death, they would wish to live for many years, even amidst the greatest sufferings, too happy in being able to add to the glory of their divine Master.

Perfect submission in death is an act of entire adoration, a magnificent profession of faith and praise; its beauty consists in the cheerful and ready sacrifice which the creature makes to the Creator of the life which, he had given, shadowing forth God’s power, in all its grandeur. Death beholds the soul already in adoration annihilated at the thought of the near approach of eternity; this, we may well imagine, is the kind of death the angels love to contemplate. The soul takes to itself no merit, places no trust on the way in which it has served God, and desires to possess even the smallest consolation the Church can bestow. It is specially attracted by the sanctity of God, which makes it aspire to become pure, pure almost beyond conception, in order to appear before the inviolable majesty of God, relying only on his mercy, never losing its confidence in the greatness of the divine compassion, but fearing lest its offences may be beyond the reach of pardon – dying the death of a child, fixing its eyes on the countenance of its tender Father. Why then, when in a state of grace, should we entertain a fear of death? “Who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God abides in him.” He who loves God is then sure of his grace; and dying in this state, is certain of enjoying for ever the sovereign good in the habitations of the elect. And can such a one fear death? David has, however, said, that no living man is entirely pure in the sight of God. Thus no one should have the presumption to hope for salvation through their own merits; for except Jesus and Mary, no one was ever exempt from sin. But we need not fear death when we have a true sorrow for our faults, and place our confidence in the merits of Jesus, who came on this earth in order to redeem and save sinners, for whom he shed his blood, for whom he died. “The blood of Jesus Christ,” says the apostle, “cries more loudly in favour of sinners than the blood of Abel for vengeance against Cain.” Grace transforms into a brilliant light that which by its nature was plunged in darkness and obscurity, and the plaintive cry of our misery is changed into a song of triumph; for the fetters which yet separate the soul of the dying from the heavenly Jerusalem are so near being severed asunder, that the triumphant alleluias of heaven mingle with the lamentations of earth, and the last gaze of repentant love is tenderly fixed on the crucifix, till earth fades from its view.

The transit of the creature from time to eternity is dear to the Creator; for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Let us throw aside, then, these vain fears of death, and regard it as a tribute which all must pay to nature. Let us be ready cheerfully to leave this world when our Lord shall call us to the land where the saints await us, and where we shall meet those who have instructed us in the faith, and whose victory will in some measure supply for the negligence with which we have performed our own duties towards our heavenly Father.

Let us unite ourselves to these glorious troops of blessed spirits who are seated in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; into which the good thief entered in triumph after a life of sin, and now enjoys, in the company of the elect, the ineffable delights of paradise; where there is neither darkness nor storms, intense heat, excessive cold, sickness, nor sorrow and where there is no need of the light of the sun, because the Sun of Justice alone enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem.

example

The Graces of the Last Hour.

We read the following touching account, in the life of Saint Gertrude, The saint once heard a preacher insist strongly on the strict obligation of a dying person to love God above all things, and to entertain for their sins a contrition founded on love. She believed this to be an exaggerated doctrine, and that if pure love was necessary, very few persons would die in the proper dispositions. She became interiorly disturbed, and a cloud obscured her mind; but our Lord himself vouchsafed to dispel her fears; telling her, “that in the last struggle, if the dying person had during life sought to please him, and to lead a Christian life, he would so mercifully reveal himself, that his love would penetrate into the inmost folds of the heart, causing it by his presence to make acts of the most perfect contrition;” and, added our Lord, “I would have my elect to know, with what a great desire I wish them to be united to me at that important moment. Let this be made known, so that men may rely no less on this last merciful grace, than on all the others which my love has lavished upon them.”

Let us propagate this consoling truth, so well calculated to inflame our hearts with the most lively love for so merciful a God.

Practice – Let us pray to the agonising heart of Jesus for the eighty thousand persons who, it is computed, die daily in this world.

O sweet Jesus! grant that I may die the death of those devoted to thy divine heart.

– from The Manual of the Sacred Heart, 1866; it has the Nihil obstat of Gul A. Johnson, S.T.D.