Meditations on the Psalms, The Christian Life #20, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

cover of the ebook 'Meditations on the Psalms, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox'

Psalm 48

Hear these things, all ye nations: give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world. All you that are earth-born, and you sons of men: both rich and poor together. My mouth shall speak wisdom: and the meditation of my heart understanding. I will incline my ear to a parable; I will open my proposition on the psaltery.

Why shall I fear in the evil day? the iniquity of my heel shall encompass me. They that trust in their own strength, and glory in the multitude of their riches, No brother can redeem, nor shall man redeem: he shall not give to God his ransom, Nor the price of the redemption of his soul: and shall labour for ever, And shall still live unto the end.

He shall not see destruction, when he shall see the wise dying: the senseless and the fool shall perish together: And they shall leave their riches to strangers: And their sepulchres shall be their houses for ever. Their dwelling places to all generations: they have called their lands by their names. And man when he was in honour did not understand; he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them. This way of theirs is a stumbling-block to them: and afterwards they shall delight in their mouth. They are laid in hell like sheep: death shall feed upon them. And the just shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their help shall decay in hell from their glory.

But God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell, when he shall receive me. Be not thou afraid, when a man shall be made rich, and when the glory of his house shall be increased. For when he shall die he shall take nothing away; nor shall his glory descend with him. For in his lifetime his soul will be blessed: and he will praise thee when thou shalt do well to him. He shall go in to the generations of his fathers: and he shall never see light.

Man when he was in honour did not understand: he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.

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First Point. Death the inevitable lot of all. The warning which death brings to us is one of the motives of natural religion, appealing as much to the heathen as to the Christian; striking a chill even into the most earthly-minded of our fellowmen, not affected in its seriousness by the affluence or the poverty of their worldly conditions. Yet it is the part of wisdom to meditate frequently and deeply on a fact so obvious, because of the light it throws on the way in which our life should be lived. It is easy for the rich and powerful to think that they have secured themselves against the blows of adversity, and that the unscrupulous means by which they have amassed their fortune wilt insure them against losing it. But there comes a time when their own strength of necessity fails them, and their riches can avail them no more; no family influence, no highly-placed friends can protect them from the dreadful summons of Almighty God, or give them freedom to live on through the centuries, still devoted to their worldly ambitions.

Second Point. Nevertheless, the worldly remain indifferent to God. The children of the world are too often unmoved by such thoughts; they see others, far better prepared for death than themselves, taken from us; yet they never seem to consider that, well or ill prepared, we must all be taken when our time comes; that our worldly possessions must pass to others, and our tenement be a narrow strip of the cold ground. Is it not a mockery, then, that they should never think of death, while they are busied in building fine houses that will last long after them, and giving their names to the wooded lands whose trees they will never see coming to maturity? For the dumb beasts, this careless attitude of living for the morrow is right and natural; but man has been honoured with the special privilege of eternity, and a special duty of preparing for it: how is it that he will not understand? Alas, the very fact of their absorption in worldly projects, and their self-congratulation on worldly prosperity, is the snare that ruins such souls; in death they will be tongue-tied before the terrible justice of God; and when the righteous awake glorious in the Kingdom of their Father, the children of the world will find all help far off, and all their glory faded.

Third Point. Let us learn to practise a holy indifference to the world. But we, who have learned to devote ourselves to the acquiring of spiritual resources, will find treasure in that day the precious Blood of our Redeemer, whereby we are made acceptable to God. How then can we allow ourselves to be anxious and ambitious over the bestowal of earthly goods, which, like the name and fame which so often goes with them, cannot help us against our needs in eternity? We will not envy the position of those who enjoy all their happiness in this world, and give thanks for none but temporal blessings, and forget that when they are gathered to their fathers their best prayer will be to be delivered from the darkness of Purgatory into the eternal light of Heaven. O my soul, we have been honoured above the beasts of the field by being created for an eternal destiny: shall we not be wise in time to attain it?

Acts: Fear of God’s judgments; detachment; resignation.

Colloquy with God as our only End.