"Very quickly will there be an end of thee here; take heed therefore how it will be with thee in another world. To-day man is, and to-morrow he will be seen no more. . . O the dulness and hardness of man's heart, which thinketh only of the present, and looketh not forward to the future. Thou oughtest in every deed and thought so to order thyself, as if thou wert to die this day. . . If to-day thou art not ready, how shalt thou be ready to-morrow? To-morrow is an uncertain day; and how knowest thou that thou shalt have a to-morrow? What doth it profit to live long, when we amend so little? . . .Oh that we might spend a single day in this world as it ought to be spent! . . . Happy is the man who hath the hour of his death always before his eyes, and daily prepareth himself to die. . . .Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. But alas! that thou spendest not well this time, wherein thou mightest lay up treasure which should profit thee everlastingly. The hour will come when thou shalt desire one day, yea, one hour, for amendment of life, and I know not whether thou shalt obtain."
(Imitation of Christ, Ch. XXIII, Thomas à Kempis)What a miserable state many live in because they do not have a transcendent view of life. Whether people acknowledge it or not, most believe that this world is all there is, and so live accordingly. How else could one explain the guiltless way so many practice sin, and constantly seek out pleasures that last only for a short time? Sin has existed since The Fall, but never has it been without its accompanying shame until the present age when shame does not exist, because the grave offense and wounds it causes God are not acknowledged.
There is no thought of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. But, as Christians, we know that our Faith is not a lovely fantasy that we reminisce about in sentimental moments. It is real and true, and so we must live our lives accordingly. St. John Neumann said, providentially on the day of his death: "A man must be always ready, for death comes when and where God wills it." Our duty lies in gaining our salvation, and the salvation of those souls entrusted to us. Do we spend each day profitably? Do we remind ourselves that each of our actions and thoughts are seen by God, and judged accordingly? How are we living out our vocations? If our vocations are our road to heaven, then they could also be our road to perdition if we do not live them well.
Just as we acknowledge our own mortality, we should realize the mortality of our spouse and children as well. This is not a morbid thought, but a realistic one. Those who go through life denying the existence of death suffer the harsh consequences when it comes. Rather, it is better to go through life treating ourselves, those we love, and those we are called to love as if we were sending them off to see God at any moment. Will we send them in a spirit of love, or one of resentment? Do we incumber others with tedious and trivial matters or are we lightening their burden, lifting their hearts to the things of heaven? How differently we would live if we could constantly keep this in mind! Fasting today, and every Friday can only help us to understand that the joys of this world are nothing compared to those of the next. It cultivates a physical and spiritual hunger inside of us to seek our eternal joy in heaven.