Thomas a Kempis
Thomas a Kempis

"Very soon your life here will end; consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die and are quickly forgotten. Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to the present instead of preparing for that which is to come!

Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day. If you had a good conscience you would not fear death very much. It is better to avoid sin than to fear death. If you are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow? Tomorrow is an uncertain day; how do you know you will have a tomorrow?" - The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (Ch. 23)

In times past the great work of Kempis was an indispensable must-have book second only in importance to the Bible itself. Today, few people have even heard of it. The words surely were too difficult for many throughout the nearly 6 centuries since it was written. With each generation, many found it to be too much trouble and didn’t bother with passing it on to their children. Why dampen a good mood with a sobering reminder of our solemn duty to Christ?

Perhaps one of the most difficult passages is quoted above. It is a startling reminder of our human weakness and transience. We are just passing through this life. Our work, our causes, and our words, are lost to the world shortly after our death. The many years of our life are forgotten in a fraction of the time it took us to live them.

Why then do so many people live without regard for their afterlife? Are they simply ignorant of the realities of Heaven and Hell? Do they not understand? Has no one taken the time to teach them? Have they been taught and found the teaching too difficult to accept? It is likely a combination of these, but nonetheless, they cannot avoid judgment simply by burying their head in the sand. Judgment will come for each of us.

As Kempis urges us, “in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day.” The only way we know of to win the eternal reward of Heaven is to live each day in the state of grace. If you are not in the state of grace, get to confession. Nourish yourself with the Holy Eucharist.

At present, it seems that the battle for our soul is against retailers peddling sexual images in commercials, outspoken celebrities trying to pass off their depraved vision of fun as authentic happiness, or government officials requiring us to violate our consciences. These may be battles along the way on our journey through life, but they are not the source of our problems. As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:11-12, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”

All of the manifestations of evil in the world would be vanquished within a generation or 2 if every Catholic person cleaned their soul on a regular basis and availed themselves of the sacraments. If evil could find no safe harbor in Catholics, we would soon begin to see the rest of the world drawn to our ranks. Let’s do our part in this battle. Let’s make sure our own spiritual house is in order. Let’s live each day as if it was our last, glowing with the radiance of our soul, purified for Christ.