From SERMON XII. SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY - ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SALVATION - " He sent them into his vineyard." MATTHEW xx. 2 by St. Alphonsus Liguori
"How," says Salvian, ”does it happen that a Christian believes, and still does not fear the future?" Christians believe death, judgment, hell, and Paradise: but they live as if they believed them not as if these truths of faith were tables or the inventions of human genius. Many live as it they were never to die, or as if they had not to give God an account of their life as if there were neither hell nor a heaven. Perhaps they do not believe in them? They believe, but do not reflect on them; and thus they are lost.
If the soul is lost, all is lost.
“What exchange can a man give for his soul:" (Matt. xvi. 26.) (...) If, from being created by God to his own image, you do not comprehend the value of your soul, learn it from Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you with his own blood.
God, then, sets so high a value on your soul; such is its value in the estimation of Satan, that, to become master of it, he does not sleep night or day, but is continually going about to make it his own. Hence St. Augustine exclaims: “The enemy sleeps not, and you are asleep." The enemy is always awake to injure you, and you slumber. Pope Benedict the Twelfth, being asked by a prince for a favour which he could not conscientiously grant, said to the ambassador: Tell the prince, that, if I had two souls, I might be able to lose one of them in order to please him; but, since I have but one, I cannot consent to lose it. Thus he refused the favour which the prince sought from him.
"What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul ?"“But one thing is necessary ?" (Luke x. 42.) It is not necessary to become rich on this earth to acquire honours and dignities; but it is necessary to save our souls; because, unless we gain heaven we shall be condemned to hell: there is no middle place: we must be either saved or damned. God has not created us for this earth; neither does he preserve our lives that we may become rich and enjoy amusements. "And the end life everlasting." (Hom, vi. 22.) He has created us, and preserved us, that we may acquire eternal glory.
St. Philip Neri, conversing one day with Francis Zazzera, a young man of talent who expected to make a fortune in the world, said to him: "You shall realize a great fortune; you shall be a prelate, afterwards a cardinal, and in the end, perhaps, pope. But what must follow? what must follow? Go, my son, think on these words." The young man departed, and after meditating on the words, what must follow? what must follow? he renounced his worldly prospects, and gave himself entirely to God;
"The fashion of this world passeth away." (i Cor. vii. 31.) On this passage, Cornelius à Lapide , says, that "the world is as it were a stage." The present life is a comedy, which passes away. Happy the man who acts his part well in this comedy by saving his soul.
David said: "One thing I have asked of the Lord; this I will seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord." (Ps. xxvi. 4.) One thing only have I sought, and will for ever seek, from God that he may grant me the grace to save my soul; for, if I save my soul, all is safe; if I lose it, all is lost.
”The summer is ended, and we are not saved." (Jer. viii. 20.)
“With fear and trembling work out your salvation. ” (Phil. ii. 12.) Hence, if we wish to save our souls, we must labour strenuously to avoid dangerous occasions, to resist temptations, and to frequent the sacraments. Without labour we cannot obtain heaven. “The violent bear it away." The saints tremble at the thought of eternity.