It’s spiritually healthy—Ignatius reasons—to live now the way we would like to be found at death, when we will look back on our lives from God’s perspective. What will we value then? What will we regret? What will seem most precious and what will seem simply a lamentable waste of time and talents?
At that moment, what will you prefer: to have perfected your golf swing or to have learned humility and patience? What will seem more important: to have made millions of dollars or to have loved God and served your brothers and sisters? What will you value more: Sunday Mass or the extra hours of sleep?
The great medieval mystic Thomas a Kempis offers similar advice to Ignatius’s, drawing on Jesus’ teaching. In his spiritual classic The Imitation of Christ, he gives his readers the following sage counsel:
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?
—from The Way of Serenity by Fr. Jonathan Morris, pp. 210-211