Chapter 10 – Gratitude for the Grace of God
Gratitude for the Grace of God
Let me translate for you a parable found in the writings of St. Ephrem. It is as follows:
“’He that hath, to him shall be given; but he that hat not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.’ Is God unjust? No, indeed! Listen to a parable:
“A Certain landlord had two servants and three yoke of oxen. To the one servant he gave two yoke of oxen; to the other, one; and he said to both: ‘Go ye and work till I come back.’
“He that had received the two yoke of oxen went and worked with them diligently. By the good use of them he enriched himself; and lastly he fattened his oxen. The other, however, who had received only the one yoke, tied his oxen to the manger: sluggard that he was, he slept away his time without working in the least.
“After some time the landlord came back to see what his servants had been doing. He saw the work of the one servant, and the profits gained thereby, and he praised him greatly for it. He went also to the other servant: He found him sleeping; the oxen were still tied to the manger—so lean and weakened that they nearly fell over. He therefore said to himself: ‘If I let this lazy servant keep my oxen I will quite lose them; he will let them starve to death. I know what I will do: I will take my oxen away from him and give them to the other, who has worked so well and cared so faithfully for his oxen; for to everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall abound; but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.
“Thus, too, does our Lord speak to every one who is careless and neglectful: ‘Because I am good, have I chosen thee, and given thee the faculty, by the performing of good works, to gain the possession of eternal life. But thou has despised Me, and therefore will I also despise thee, and cover thee with confusion; because, wilfully, thou wouldst not agree to do good.’
“Now, is there injustice with God? Beware! Let us, therefore, dear brethren, endeavor most earnestly to make ourselves worthy of the love of God and of His saints.”
So far go the words of St. Ephrem.
I spoke to you in the last chapter about the want of all consolation. The worldly-minded, lukewarm, careless Christian may not know and may never find out in reality what is meant by “the want of consolation.” How should he? He is only half and half. His maxim is: No more and no further than I just must, to get to heaven. Such a one our Lord does not draw into the sweetness of His intimacy. To follow Jesus from afar, so as not to lose Him altogether, satisfies him; to draw near and lay his head on Jesus’ heart—nay! This is something he never thinks about.
But the true follower of Jesus, the faithful disciple whose continual and ever ardent striving goes to be ever near His Master; whose sole joy and happiness consists in being closely and intimately united with Jesus—he it is who sometimes, perhaps often, experiences what is meant by the want of consolation.
Now, my little follower of Jesus, if ever that hour comes upon you, be it soon or be it later, then call to mind what I now write:
Go into yourself first and examine: Am I the cause of this visitation? Jesus has given you some particular grace, perhaps—not a great, wonderful one, with which to perform great wonderful deed, but only a little grace, an enlightening of your mind, and a slight moving of you will to do some little good work. You have not been faithful; you have not taken the grace which Jesus offered you; you have not done the good work which Jesus wanted you to do. Did you commit a sin thereby? Perhaps not. But you were unfaithful to Jesus, nevertheless; and now He punishes you for it by withdrawing from you the sweetness of His consolation.
But suppose you are not at fault; you have not, knowingly, been unfaithful to Jesus, even in the least; what then? In that case, this withdrawal of consolation is only another trial of your love for Jesus, sent you by Jesus Himself. It is the best proof He could give you of His friendship and love. In either case, that is, whether this want of consolation is a punishment for you, or only another trial, take it with resignation, as I said before, and bear it patiently as long as it may last.
And now, here is where the gratitude for the grace of God comes in. Thomas a Kempis says: “This is the reason why the gifts of grace cannot flow in us, because we are ungrateful to the Giver, nor do we return all to the Fountain-head.”
So it is. God has done so much for us, and He continues always to offer us new graces. But instead of thanking Him for the graces He offers us, we frequently disregard them, or even refuse to receive them. Therefore God withholds many a grace from us that He would otherwise bestow upon us for our further sanctification; and He gives it to others, more willing than we are, who receive it with gratitude, and make good use of it. Now, perhaps, you can find the meaning of St. Ephrem’s parable; and perhaps you can tell why it is brought in connection with this chapter.
Yes, my dear children, let us ever be thankful to God for the graces He gives us. Whether the hand of Jesus strokes us consolingly, or whether it strikes us with tribulation, let us kiss it in humble gratitude; for, says The Following of Christ: “He that desireth to retain the grace of God, let him be thankful for grace when it is given, and patient when it is withdrawn. Let him pray that it may return; let him be cautious and humble, lest he lost it.”