Chapter 22 – Human Misery
XXII Human Misery (click to download)
Solomon, you know, was a mighty king. If anyone could speak of happiness on this earth, certainly he could; for, says he: “I surpassed in riches all that were before me in Jerusalem. Whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not: and I withheld not my heart from enjoying every pleasure.” But in the end he confesses: “I have seen all things that are done under the sun: and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
You know also the history of Job. Well, here are some of his words: “The life of man upon earth is a warfare. If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if just, I shall not lift up my head, being filled with affliction and misery. Oh, that I had been consumed, that eye might not see me!”
A rich man had two grown sons. One day he called them to his room and said:
“My sons, listen. I will give each of you an equal portion of land to work on my farm. I am getting old, and am going to leave things more for you to manage. Be diligent in your work; be saving, and do not lose time. Bring me your profits; I will treasure them up for you; and sometime you will receive your reward from me accordingly.”
There was a great difference between these two brothers. The older was a good son, obedient and respectful. He was not afraid to work; and from his earliest childhood he had tried to learn what might be necessary and useful for a farmer to know. He was able to now work the farm and manage it successfully. Not so the younger. He was indolent and careless, and thus caused his father much trouble. He was afraid to work; he tried every means to avoid it. It was thus he had grown up. He knew very little about farming, and did not care to know more.
The older brother worked his land well. He manured it, and plowed, and harrowed, and sowed. He worked hard; it cost him many a drop of sweat; often he was nearly tired out. But for this he had good harvests; and how glad he was when each autumn he could lay a good sum of money in his father’s hand. Not so did the younger brother. He was afraid to work the land himself; he hired others. These cared little about the harvests, if only they got their wages. His land was just as good as his brother’s; but instead of improving it lost in value. His harvests were poor; and they became poorer every year. After he had paid the wages to his hired men he had very little left to give as profits to his father. After two or three years he had no profits at all to give.
Thus it went on for ten years. The father died. The testament he had made was an unexpected surprise. He left all his property to his two sons, to be divided between them proportionally, according to the amount of profits each one had brought to his father during those ten years they had been left the management of the land. The younger son got—just one acre of land. The older inherited all the rest—the great riches of his father. The younger son was enraged: he stamped and scolded. But had he good reason to do so? Wasn’t he treated right?
My dear little followers of Jesus, this is a parable from which we can learn a good lesson. Let us hear:
We are not created for this world. Jesus died for us to redeem us; He wants to have us with Him in heaven, forever. For He says: “Where I am, there also shall My servant be.” Now, if this world were all sweetness, if there were nothing bitter in it, we might like it too much; we might forget the home and happiness that are awaiting us in eternity.
“Oh, unfortunate mankind!” exclaims St. Augustine. “The world is bitter, and yet it is loved. Imagine how much more it would be loved if it were sweet.” And Thomas a Kempis says: “Some there are who cling to the world so closely (though even by laboring or by begging they hardly have bare necessaries) that, could they live here always, they would care nothing for the kingdom of God.”
Can you make out now why there is so much misery in the world?
I will not weary you with an account of the manifold afflictions that may fall upon us in this life. You might, for this, read the corresponding chapter in The Following of Christ—chapter twenty-second of book first. I will only say this: you are still young, and have not yet experienced any or but very little of the misery of this world. But it will come for you also, this experience, sooner or later. We are all children of Adam; and we all come under Adam’s sentence of judgment: “Cursed is the earth in thy work! Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” As often as you have to feel this misery, think of the two brothers. Now is your time of hard work: the harvest of reward will be accordingly. I must add a word from Thomas a Kempis: “When thou art troubled and afflicted, then is the time of merit. Thou must pass through fire and water before thou come to refreshment.”