The Mother speaks: ”Which of the saints had the sweetness of the Spirit without first experiencing bitterness? Therefore, a person who longs for sweetness should not run away from things that are bitter.”
First question. Again he appeared on his ladder as before, saying: ”O Judge, I ask you: Why does one infant emerge alive from the mother's womb and obtain baptism, while another, having received a soul, dies in the mother's belly?”
Second question. ”Why do many setbacks occur to a righteous person, while an unrighteous gets everything he or she wishes?”
Third question. ”Why do disease, hunger, and other bodily afflictions occur?”
Fourth question. ”Why does death come so unexpectedly that it can very rarely be foreseen?”
Fifth question. ”Why do you allow men full of deliberate wrath and envy to go to war in a spirit of vengeance?”
Answer to the first question. The Judge answered: ”Friend, your inquiries are not made out of love but are made through my permission. So I answer you through the likeness of words. You ask why one infant dies in the mother's belly while another emerges alive. There is a reason. All the strength of the child's body comes, of course, from the seed of its father and mother; however, if it is conceived without due strength, because of some weakness of its father or mother, it dies quickly. As a result of the negligence or carelessness of the parents as well as of my divine justice, many times it happens that what was joined together comes apart quickly.
Yet a soul is not brought to the harshest punishment for this reason, however little time it had for giving life to the body, but, rather, it comes to the mercy that is known to me. Just as the sun shining into a house is not seen as it is in its beauty - only those who look into the sky see its rays - so too the souls of such children, though they do not see my face for lack of baptism, are nevertheless closer to my mercy than to punishment, but not in the same way as my elect.”
Answer to the second question. ”As to why do setbacks occur to the righteous, I answer: My righteousness is such that each righteous person obtains what he or she desires. However, that person is not righteous who does not desire to suffer setbacks for the sake of obedience and for the perfection of righteousness, and who does not do good deeds for his or her neighbor in godly love. My friends, reflecting on the things that I, their God and Redeemer, have done and promised to them, and observing what evil there is in the world willingly pray for worldly setbacks rather than for success as an act of prudence and for the sake of my honor and their own salvation and as a precaution against sin. So I let trouble befall them. Although some people endure it less patiently than others, still I do not let it happen without a reason, and I stand by them in their trouble.
It is like a son who is chastised by a loving mother in boyhood and little knows how to thank her, since he does not understand the reason for the reproval. However, when he reaches the age of discretion he thanks his mother because, due to her disciplining him, he was led away from evil ways and grew accustomed to good manners and discipline.
I treat my chosen ones similarly. They commit their will to me and love me above all things. Then they experience troubles for a time and, although they may not fully understand my blessings at present, I am doing what is best for them in the future. On the contrary, because they do not care about righteousness and are not afraid to inflict injury on others, and because they pray for transient things and love earthly delights, the impious prosper for a time and are free from distress due to my justice so that they may not commit further sin should setbacks befall them. However, not all bad people get the things they desire, and this is in order that they may realize that it is in my power to give good things to whomever I want, even to the ungrateful, though they do not deserve it.”
Answer to third question. ”As to why disease and hunger come, I answer: It is written in the law that one who commits theft should repay more than he has taken. Since ungrateful people receive my gifts and misuse them and do not pay me my due honor, I therefore exact more bodily affliction in the present in order that their souls may be spared in the future. At times I also spare the body but punish people in and by means of that which they love, so that the person who would not acknowledge me when glad may receive knowledge indeed and understanding when afflicted.”
Answer to the fourth question. ”As to why death comes so unexpectedly, I answer: If someone were to know the time of his or her death, he or she would serve me out of fear and would succumb out of sorrow. Accordingly, in order that people may serve me out of love and always be anxious about themselves but sure of me, the hour of their departure is uncertain, and rightly so. When humankind forsook that which was certain and true, it was needful and right for them to be afflicted by uncertainty.”
Answer to the fifth question. ”As to why I permit men to go to war full of wrath, I answer: Anyone who is wholly bent on harming his neighbor is like the devil and is a limb and instrument of the devil. I would do the devil wrong if I took his servant from him unjustly. Therefore, even as I make use of my instrument for whatever I please, so too it is right that the devil should act through the person who wants to be his limb rather than mine and should do what is in his right, either for the purgation of others or for the perfection of his own wickedness - yet only insofar as I permit it and as sin requires.”
First question. Again the monk appeared on his ladder as before saying: ”O Judge, I ask you: Why are the words ugly and beautiful used in the world?”
Second question. ”Why must I hate the beauty of the world, seeing that I am beautiful and of noble ancestry?”
Third question. ”Why should I not exalt myself over others, seeing that I am rich?”
Fourth question. ”Why should I not put myself ahead of others, seeing that I am more honorable than others?”
Fifth question. ”Why should I not seek my own praise, seeing that I am good and praiseworthy?”
Sixth question. ”If I do other people favors, why should I not demand remuneration?”
Answer to the first question. The Judge answered: ”Friend, ugly and beautiful in the world are like bitter and sweet. Ugliness of the world, which is adversity and contempt of the world, is like a kind of bitterness conducive to the health of the righteous. Beautiful to the world is its prosperity, which is like a kind of ingratiating sweetness, false and seductive. Whoever, therefore, flees the beauty of the world and spits out its sweetness will not come to the ugliness of hell or taste its bitterness but will instead ascend to my joy. Thus, in order to escape the ugliness of hell and attain the sweetness of heaven, it is necessary to pursue the ugliness of the world rather than its beauty. Although I made all things well, and all created things are very good, great caution should be used toward the things that could present an occasion of damage to the soul for those who make irrational use of my gifts.”
Answer to the second question. ”As to why you must not boast about your ancestry, I answer: From your father you received the ugliest filth and rot; in the womb of your mother you were as though dead and all unclean. It was not in your power to be born of noble or ignoble parents. Rather, my tenderness and goodness brought you forth into this light. So, you, who call yourself noble, humble yourself under me, your God, who let you be born of noble parents. Live in harmony with your neighbor, who is made of the same stuff as you, though by my providence you are of noble birth, as the world sees it, while he is of humble birth. In fact, O nobleman, you should be more fearful than the man of low birth, for the nobler and wealthier you are, the stricter will be the account demanded of you and the greater the judgment, inasmuch as you have received more.”
Answer to the third question. ”As to why you must not take pride in riches, I answer: The riches of the world only belong to you insofar as you need them for food and clothing. The world was made for this: that man, having sustenance for his body, might through work and humility return to me, his God, whom he scorned in his disobedience and neglected in his pride. However, if you claim that the temporal goods belong to you, I assure you that you are in effect forcibly usurping for yourself all that you possess beyond your needs. All temporal goods ought to belong to the community and be equally accessible to the needy out of charity.
You usurp for your own superfluous possession things that should be given to others out of compassion. However, many people do own much more than others but in a rational way, and they distribute it in discreet fashion. Therefore, in order not to be accused more severely at the judgment because you received more than others, it is advisable for you not to put yourself ahead of others by acting haughtily and hoarding possessions. As pleasant as it is in the world to have more temporal goods than others and to have them in abundance, it will likewise be terrible and painful beyond measure at the judgment not to have administered in reasonable fashion even licitly held goods.”
Answer to the fourth and fifth questions. ”As to why self-praise should not be sought, I answer: No one is good in himself, except for me alone, God, and anyone who is good is good through me alone. Therefore, if you who are nothing seek praise for yourself and not for me from whom comes every perfect gift, then your praise is false and you do me, your Creator, an injustice. As all the good things that you have come from me, so all praise should be given to me. And just as I, your God, bestow on you all worldly goods - strength, health, knowledge, and discernment for considering what is to your advantage, and time and life - so too I alone should be glorified in everything, that is, if you make good and rational use of the things given you. However, if you make bad use of them, then the fault is yours and the ingratitude is yours.”
Answer to the sixth question. ”As to why temporal remuneration should not be sought for good works in the present, I answer you: Whenever someone does good to others with the intention of caring not for a human reward but only for such a reward as I, God, may wish to grant, then he or she will gain much in exchange for little, something eternal for something temporal. But a person who seeks earthly in exchange for temporal goods will get what he or she desires and will lose the everlasting good. Therefore, in order to obtain an eternal good for a fleeting one, it is more advantageous not to seek a human reward but one that comes from me.”