The Son of God says: "You are wondering why you have heard that a certain friend of God, who should be honored, is suffering hardships, while, on the other hand, you have heard that a certain enemy of God, who you thought should be whipped, has been honored, as was told you in another divine vision. I answer: My words should be taken in both a spiritual and a bodily sense. What is the suffering of the world if not a kind of preparation and elevation to the crown of reward? And what does worldly prosperity mean for someone who abuses grace if not a kind of descent into perdition?
"To suffer in the world is truly an ascension to life. But, for the unrighteous, prospering in the world is truly a descent into hell. In order to build up your patience by means of God's word, I will tell you a parable.
"Imagine a mother with two sons, one of whom was born in a dark prison, knowing and hearing nothing, only shadows and his mother's milk. The other was born in a small cottage and had human food, a bed to rest on, and the attendance of a maidservant.
"The mother said to the one who was born in prison: 'My son, if you leave the darkness, you will have more delicious food, a softer bed, and a safer dwelling.' When the boy heard that, he left. If, however, his mother had promised him loftier things, such as galloping horses or ivory homes or a great household, he would not have believed it, for he had never known anything but shadows and his mother's milk.
"Similarly, God, too, sometimes makes a promise of lesser things but means something greater by them in order that people may learn to ponder the things of Heaven by means of earthly ones.
"But the mother said to the other son: 'My son, what use is it to you to live in this disgusting cottage? Take my advice, and it will be to your advantage. I know two cities: The inhabitants in the first experience endless and indescribable joy and everlasting honor. In the second city, fighters are in training, and everyone who fights is made a king, yet every loser wins.'
"On hearing that, the boy went out to the stadium, then returned and said to his mother: 'I saw a remarkable game in the stadium: Some people were being knocked down and trampled upon, others were being stripped and bruised, yet all of them kept quiet, all of them were playing, and no one raised his head or hand against those who knocked them down.'
"His mother answers: 'The city you saw is only the outskirts of the city of glory. In these outskirts, the Lord wishes to test and see who is fit to enter into the city of glory. He gives a higher crown of glory to all those he has seen to be more vigilant in the contest. This is why there are people residing in the outskirts who make a test of the ones who are to be crowned in glory. You saw the people lying prostrate being stripped and insulted but keeping quiet. This was because our clothes have been defiled by the darkness in our cottage. A great contest and struggle is necessary in order to wash them thoroughly.'
"The boy answers: 'It is a tough thing to be trampled down and keep quiet. In my opinion it is better to return to my cottage.'
"His mother says: 'If you remain in our cottage, vermin and snakes will come out of the shadows, and when you hear them your ears shall tremble, and their bite will freeze the very strength within you, and you will wish never to have been born rather than to live with them.'
"When the boy heard this, he felt desire for bodily goods, but his mother was thinking of it in a spiritual sense. Thus, he felt more encouraged each day and was spurred on to the crown of reward.
"God acts in a similar way. Sometimes He promises and grants bodily or carnal goods, but really intends spiritual goods by them, so as both to spur the mind on in its fervor toward God by means of the gifts received and to keep it humble in its spiritual understanding so that it does not fall into presumption. That is how God treated Israel. First He promised and gave them temporal goods, and also performed miracles for them, so that they might learn about invisible and spiritual goods by means of such things. Then, when their understanding had attained a better knowledge of God, He used obscure and difficult words to speak to them through the prophets, adding at times words of comfort and joy, as, for example, when He promised them a return to the fatherland, perpetual peace, and a restoration of all that was in ruins. Though the people were carnal minded, and understood and desired all these promises in a carnal way, still God in His foreknowledge decided beforehand that some promises would be fulfilled in a physical sense, but others spiritually.
"You might ask: Why did not God, to Whom all hours and seasons are known, openly foretell that particular events would take place at specific times? And why did He say some things but with other things in mind? I answer you: Israel was carnal and only desired carnal things and could only apprehend the invisible by way of the visible. Therefore, God deigned to teach His people in many different ways:
- so that believers in God's promises would receive a loftier crown due to their faith,
- so that students of virtue would become more fervent,
- so that slackers would become more fervently enkindled toward God,
- so that wrongdoers would more freely cease their sinning,
- so that sufferers would bear their trials more patiently,
- so that those who toiled would persevere more cheerfully,
- so that the hopeful would receive a loftier crown due to the obscurity of the promise.
"If God had only promised spiritual goods to the carnal minded, they all would have grown lukewarm in their love for Heaven. If He had only promised carnal goods, what difference would there then be between man and beast? Instead, in His kindness and wisdom, in order that they might govern their bodies with justice, with the moderation of those who are about to die, God gave humankind bodily goods. In order that they might desire the things of Heaven, He displayed to them heavenly favors and wonders.
"In order that they might fear sin, He displayed His terrible judgments and the possessions brought about by the bad angels. In order that they might expect and desire the One Who would explain the promises and grant wisdom, obscure and doubtful words were mixed together with words of encouragement.
"So too, even today, God reveals spiritual decisions in bodily terms. When He speaks of bodily glory, He means the spiritual kind. This is in order that all teaching authority might be attributed to God alone. What is worldly glory if not wind and toil and the loss of divine consolation? What is suffering if not a preparation in virtue? To promise worldly glory to a righteous soul, what does that mean if not the removal of spiritual comfort? But to promise sufferings in the world, what does that mean if not the medicine and antidote for a great illness? Therefore, My daughter, God's words can be understood in many ways, though this does not imply any mutability in God but simply that His wisdom is to be admired and feared. Just as I expressed many things in bodily terms through the prophets, which were also fulfilled in a bodily fashion, while I expressed other things in bodily terms that came about or were intended in a spiritual sense, so too I do the same thing now. When these things happen, I shall indicate their cause to you."