Since I became a Catholic, I run into thoughts and words from the saints that sometimes just stop me in my tracks and cause me to consider and re-consider my way of living. Here is an example from The Ladder of Divine Ascent written by St. John Climacus (or “Of the Ladder”).
A man who takes pride in natural abilities— I mean cleverness, the ability to learn, skill in reading, good diction, quick grasp, and all such skills as we possess without having to work for them — this man, I say, will never receive the blessings of heaven, since the man who is unfaithful in little is unfaithful and vainglorious in much.
And there are men who wear out their bodies to no purpose in the pursuit of total dispassion, heavenly treasures, miracle working, and prophetic ability, and the poor fools do not realize that humility, not hard work, is the mother of such things.
The man who seeks a quid pro quo from God builds on uncertainty, whereas the man who considers himself a debtor will receive sudden and unexpected riches.
I was that man in the first sentence for an awfully long time. Now, I need to ensure that by trying to leave that first person completely behind, I don’t become the person John describes in the second sentence as well. Because as he states in the third sentence, expecting the Lord to scratch my back only if I scratch His is silly, especially when I consider how deeply in debt I really am.
St. John Climacus, pray for us.