N.B. The following piece is a contribution from a very wise man and dear friend of this blog, Mike. His message below is one to which we can all relate, and it receives the wholehearted endorsement of this writer. –TN.
St. Ignatius says that souls receive grace differently according to their spiritual condition and disposition. The soul has two likenesses at all times. He says it is like a rock and at same time it is like a sponge. In St. John’s gospel (4:13) we hear our Lord speaking to the woman at the well saying “…He that shall drink of the water I give him, shall not thirst forever.” We all receive this water, but not all drink of it. Why? It is due to the “rock and sponge” conditions of the soul!
You see, when a soul is in the state of sanctifying grace and strives to be pleasing to God, it is like a sponge to Divine grace – the living water offered it by God. It absorbs all it can; and when evil is suggested, it hardens itself like a rock. It still feels the temptation, but is annoyed by it. Using the water (Divine grace) it has absorbed through good advice, good sermons, the good example of others, etc., it can easily fend off the temptation and virtuously maintain the state of sanctifying grace and friendship of God.
On the contrary, when a soul is in the state of damnation and remains obstinate in sin, the “rock and sponge” reverse their roles. Now when the soul receives the living water of God, instead of absorbing it, the soul rejects it! It becomes as hard as a rock. It still feels the grace, but is now bothered by it. It gets wet, but only on the surface – nothing is taken in. When temptation and evil suggestions are presented to such a soul, it drinks in the evil, fetid waters of the devil and very easily offends Almighty God. When others see such a soul in spiritual danger and try to admonish it out of charity, it will push back usually with anger and contempt. “Don’t tell me what to do!”, “You are not my judge!”, “Leave me alone!” are among the most popular replies the obstinate sinner will say when one tries to help them. I know first hand because I have said those very things to concerned, loving family members and friends in the past.
Looking back on those annoying admonitions, I thank God for them! They are sure signs of God’s love for me. When I was lost and not practicing my Faith, our dear Lord came looking for me – searching for me and calling for me like He did for Adam in the garden after he had sinned: “Adam …where art thou?“(Gen. 3:9)
If you know someone who is losing their faith or has lost it, don’t stop praying and charitably encouraging them to return. You are then God’s mouthpiece and instrument of His grace. They might respond with anger and resentment, but don’t take offense. When their “rock and sponge” conditions return to the state of sanctifying grace, they will thank you for your persistence! Who knows, they may even have to return the favor for you someday if you need it!
God bless you, and may you always be pleasing to God! May your soul forever be a sponge to the living waters of Jesus Christ and a rock to sin and temptation!