Calculating the Cost

Calculating the Cost



Jacques Maritain has some wise words on the parables of the man counting his resources before building a tower and the king counting his army before meeting his enemy in the field: “Which means to say,” he writes, “before setting to work for God and to fight against the devil, first calculate your forces; and if you consider yourself well enough equipped to begin, you are a fool, because the tower to be built costs an outrageous price, and the enemy coming out to meet you is an angel, before whom you are of no account. Get to know yourself so well that you cannot contemplate yourself without flinching. Then there will be room for hope. In the sure knowledge that you are obliged to do the impossible, and that you can do the impossible in him who strengthens you, then you are ready for a task which can be performed only through the cross.”

So, at times, God takes away all props, all help, from his children; leaves them apparently bereft; and reduces them apparently to failure and desolation, so that sometimes they seem to have no faith left in him, in themselves, or in anything at all. But it is all done with a purpose: for when, at last, there is nothing left but dry bones, if they turn to him in humility, he can make the dry bones live, and bring success out of failure, and hope and achievement out of despair….

When failure comes upon us, when we are tempted to depression or despair, it is of these dry bones that we should think, and see whether, in fact, there is some work waiting to be done for God. We should turn to him and beg him to work in us in spite of our frailties and failures. And so in us, as they do in their greater ways in the saints, failures and frustrations become creative.

Father Gerald Vann, o.p.

Father Vann († 1963) was an English Dominican and a popular preacher, lecturer, and author.

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