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God is merciful and just.  We often keep in mind His mercy and often forget His justice.

Mercy is to give someone what he does not deserve.  Justice is giving a person what he deserves.  God is merciful;  He shows His justice by withholding His mercy, thus making a person get what he deserves. 

God has declared that, through His mercy, for a little act of goodness, He will grant us a great reward -- heaven.  Thus, in the last judgment, He will say to those on the right -- because when I was thirsty you gave me to drink, receive the heavenly reward.  A glass of water for the kingdom of heaven!

At the same time, by His justice, God has declared that, for a little act of evil, a great punishment awaits you in hell.  Again to those on the left, He says -- because I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink.  Hell, because of a glass of water withheld! In the eyes of God, there is nothing small. 

Our common error is that we think God does not mind small things and therefore we do a thousand small evil things.  And again we become ambitious to do great things for God, thinking wrongly that we have to do great things to be great. 

And so the Christian should not be despondent when upon doing countless small good deeds, he reaps up insults and persecution instead.  If he were rewarded here on earth his reward would be miniscule.  But if his reward were in heaven it would be great.  

On the other hand, the sinner must be worried if he is not chastised for his evil deeds here on earth because his punishment in the next life would be much greater.  He should instead be happy when he is chastised on earth because that chastisement is so small compared to what awaits him in the next life.      

 In this context, suffering here on earth makes a lot of sense and has always brought great happiness to the saints and great worry for thinking sinners.  But those not enlightened will always desire and rejoice in the absence of sufferings, not knowing what awaits them in the next life. 

St. Thomas of Aquinas



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