Friday, October 01, 2010

The Little Way and the Mercy of God

You have probably been told before that all the saints are really speaking the same Truth – that is, Jesus Christ – only in different voices. This is the beauty of the Communion of Saints! Every saint speaks only of Christ but chooses to highlight a different aspect of His Truth. For example, I would venture to say that Thérèse points to the mystery of God’s love for us and our reciprocal love for Him, which allows us to become like little children and so enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is not to say, however, that the message of Thérèse does not "overlap" with the message of other saints. In fact, the more I read the writings of the saints, the more I wonder at how often this sort of "meeting" occurs. Recently, I was impressed deeply by the Diary of St. Faustina, particularly by how much it reminded me of Story of a Soul. Curious to see how much these two saints really echoed one another, I began re-reading Thérèse... and it seems that she was just as fascinated by the Mercy of God as Faustina. Consider the following passages side-by-side:

Faustina: "He Himself descends to me and makes me capable of communing with Him... O inexhaustible spring of Divine Mercy, pour yourself out upon us! Your goodness knows no limits. Confirm, O Lord, the power of Your mercy over the abyss of my misery..."
Thérèse: "... Jesus showered His graces so lavishly on His little flower. He, who cried out in His mortal life: 'I thank thee, Father, that thou has hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to babes,' willed to have His mercy shine out in me. Because I was little and weak He lowered Himself to me..."

Faustina: "I count on nothing in my life but only on Your infinite mercy. It is the guiding thread of my life, O Lord. My soul is filled with God's mercy."

Thérèse: "How merciful is the way God has guided me. Never has He given me the desire for anything which He has not given me, and even His bitter chalice seemed delightful to me."

Faustina: "O Jesus, my heart stops beating when I think of all You are doing for me! I am amazed at You, Lord, that You would stoop so low to my wretched soul! ... God usually chooses the weakest and simplest souls as tools for His greatest works."

Thérèse: "I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy."

Reading passages like these, I realized that the "Little Way" was deeper and broader than I ever imagined. It wasn't just about doing little acts of love for Jesus -- it was also about the way I viewed my own sinfulness and my trust (or lack thereof) in the Mercy of God.

Thérèse reminds us that in our spiritual growth, the emphasis must not be placed on our good deeds (nor on our sinfulness) but rather on our confidence in God's Love and Mercy. Our works are a necessary expression of our love for God, but when we fail at them, our immediate reaction must not be one of fear or discouragement but rather one of confidence, which leads us to depend on His Mercy and to simply begin again with our good resolutions.

"What a comfort it is, this way of love! You may stumble on it, you may fail to correspond with grace given, but always love knows how to make the best of everything; whatever offends our Lord is burnt up in the fire of Love, and nothing is left but a humble, absorbing peace deep down in the heart."

Think of how a small child acts when he realizes he has done some wrong -- a child who does not fear his father. At the very moment the child begins to feel guilty for what he's done, he rushes tearfully into the arms of his father to bury his face in his father's chest, confident that the only necessary thing on his part is this utter abandonment, this blind trust in his father's merciful love.

Along the same lines, when we are tempted to dwell on our faults and shortcomings, we ought to toss them immediately into the fire of Love which consumes the Heart of Our Lord.

"When we cast our faults into the devouring fire of Love with total childlike trust, how would they not be consumed, so that nothing is left of them?"

She's right, of course. The Little Way leads us to the Mercy of God, on a path of total childlike trust. Little Flower of Jesus, pray for us!

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