Monday, December 30, 2013

St. Therese Counsels Child-like Trust in God for Young Priest

“Ah, my brother, you can sing as I do of the mercies of the Lord. They shine in you, in all their splendor. You love St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, those two for whom “many sins were forgiven because they loved much.” Me, too; I love them. I love their repentance, and especially their loving boldness. When I see Magdalene coming forward before all those guests, washing with her tears the feet of the Master she adored, Whom she was touching for the first time, I sense that her heart understood the depths of love and mercy in the Heart of Jesus. And sinner though she was, this loving Heart was ready not only to forgive her, but still more to lavish upon her the blessings of His divine intimacy and lift her to the heights of contemplation.

Ah! dear little brother, since it has been given to me too to understand the love in the Heart of Jesus, I assure you that it has banished all fear from my own heart. The memory of my faults humiliates me and prompts me never to rely on my own strength, which is nothing but weakness, but this memory speaks to me even more of mercy and love.  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?

I know there are saints who spent their lives doing astonishing penances to make up for their sins, but what of it? “There are many mansions in the House of my Heavenly Father.  Jesus said that, and that’s why I follow the way He is tracing out for me. I try not to worry about myself at all anymore. I leave it to Him to do in my soul whatever He wants. I did not choose a hard life to make up for my own faults. I chose it to make up for the faults of others.  I have just reread this brief word that I’ve written you and I wonder if you’re going to understand me, because I’ve explained myself very poorly. Don’t think I’m disparaging the repentance you feel for your faults, or your desire to make up for them. Oh no, far from it! But you understand: now that we are two the work will go more quickly (and I, with my way, will get more work done than you)—and that’s why I hope that someday Jesus will make you walk by the same way as me.”

"Thérèse’s close call with death made her hasten to finish Maurice’s education in the Little Way.  The memory of past sins still haunted him, and she knew that fear of God would undermine his confidence in Him, and that she must not allow this to happen. 

By this point in her life, Thérèse had come to her own deep conviction that “God is nothing but Mercy and Love,” and it became the foundation of her Little Way, her definition of God. In the Old Testament He is YAHWEH, which means “I am Who am.” In the New Testament John the Evangelist makes the bold statement “God is Love.” Thérèse placed a nuance on his statement by saying He is Merciful Love. It was her most profound intuition: that the very nature of God’s Love is to be merciful. The furthest thing from Him is the desire to punish anyone, to cause suffering. Thérèse once said that when we suffer He shields His eyes so as not to look.  He is all tenderness and compassion.
Furthermore, for Thérèse, it was the nature of God’s Love that His Mercy cannot be purchased. He must give it freely. All love is in fact freely given if it is truly love. God loves us with a sovereign freedom, out of sheer benevolence. He loves us for our sake, and He wants us to love Him for His sake, in a relationship that is pure and devoid of calculation. Thérèse explored this truth to extraordinary depths. She knew for certain that no amount of good works, no matter how heroic, could ever purchase God’s love, because He wants to and must give it freely.  She even said that our good works are all blem
ished and make us displeasing to Him if we rely on them. He does not love us because we deserve to be loved but because we need to be loved.

In taking the stress off good works and moving it to confidence in God’s love, Thérèse did not deny the necessity of our good works. They remain absolutely necessary, but not as bargaining chips to buy salvation. They are necessary because they are an expression of our love for God and inevitably flow from it. They make us beautiful in the eyes of God. When we fail to perform them, however—and there will often be failure, for we are weak and our nature is skewed—our reaction should not be a craven fear of God’s 
punishment but a confidence which leads us to depend on His mercy and starts us off again in the good life we desire.

This is Thérèse’s “theology,” which she was at pains for Maurice to learn. The foundation on which the Little Way is built is the merciful love of God. Only when she was convinced of His limitless mercy could she walk on this joyful “Way of Confidence and Love.” This is what would free Maurice from the guilt which plagued him and it would make him the missionary he must become, a preacher of the Good News of God’s love to those who have never heard of it.”  (from Maurice and Therese by Patrick Ahern)