Let me begin by saying I've wanted to write this post for several weeks now. "Lent for Little Ones" is such a sweet, alliterative, and happily hopeful title! You might feel, though, like I do, that it would have been nice to have such a post some time ago, rather than just now as we're hitting the home stretch. Isn't it a little late for this sort of thing?
Believe me, 5 and 6 weeks ago I needed this advice as much as you did, but Jesus had other ideas, and since God's timing is always perfect, I'm trusting in Jesus' words to Marcel not to worry when he couldn't write. Though a big part of our little brother's mission was to write for us, not writing was another way of pleasing God, and no less beneficial and salvific (for Marcel and us) than his writing has been. I hope the same is true for me!
So thank You, Jesus. Thank You for Your perfect plan, Your infinite delicacy, Your tender solicitude, and thank You for keeping our post safe in Your Sacred Heart until now. Not only is Your timing perfect in a sort of "God always knows best" kind of way, but I'm especially grateful to have the chance to write in Holy Week, when Little Ones most especially need to know how it would most please You for us to proceed.
This is a big question, isn't it? As little ones, our main task it to delight Jesus, and in this week of His suffering and dying for us, we might find ourselves at a loss. We are so small. Is there anything we can do, ought to do, possibly should not do, in order to make Jesus smile? Can He smile this week?
The answer to these questions and the truth of Holy Week for Little Ones is contained in the picture at the top of this post. If you peek up at it again, you'll see something perhaps surprising, but oh so real, and the secret to our relationship with Jesus, this week and every week. We can see in that picture that we're not consoling Jesus, but He's consoling us.
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I am not great at thinking about or understanding suffering. I do not love the cross. I don't want to be sad. And if I am sad (or in pain, which is different from sadness, but which I dislike with equal vehemence), the last thing I want to do is think about Jesus' suffering. My own is already more than enough and in some ways far too much for me without "adding to it" what Jesus suffered.
This is why I love Jesus' beautiful revelation about revelation, the one He made within His thanksgiving to the Father which Matthew recorded in chapter 11 of his gospel, right there at the end (just before chapter 12 begins). There we find Jesus proclaiming aloud:
"I praise thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and prudent, and didst reveal them to little ones."
What things? Oh, all sorts of wonderful things! More wonderful than you can guess, which is why He talked so much with Marcel and asked him to write their words down for us. Jesus revealed many of these things to St. Therese about fifty years before He revealed them to Marcel, but then He couldn't restrain Himself from revealing them again and in more detail to Marcel (with Therese's help). Why? Because, as He says in Conversations (39):
"I do not know what human language to employ to translate the full intimacy of this love [the love that I bear for souls]. The intimate words that I address as well to other souls, I borrow from the language that people ordinarily use to express their feelings. If I used the intimate language that is more suitable for me to use when speaking to you, you would understand nothing. Indeed, my child, humanly speaking, my words are the expression of the deepest love, but I, I regard them as being only a simple glance of my love. My child, I do not know what words to use to succeed in making you understand more. Little one, do you understand? Allow me to explain things to you still more clearly. If I spoil you to that extent, can you wish for more?"
And then Jesus says the words that we've been waiting to hear, the words that put to rest any lingering scrupples on our part, the words that He became man to convey. Interestingly, these are words that little ones (and big ones) don't usually imagine Him saying during Holy Week, and yet He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Once a word is true for Jesus, it is true forever. Furthermore, everything He suffered in His passion and death was a result of His passion for us, and simply another way to show us His infinite love. But don't take my word for it, take His. Here is what He says in Conversations (40), just following what we quoted above:
"Firmly believe that I am always pleased with you . . . Be at peace, you have not offended me . . . Listen, therefore, I am speaking to you. Little child of my love, my love can never be measured. My love for you my child, and for souls, is still hidden; it is impossible for me to show it completely in this world. The day when one will see love, when one will be united eternally to love, is the only day when one will succeed in understanding it clearly. Has your sister Therese not told you, 'My love alone remains eternally'?"
Yes, it is true! And if I lived a million years, I could never thank God enough for His conversations with Marcel, for Fr. Boucher translating them into French (from Marcel's Vietnamese pages), for Jack Keogan translating them into English, for Les Amis de Van publishing these words in French and English and making them internationally available. Why? To delight the Heart of Jesus by inspiring more eternal praise of His Father; to fulfill Jesus' words which were not only about the past, but about the future; to continue to enlighten the little ones and reveal to us what He has hidden from the wise and learned.
For in Conversations, we find every truth of the Gospel that we need to hear, and we find this Truth repeated, explicated, re-stated in other words, and expanded upon without measure. Here, too, in Conversations the little ones (that's us) can find, again and again, the limitless Love of God poured out (the Holy Spirit Himself), with no impediments to stop the flow of this Love from whooshing into our thirsting hearts, souls, minds, and bodies.
Jesus has neglected nothing in His chats with Marcel, and so for little ones, for each season, each mood, each week and day of the year, we have ample food and drink, sustenance, nourishment, and in short, all that we need, contained in the pages of one single book.
Today, for instance, in Holy Week.
The Little One asks, bewildered: What shall I do? What should I expect?
For starters, as our picture illustrates above, we can expect Jesus to console us more than we will console Him. And His words to us through Marcel bear this out. The passage that follows is taken from the 5th of April, 1946, (369) of Conversations. Here is what God has hidden from the learned and deigned to reveal to the little ones. It knocks me out every time I read it!
Jesus: Little Marcel, my life has been one of suffering; but I have never been sad at having to suffer. So, my life must be called a painful life but not an unhappy life. If I had been sad about my suffering, how could I now exhort you to be joyful when you encounter suffering? Marcel, you must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a thing said. Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me? . . . Never have I been sad: on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations. If, at that time, I had been sad because of my suffering, I would be even more so in the sacrament of the Eucharist . . . No, little Marcel, it is not like that. The more I sacrificed myself for souls, the more I wished to sacrifice myself, more and more. And, in fact, that is something that Love alone is capable of understanding. You, little Marcel, you are not able to understand it.
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Note how logical Jesus is!
"If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me?"
But note too how, whether or not we appreciate His logic, He does not expect us to understand the mystery He reveals to us. He simply wants us to know it, without understanding it.
"And, in fact, that is something that Love alone is capable of understanding. You, little Marcel, you are not able to understand it."
If this seems contradictory or impossible - to know His mysteries without understanding them - remember that among the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit which we receive at Confirmation, knowledge and understanding are two distinct gifts. Not to mention our firm belief in the articles of the Creed, our very life, which frequently (perhaps necessarily) we hold without much understanding. And finally, if I might venture an example: Don't we often know, with deep gratitude and daily wonder, that someone (a spouse, for instance, or a parent, or a child, or a friend) loves us with great love, although in possession of constant proof of our unworthiness? (Or at least of our grouchiness, crankiness, impatience, etc!)
I, for one, am delighted to believe Jesus. It takes such a load off my mind and heart to know that, as He tells us very directly in the Gospel of these days, it was with desire that He desired to share this Passover with us - by which I understand that He was not sad, but eager to suffer with us so that we would never again have to suffer alone. None of us wants to be in The Pit - and He didn't either ("Father, if this cup may pass . . .") - but if it happens, we are in it together.
One thing that struck me deeply a few days ago when I re-read this passage from April 5th in Conversations (in which Jesus reassures us that He did not suffer with sorrow) was the seeming contradiction with His words to His favored three on Holy Thursday. I couldn't help but remember those words because the Church put them in my mouth in morning prayer, in the antiphon for the first Psalm of Monday of Holy Week.
As Jesus said to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as Holy Mother Church had us repeat: "My heart is nearly broken with sorrow; stay here and keep watch with me."
That is heart wrenching! Nevertheless, or perhaps consequently, I was very relieved when Jesus explained to us (via Marcel) that He did not suffer with sorrow. To repeat His words of April 5th, He said, "Marcel, you must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a thing said. Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me? . . . Never have I been sad: on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations."
What are we to make of this?
First off, when Jesus says "You must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a things said," He certainly does not mean that we shouldn't believe the Gospel. No, the Gospel truth is Gospel Truth, we might say! But rather, if we hear (possibly in a sermon or other commentary on the Gospel) the explanation of His sorrow as being because of His having to suffer, that's what we needn't believe.
Secondly, though, and equally important, these words to Marcel do not mean that Jesus did not suffer. In fact, just before this, a moment earlier in the conversation Jesus explained:
"Little Marcel, my life has been one of suffering . . . "
Then, lest we dwell in sadness at His suffering, He explains:
". . . .but I have never been sad at having to suffer. So, my life must be called a painful life but not an unhappy life. If I had been sad about my suffering, how could I now exhort you to be joyful when you encounter suffering?"
Ah, Love! You are so delicate that You risk our misunderstanding so that we will not rest in sadness even for Your sake!
I think that what's going on - and I give my thoughts here not because I think we'll then understand, exactly, but so that we can believe without fear of error - is that Jesus suffered and yes, sometimes felt sad, but His sadness was not because of His suffering, which He knowingly chose from all eternity out of love for us, and thus suffered with joy, but rather He sometimes felt sad because of the rejection His Love received (and receives).
So when Jesus said on April 5th, "Never have I been sad: on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations," He was simply repeating what He'd said a moment earlier - that He had never been sad to suffer.
As to Jesus being sad sometimes (not at having to suffer, but for other reasons), we have ample proof in the Gospels - such as when, after the death of Lazarus, we read (in John 11): "Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and He said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to Him, 'Lord, come and see.'"
These were the very words Jesus used at the beginning of His ministry - Come and see - and so much had happened since then. But now, St. John tells us that seeing Mary and the others who loved Lazarus weeping, "Jesus wept." Since He was like us in all things but sin, and since this was a sad occasion (so far - though He will soon make it, as He ultimately makes all occasions, one of immense rejoicing), we can figure that Jesus wept because He was sad.
Lest you fear, now, that Conversations contradicts the Gospel, let me reassure you: in Conversations too we have ample proof that Jesus is sometimes sad - else why would Therese and Mary (and Jesus Himself) spend so much time explaining and reminding Marcel (and us) of all the things we can do to cheer Him up?
This is why I think Jesus is trying to tell us today, as He told Marcel on April 5th, that He is not sad about His suffering - though there may be other reasons for His sadness, and I don't think He denies being sad sometimes. If we can't understand, He's covered that base too. Opening my dear Convos at random, I find this passage (226) where Marcel - our stand-in - complains: "Little Jesus, I understand absolutely nothing." To which Jesus replies with great love and supreme good humor (His words, as always, meant for us too):
"Who is obliging you to understand? Ignorant as you are, how would you be able to understand?"
That about sums up our situation!! Another proof of God's omniscience, though lesser lights than Divinity could, no doubt, recognize our ignorance in a flash.
The point is: We mustn't worry if we don't understand. Jesus tells us over and over again not to worry, especially about this. And really, especially about everything!
So if you, O Little One, want to know what to do this Holy Week to delight Jesus' most Sacred and Pierced Heart, and even to make Him smile, here is my advice:
Read the first sentence of John: !4. and let that be your Word. It isn't very long, and thus not very hard to remember, though you may want to repeat it to yourself, to your guardian angel, and/or to Jesus about a hundred times, give or take a few. This sentence came from Truth Himself on Holy Thursday night, Truth who, as St. Thomas tells us in our Holy Thursday hymn (in Gerard Manley Hopkins' translation) "speaks truly or there's nothing true." Just like every particle of the Blessed Sacrament He gave us is fully and completely all of Himself, so this Word of the first sentence of John 14 contains within it the whole of Truth.
For your convenience, here it is:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled."
There - how easy! Do not let your hearts be troubled. This is Jesus' advice to us, spoken this time to His dear Apostles, recorded by His beloved among them, given as a Word for them to hold onto during that first Holy Triduum, at the very outset of His greatest failure and triumph.
Whether we read Jesus' words in Marcel's Conversations (second best book in the world) or in the Bible (best book in the world), His message is the same. He chose to suffer for love of us, but He doesn't want us to worry about anything. And just as He repeats Himself to Marcel (and us) in Conversations, so too, a little later in His discourse at the Last Supper He repeats His urgent reassurance to the Apostles (and to us), but with even more words:
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
He also promises us His peace, and I join little Marcel in praying that this ineffable peace will fill and surround you this Holy Week and into Easter.
We hope you have the privilege of spending some time with Jesus in the next few days, but let it be in peace and consolation. No need for scrupples, little one! Believe me, Jesus will be consoled that you are with Him for any moments He allows you to spend in His company, and He definitely wants you to be at peace knowing that He is with you, even in those moments when you aren't consciously with Him. He loves you! That's the truth of this week: He loves you, and when one is so completely loved, there is no reason to be afraid.
We love You too, Jesus!
Draw me, we will run!!
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