Limitless Love and Lent
Are you hungry?
I can't help but ask because it is now officially the season of penance and one does tend to get a bit hungry! I remember a priest saying in an Ash Wednesday homily that he never ate breakfast, never felt the need, always waited until lunch to eat - except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday he would wake up ravenous! Isn't that just the way with us?
I was delighted to open Marcel's Conversations this morning and stumble upon a word from Our Blessed Mother that puts everything in a wonderful divine perspective. She wants us to know that none of our little sacrifices are lost, and in fact they gain much more than we might expect! My fasting is not impressive, but that doesn't matter - in the eyes of God and enhanced by the limitless love He bears for us and all souls, so much is accomplished by Him with the very smallest of our sacrifices. Here is what Mary told Marcel in Holy Week of 1946, and as with all the words in Conversations, these are meant for us too:
"A short while ago little Jesus did not give you any collation; are you hungry now? Try to be patient until Easter; I will then tell little Jesus to compensate you. It is very hard for you to be hungry and not be able to eat. But, my dear little one, it is the Love of Jesus who sends you this sacrifice, and by that you have done two things pleasing to His Heart: first you have accepted this sacrifice because it is Jesus' will, then you have actually deprived yourself of food. Thanks to this sacrifice, how many souls have you gained for Jesus! On their part, these souls will certainly not forget you; in return, each one of them will obtain for you from me many consolations, so that your sufferings will be changed into a deep joy." (Conversations, 461)
Mary tells Marcel, and so she tells us too, that by skipping one small snack we save many souls! How marvelous! My guess is that if we dare to imagine what good we can do in collaboration with Our Lord, we figure our part will be saving a tenth of a soul by one good deed. Perhaps once we've done ten good deeds, we've helped Jesus to save a soul. Not so! God is so much bigger than we imagine, His love so much huger - infinite! Limitless! And His condescension to us is immeasurable: He, the eternal Triune God wanting so much to be near us that He becomes one of us, lives among us, stays with us in the Blessed Sacrament, at this point not even appearing to us in His form and nature of man, but under the disguise of bread and wine!
When Lent arrives, there are many who take on big projects, plan for large sacrifices, set out to say long prayers. These are magnificent acts, along with giving alms as we are able, but don't be discouraged if your Lenten agenda looks small. God is pleased with whatever you offer, and He will multiply the fruits. He will use your obedience on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to save many, many souls, and He will do the same for every day in between.
St. Paul proposes a beautiful Lenten agenda in his letter to the Colossians:
"Christ's peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs. Whatever you do. whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:15-17)
One of the main threads running through the tapestry of Marcel's Conversations is Jesus' desire for us not to worry about anything, ever. St. Paul expresses this so pithily and wonderfully:
"Christ's peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace."
Are you feeling peaceful, as well as possibly hungry? Marcel, Therese, and I pray you are! Peaceful, that is. Because clearly this is God's desire for you, His little child. He is taking care of everything, and He doesn't want you to worry about any of it! This is the Little Way that St. Therese takes so much trouble to teach us through Marcel - as if the Gospels with Our Lord's teaching and her own Story of a Soul and century-plus of roses showered down are not enough. Well, they're not! We are forgetful little ones like Marcel, and we need the reminders. As Jesus says so aptly to Marcel and us:
"What did your sister Therese teach you? You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours? . . . love me a lot." (Conversations, 387)
On a practical note, Mary comes again to help us learn how Christ's peace can reign in our hearts. She says, simply: "My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . . Little Jesus is your true friend; if you love Him, try to protect Him by your sighs of love."
We are bound to have inconveniences coming our way these next 40 days, like they have the last 400, even 4000 days. Let's not lose a single one! These are the sacrifices we don't seek out, and I love that Our Mother Mary gives us two excellent methods for using them profitably. We can accept them cheerfully - I like to smile ruefully and go with it as a "slight inconvenience," knowing I'm pleasing little Jesus, but when I'm caught off guard or taking my time in thanking Him, how wonderful to know that my sighs - of love! - can equally please Him!
St. Paul's advice about dedicating ourselves to thankfulness also helps. We are so blessed! Our usual plentiful food and drink, our comfy beds, our ability to read a blog post - we are surrounded with an abundance of material gifts. But even more, Our Lord's love for us has been so eternally consistent, and now as He finds another apostle in Marcel, He continues to speak to us words of love and peace to draw us to His Heart where He wants us to rest. He has so much more to tell us!
St. John of the Cross, the holy father in Carmel of our sister St. Therese (and I'm thinking that makes him our father too, since he's our sister's dad!), tells us in his Spiritual Canticle, in a passage used liturgically on his feast:
"However numerous are the mysteries and marvels which holy doctors have discovered and saintly souls understood in this earthly life, all the more is yet to be said and understood. There is much to fathom in Christ, for He is like an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures, so that however deep men go they never reach the end or bottom, but rather in every recess find new veins and new riches everywhere."
And what is Jesus wanting to reveal to us today? What would He have us discover this Lent? Beyond His counsel to let His peace pervade our being, He has so much to tell us! Sometimes when I've gone on a big trip, I've thought before I left, "I won't be the same person when I return." This is true for our Lenten journey because Jesus wants to use these forty days to whisper to us many truths of His Love. He wants us to start at the goal, leaning our head on His Sacred Heart like St. John the Beloved Apostle did at the Last Supper, so that He may instruct us in the endless secrets of His unending compassion for us.
We have such a limit on our little hearts and our poor compassion, but how wonderful that Jesus and Mary (and I must add St. Joseph too), each have a human heart, and yet have no such limits. They care for us all with a superabundance of compassion, not only in our big woes, but in our small struggles and even our slight inconveniences. Jesus' willingness to be pleased when we accept such slight inconveniences cheerfully just goes to show that He is paying attention to every pebble in our shoe, every piece of toast we accidentally burn, every bitter chocolate that comes our way. Not to mention red lights, car warranty renewal phone calls, and cold weather when we hoped for warm, to name a few! Oh, but Jesus and Mary and Joseph do care! And they are accompanying us as we forge ahead by necessity into the next liturgical season our wise Holy Mother Church bids us enter.
So what would Jesus have us know today? For all of Marcel's littleness, our dear brother is bold, like our sister Therese. No wonder he is called the second Therese and the second Little Flower! That he dared to write what Jesus told him is proof of his crazy love and willingness to give all for his Beloved, and the same is true for Fr. Antonio Boucher, "bearded Jesus," in his translation of Conversations from Vietnamese into French (for which work his confreres mocked him), and the same is true again of our good Jack Keogan's translating Convos from French into English for us. Hooray for the boldness of the child who throws himself into the arms of his father! Thank You, Jesus, for Marcel, for Antonio, for Jack!
And why do I say they are bold to write out Jesus' words? You will see when I give you the passage Jesus and Marcel gave me this morning to share with you. I feel bold myself typing out these stunning words, and I hope you will let the Holy Spirit fill your sails to move forward boldly in joy too when you read them.
If you don't yet have a Lenten resolution that has filled you with confident joy, you can adopt mine: to read Marcel every day, and in particular to read Conversations. If you don't have a copy, you can get it without too much trouble or expense HERE (click on the HERE!) and it will arrive quickly, which is good, since (thanks be to God) Lent will be over and Easter will be here before we know it.
But now, before another moment passes, here are the words Jesus is giving us today. He spoke them to Marcel in Lent of 1946, and He speaks them to us now:
"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." (369)
As Miss Marcel muses over here, she can't understand it either, but it sure sounds like a wonderful mystery upon which to meditate (or if meditation sounds like a lot, let's just say wonder on) during these days of Lent. Do you see the shining and glorious boldness in this Little Way?
Whatever you are able to do and however much you are not able to do in these days ahead, know that Jesus asks of you only one thing: your heart. Snuggle up to His and tell Him you love Him. Thank Him that you know Him and sigh into His ear, a sigh of Love, a sigh of thanksgiving, a sigh of petition for the many intentions that need our prayers. You don't have to name them all unless you want to. . . He knows them, and He is happy to oblige, happy to answer our least sigh with His great Mercy.
And our prayer can be so simple, our prayer to share with the whole world this Limitless Love we are so privileged to experience:
Draw me, we will run!!!
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