As we enter the heart of Lent, Jesus is so very near to us! And to make sure we stay awake a little longer, in these days the Church puts on Our Lord's lips some of the most beautiful words of Scripture, including the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah. These started on Monday and continue through Good Friday because Our Holy Mother knows we are getting tired, and she imitates our Savior in pulling out all the stops. In a liturgical repetition that is quite rare, in both the Mass and the Divine Office today we find Jesus telling us what His Father has done:
"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." (from Isaiah 50)
Our beloved and adorable Jesus will not shield Himself, but is there any way we can shield Him? And what is this word He speaks to us who are weary?
His words are ever ancient, ever new, and He invites us once again into His Most Sacred Heart. He has said to us:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:28-30)
Then this morning as I opened Marcel's Conversations, I found some wonderful advice about what to do once we are in His Heart. Jesus does not leave us without a plan, but says to us through His words to Marcel:
"You asked to be buried in my heart. It is good. I agree to it most gladly and even if you did not ask for it I would not neglect to bury you in it anyway . . . Come on Marcel, say after me: 'Jesus, I love you.' Little Marcel, why do you not say a word of love to me? Yes, why? Is it that you have already forgotten the word Love so that I must urge you to say it? In order to prove to me your love, you have only two things to do: to say to me: 'Dear Jesus, I love you a lot.' Then look at me."
Yes, just when we wonder if we can take another step, or perhaps when some of us are eager to do so but want to know where to plant our feet, Jesus gives us perfect advice, only two things we need to do. He wants to hear of our love that He may be consoled in His agony and sustained on His journey to Calvary. He continues:
"When you enjoy my conversation, you must say to me, 'Dear Jesus, I love you greatly.' This will be one way of answering me. As for looking at me, you will do so at the times when your heart feels bitterness and is unable to say a word to me. You will use this glance to give me a sign of your love. But you must make use of it only when I am not speaking to you. When I speak to you, don't just be content to remain there, leaning forward open-mouthed listening to me speaking without deigning to reply to me . . . " (193)
We will be hearing more of His words this week from the Scriptures and liturgy and in the remembrance of all He did for us in His Passion. Let us respond with these simple words: "Dear Jesus, I love You a lot! Dear Jesus, I love You greatly!" But then too, if our hearts are dried up and His voice seems far away, if we are not hearing Him so clearly, let us look at Him. I've put Therese's sister Celine's image of the Holy Face (which she painted on her knees while looking at the first negative image of the Shroud of Turin) atop this post so we have Jesus before us. Let us look at Him and love Him!
But what about shielding Him from the innumerable blows that will rain down upon Him in His Passion? In a passage we have quoted before from Passion Sunday 1946, Our Lady gives us this sweet suggestion:
"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 . . ."
Surely there will be plenty of inconveniences to accept cheerfully this week! Let us do our best to offer Jesus (and those around us) a smile when we are tempted to something quite different. What an amazing thing that we are invited to protect Jesus in this way!
But Jesus Himself has yet more advice about how He would like to be shielded, saying in that same Passion Sunday conversation:
"The sighs of love that souls cause to rise towards me are capable of stopping the enormous stones which are thrown at my Love; these sighs divert the arrows of sinners which target my heart . . . Oh! Marcel, the weak sighs of men prevent me from dying, suffocated on this earth. From where does such power come? From the love within them. What happiness for me to be able to frolic in the midst of these sighs! I feel very much at ease and completely at peace, no longer fearing being seen by my enemies, or of being pierced by their arrows . . ." (387)
Certainly His words are mysterious when read this week! The Church will accompany Jesus through His Passion and death, and frolicking seems quite foreign to anything we will witness in Holy Week. Ah, but we are children, and He speaks to us of what we can understand. Our love for Him, enclosed in our sighs, can comfort Him and His Heart will be that much less sad . . .
I was delighted to discover in the earlier passage I opened to this morning a further commentary from Jesus on these sighs of love. Jesus is the greatest Teacher, as well as the beloved Spouse of our Souls, and He does not leave us vague on how to sigh! He explains:
"Marcel, I am going to teach you now how 'to sigh with love' for me. Dear Marcel! To sigh with love for me consists in wrapping each of your sighs in all the love of which you are capable in order to then offer them to me. These sighs, flying towards me, release a sweet perfume which intoxicates and attracts me. I then look for the place from where these sighs come to me and when I have found it, I turn in that direction in order to enjoy the fragrance which draws me more and more towards it. Having arrived close, I see the flower with the sweet fragrance. I hurry to gather it joyfully and I take it away to please myself. When it has pleased me long enough I lock it in the bottom of my heart so that this flower will have to stay there in peace throughout eternity. Dear Marcel, look how the simple sighs of love have the power to draw my heart and to place me as it were outside myself . . . Little Marcel, if only I could find many flowers exhaling such a fragrance!" (194)
Let us be such flowers for Jesus this week, wafting sweet scents of love to Him through our little sighs, distracting Him from the pain and cruelty inflicted upon Him by those who hate Him, reminding Him that we love Him and are grateful for all He has done. Let us take Him out of Himself, so He may forget a little and be filled with the fragrance of love!
It seems a tall order, but He has instructed us well and our marching orders are sweet and clear:
We tell Him we love Him a lot - that is, a lot of times we can tell Him we love Him very much! And we look at Him. And we wrap each of our sighs in all the love of which we are capable and offer them to Him.
He knows ahead of time how badly we will do these things, and says to us as He said to our brother, "My little Marcel, you get younger every day, so much so that I must begin again to teach you even the first words that I have already taught you. Why do you forget so quickly? However, don't be sad because you have such a short memory. Even if you forget, you please me nevertheless, on condition that you do not worry about it." (193)
Our sister St. Therese said that children fall often, but they don't get hurt because they are so close to the ground! Let us offer our many falls in union with Jesus' falls on the Way of the Cross, and then let's dust ourselves off and tell Him again, "Jesus, I love You a lot!" Then look at Him. And give Him our smile. And sigh with love. Oh! And then let's not forget to kiss Him, and as Therese taught us, let's kiss Him on His adorable Face.
As we enter these Holiest Days, you are in my prayers. May Jesus' love transform you, and may your love bring consolation and joy into His Sacred Heart, which so treasures the perfume of your sighs.
Draw me, we will run!!!
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