St. Therese of Lisieux dreamed of serving Jesus as a missionary in Vietnam. Jesus had other plans. As she was lying on her deathbed, her sister Celine (Sister Genevieve) said to her, “Since you want to go to Saigon, perhaps when you are in heaven, I shall go in your place to complete your work, and the two of us will do a perfect work.” Therese replied:
Ah! if you ever go over there, don’t think it’s to complete something. There is no need of this. Everything is good, everything is perfect, accomplished, it is love alone that counts. If you go there, this will be a whim of Jesus, nothing else. Don’t think this would be a useful work, it would be a whim of Jesus.Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux
It is love alone that counts. Our vocation is to offer Jesus our love and to receive His love most perfectly. That may seem small at first, but it is truly everything.
Friend of Jesus
To be the friend of Jesus is to be sincere and affectionate. We must understand Him and do what He wants. To check our progress towards this goal, we might ask ourselves, “If Jesus appeared on earth now, in this room, what would I do?”
When we first ask this question honestly, we may realize we probably wouldn’t move, certainly wouldn’t meet His eyes. Compared this dumbfounded, shy reaction to how we greet our friends. That is not offering Jesus sincere affection.
Instead we should be able to greet this best Friend with complete affection. If He appears visibly, we should rise with energy, smile with uncontained joy, and throw ourselves at His feet or into His arms.
If this affection is to be entirely sincere, it won’t happen all at once. We have to practice trusting Him, practice receiving Him lovingly every day, however He chooses to manifest Himself.
Spouse of Jesus
More than a friend, Jesus calls every human soul to be His spouse. A spouse is one from whom the lover doesn’t need to hide His love.
This is harder than it might sound. His love is so wonderful that it is far beyond what we expect. It takes practice, which can be broken into two steps. First, we must accept everything that happens as the Lord’s love. Next, we must build up the strength to accept His love.
Love as Love
Because Jesus’s love is so far beyond ours, it manifests itself in ways that, at first glance, don’t look like love. This is why trust is so essential. When we trust that He is constantly working for our good, we can learn to interpret everything as love. We must concentrate on noticing His goodness so that our trust will grow.
Once we trust Him, we know that all things that happen in our lives are expressions of His love. This gives us many opportunities to let Him form our understanding of love. We must assume that everything, whether it seems good or bad, is for our good.
Strength to Accept Love
Because God’s love is so overpowering, we need to build up the strength to accept it. In our resolution to be His spouses, we tell Him we want to be the one from whom He never has to hide His love. So little by little He will reveal it to us.
No matter how gentle He is, the power of His love will sometimes exhaust us. This might tempt us to discouragement. Instead, take this exhaustion as a sign that our Crazy Lover is answering our prayers. He is so taken with our resolution that He can’t restrain Himself. After one little act of kindness on our part, He catches us in a happiness that quickly saps our energy and leaves us grumpy.
He is sorry (at least a little) and tells us to take a nap. When that happens, don’t resent it. Accept the sleep as a sign of His true love. You will wake stronger, and soon you will have better endurance for His crazy happy spells.
At first, St. Therese’s words about vocation sound dismissive. Are Jesus’s plans for us nothing more than a whim? But after the initial shock, these words are comforting. “It is love alone that counts.” That makes it simple for us, doesn’t it?
We don’t have to be wise or prudent. We don’t have to understand ourselves or make big, scary choices. We just have to be radical lovers of Jesus, to accept every gift He gives as love. Small or large, that is our true vocation.