Presence of God – Sustain my hope in Thee, O Lord, so that it may be without measure.
St. Thomas teaches us that “man can never love God as much as He should be loved; neither can he believe and hope in Him as much as he ought” (Summa, Ia IIae, q.64, a.4, co.). That is why we can say that the measure of hope in God is to hope without measure. Our hope, our confidence in God can never be excessive or exaggerated, because it is founded on God’s mercy which has no limits. If we sincerely try to do everything we can to please God, we need not fear that our hope in Him can be too great. His helpful power and His desire for our good, for our sanctification, infinitely exceed our most ardent hopes. This blind, unlimited hope is so pleasing to God that the more hope we have, the more He overwhelms us with favors: “The more the soul hopes, the more it attains” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel III, 7,2). St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, making this thought her own said: “We can never have too much confidence in the good God who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for” (Story of a Soul, 12).
The more wretched, weak, and powerless we find ourselves, the more we should hope in God. If we cannot, and should not, expect to reach sanctity by our own power, we should hope to reach it through the strength of Him who is omnipotent, through the infinite mercy of Him who loves to bend over souls aware of their frailty, who loves, as our Blessed Lady said, “to exalt the humble and to fill the hungry with good things” (cf. Lk 1:52, 53). The knowledge of our weakness ought to make us keenly aware of our need for God; indeed, our weakness itself ought to be an incessant cry, begging with complete confidence for His all-powerful aid. The more our soul expands with hope and trust in God, the wider it will open to His sanctifying action. God’s mercy is waiting to come to us, to purify and sanctify us, but it will not come until we open the doors of our heart by an act of complete confidence.
“O Jesus, how can a soul as imperfect as mine aspire to possess the plenitude of love? O Jesus, my first, my only Friend, You whom I love solely, tell me, then, what mystery is this? Why do You not reserve these infinite longings for lofty souls, for the eagles that soar in the heights?… I see myself as a feeble little bird with only a light down to cover me; I am not an eagle, yet I have an eagle’s eyes and an eagle’s heart; for, notwithstanding my extreme littleness, I dare to gaze on the divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and I burn to fly to You, resplendent Sun, who attract my gaze. I would imitate the eagles I see soaring to the divine home of the Most Blessed Trinity … but alas, I can only flutter my little wings; it is beyond my feeble power to soar.
“What then, is to become of me? Must I die of sorrow because of my helplessness? Oh, no! I will not even grieve. With daring confidence, I shall remain here, gazing on my divine Sun. Nothing can frighten me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come to conceal you from my eyes, O Jesus, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds Your love shines always and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single moment. Sometimes, it is true, my heart will be assailed by the tempest and I may feel as if I believe that beyond this life there is only the darkness which envelops me. This would be the hour of perfect joy … what happiness to remain here at all costs, to fix my gaze on the invisible Light which hides itself to my faith.
“Yet should You remain deaf to my plaintive cries, if You still veil Yourself … well then, I am content to remain benumbed with cold, and so I rejoice in such well-merited suffering.
“O Jesus, how sweet is the way of love. True, one may fall and be unfaithful to grace, but love knows how to draw profit from everything, and quickly consumes whatever may be displeasing to You, leaving in the heart only a deep and humble peace” (St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13-8; Letters).
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Art: Gravure de “Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, Histoire d’une âme écrite par elle-même, Lisieux, Office central de Lisieux (Calvados), & Bar-le-Duc, Imprimerie Saint-Paul, 1937, édition 1940″ PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.