Empty Hands

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Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

John 17:20-26
 
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
 
Opening Prayer: Lord, open my heart a little wider during this time of prayer. Help me to see how much you want to love me, and how I often get in the way. Let me set aside all worries, distractions, and fears, and say yes to your invitation to spend this time with you.
 
Encountering Christ:

  1. Cherished: Jesus prayed not only for the disciples, but for each believer, each one of us, before we existed. We have been created out of love, and we are loved beyond our understanding. Do we believe this is true? Comparing ourselves to the saints, our friends, or social media posts often leaves us feeling deficient. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Our misery attracts his mercy. As St. Therese wrote to her sister, “In order to love Jesus, to be his victim of love, the weaker one is…the more one is fit for the workings of this transforming and consuming love…let us stay quite far from all that shines, let us love our littleness” (I Believe in Love, Father Jean C.J. d’Elbee, 72). In the spirituality of St. Therese, this littleness is what causes the Father to sweep us up into his arms.
  2. They Are Your Gift to Me: Did you know you are a gift to Jesus? How is it possible that Jesus treasures our existence? What did we do to deserve his love? The boundlessness of God’s mercy is beyond our human understanding. “We apply to the heart of Jesus the measure of our own miserable little hearts, so mean, so narrow, so hard, and we do not succeed in comprehending how good, how indulgent, how compassionate, how gentle, and how patient is Jesus himself” (d’Elbee, 73). The only way our tiny hearts and minds can grasp the love God has for us is to see it reflected in this prayer of Jesus to his Father. He prayed out loud not for himself, but for us to see how greatly we are treasured.
  3. You Loved Me before the Foundations of the World: When we focus just on ourselves, we can become miserable very quickly. Jesus intended for us to share in the Trinitarian communion of love so “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” When we are caught up in the Father’s arms, we forget about ourselves and we cast ourselves on his infinite mercy. Then the merits of Jesus are my own, as Therese says: “In the evening of this life I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you to count my works…I want therefore to cloth myself in your own justice and receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself” (d’Elbee, 76). If we can get out of the way and let Jesus act, he can bring us to the Father as his child.

Conversing with Christ: Lord, I come before you with empty hands to receive the graces you want to give me. Help me to receive your love so I can radiate it to those around me.
 
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will renew my trust in the Father’s love by saying, “Father, I love you, and I believe in your love for me.”
 
For Further Reflection: I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux, 2001, by Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee.
 
Leah Nguyen, mom to six children ranging in age from nine to twenty-four, resides in Kansas City with her deacon husband. She graduated with a master’s degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in 2019, which helps her lead Bible studies in her parish as well as defend the Catholic faith when talking with her teenagers.

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