Take Lord, Receive
By Susie Hii12 Jan 2017
I lay on the floor for some time. I had slipped on the wet surface, and the excruciating pain in my tail-bone made me suspect that I had fractured it. Gradually, I managed to pick myself up and went to lie prostrate on a sofa. As I lay there, I contemplated this recent disappointment, a blow to my ego, and now physical pain piled on top of mental pain. What a fall it was! The next day felt more like Good Friday rather than two days before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve in 2015, my parish priest, Fr Dennis, told us the story of Fabio, an 8-year old boy, who had a dream. In his dream, he saw Jesus, who asked him for three things. Fabio was afraid that Jesus wanted all his favourite things.
First Jesus asked him for the results of his recent examinations. Surprised, Fabio said, ‘But I failed!’
Jesus said, ‘From now on, give me all the failures in your life.’
Next Jesus asked him for his favourite glass. ‘But it’s broken!’ Fabio said.
‘From now on, give me all the brokenness in your life.’
I can’t remember the third thing Jesus asked for. I think it was all his lies and deceits.
Even though it is only a story of a boy’s dream, it left a deep impression on me. I find it hard to say St Ignatius’ prayer, the Suscipe (Take Lord, Receive), because like Fabio, I imagine that God wants only my favourite things. But he wants all our failures and brokenness as well, if only we will bring them to him and surrender them to him. Despite this, throughout the year, I still did not bring my failures and brokenness to Jesus. Finally, I was brought to this moment. To bring my failures and brokenness, literally a broken bone, to Jesus, not on Good Friday but on Christmas Eve.
God’s time is not our own, he does not follow the liturgical year. Fuelled by more disturbing news on Christmas Eve, instead of the usual happiness and anticipation on Christmas morning, I was reduced to tears. I sobbed and wailed. No one heard my cry. I wondered if God heard my cry.
A few days later, my dear old friend, St Therese of Lisieux popped up in the form of two books: With Empty Hands by Conrad dee Meester, and My Vocation is Love by Jean Lafrance. I was captivated by St Therese’ story when I was 11 years old but I had not read these books, which have been sitting on my bookshelf for years.
‘Our natural tendency is to run away from this misery…We never go down deeply enough into our misery to cry to God. A prayer that comes from the depths is always heard,’ Lafrance writes. My cry on Christmas morning was a prayer from the depths. At this time, reduced to powerlessness, St Therese came to remind me of her Little Way, the way of abandonment.
St Therese’s way of abandonment echoes St Ignatius’ words, ‘Few people realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands and let themselves be formed by him.’ She tells us that through abandonment, God’s infinite Mercy fills us. Even though the ‘Year of Mercy’ is over, God’s Mercy is never over, it goes on forever. We fear abandonment, letting go of our self-reliance and our plans, but when suffering pushes us beyond the limits of our own resources and forces us to surrender, we might actually find out that the outcome is the inpouring of God’s merciful love, so that we may be able to say with St Ignatius ‘give me only your love and your grace, for that is enough for me’.
I am getting to know St Therese again in a new way through these authors’ eyes, so I made a resolution: I wanted to follow in the big footsteps of St Therese’s Little Way despite doubting whether I could keep such a huge commitment. Lafrance advised “instead of making resolutions, we will transform them into prayer: Instead of saying: ‘My God, I am going to do this’, we say, ‘My God, teach me to do this!’ ” I pray for St Therese’s help and confidence. ‘It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must bring us to love.’ As Lefrance observes, ‘Therese’ doctrine is addressed to those who would like to renounce themselves but who cannot achieve it.’
I read Marie Noel’s prayer, which is much easier to say than the Suscipe.
My God, I do not love you, I do not even desire it. I am weary of you. Perhaps I do not even believe in you. But look on me in passing. Hide yourself for a moment in my soul, put it in order by a breath without my knowing it, without saying a word of it to me. If you want me to believe in you, give me faith. If you want me to love you, give me love. I do not have any and I can do nothing for it. I give you what I have, my weakness, my sorrow. And that tenderness which torments me and that you see so well…And that despair…And that crazy shame…My pain, nothing but my pain…And my hope! It is everything.
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, Thou hast given me: I surrender it all to Thee to be disposed of according to Thy will. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.