Make Known the Mercies of God
In the name of the Father, Christ sends His disciples into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit to make known the mercies of God. The humble movement of God’s heart reaching out to ours, extending even into the deepest recesses of our misery, ought to evoke our love and gratitude. Those who come to realize what Christ suffered for their sakes yearn to give a return. They are so overcome by how much they are loved by Christ that they are willing to do anything for Him. They want to imitate Him in everything. We find this sentiment in the prayers and reflections of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who wanted to imitate in his own heart all the movements of the Heart of Jesus:
My Father, I abandon myself into Your hands. Make of me whatever You please. Whatever You do with me, I thank You: I am ready for all and I accept all; only let Your Will be done in me, my God. Provided that Your will be done in all Your creatures, all Your children, all those whom Your Heart loves, I desire nothing else, my God. Into Your hands I commend my spirit, and I give it to You, my God, with all the love of my heart. I love You, and I give myself to You for the sake of this love in me. Into Your hands, I entrust myself without measure, with an infinite confidence, because You are my Father.*
Blessed Charles wrote this prayer while meditating on Luke 23:46 — the prayer of Jesus on the Cross. It is the most powerful of all prayers ever offered. It was the prayer that Blessed Charles wanted as the heartbeat of his own life. This kind of union with Christ’s prayer is filled with wisdom in the face of apparent defeat, a wisdom that he in fact witnessed to in his own ministry.
As a priest and hermit, he worked for the conversion of the Taureg People in North Africa. They were Muslim, but not very devout, and he had hoped to win their hearts to Christ by showing them the mercy of God through his own kindness to them. Blessed Charles befriended them and gently entered into their lives. No one ever converted as a result of his efforts, but many were impressed with the hermit. Then there was an uprising, and the old hermit was betrayed by a friend, attacked by soldiers, and shot in the back by a frightened teenager. It seemed as though his whole life had been a failure.
Yet his abandonment to the Father and his life of prayer would influence many of the new religious movements throughout the twentieth century. Why was he so fruitful in the face of so much failure? To make this movement in the heart of Christ the movement of one’s own heart is to allow oneself to be as rejected and hated as was the Lord Himself. The more rejected and the more Christlike we become, the more fruitful our prayer becomes — even in ways we do not expect it to. Mental prayer in the Christian tradition leads to this solidarity with the Lord. It is the mystery of the Cross that unlocks the power of mercy in the world.
Primal hostility toward God in our culture and in the lives of individuals is directed at the person who is holy. This is the reason Blessed Charles was betrayed to his murderers. It is why great saints such as Maximilian Kolbe and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross were killed in Auschwitz. It seems this is really the reason Saint John Paul II was shot. It is also the reason he went into prison, embraced the man who shot him, and prayed with him. What does this mean for those who want to live with fire from above? Saint John of the Cross says, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.”**
*La Prière d’abandon, January 23, 1897.
**See Letter 26, in Complete Works, 760.
Art for this post on how to make known the mercies of God: Cover of Fire from Above, used with permission. Detail of Call of the Sons of Zebedee, Marco Basaiti, 1510, Picture by Motty, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.