The starting point of Therese’s little way is the MERCY OF GOD. The mercy of God is God’s love in the presence of hurt and pain. God’s heart is moved to compassion as when Jesus saw humans suffer. This is what his Mercy means. Le bon Dieu, as Therese said, is a God of love and mercy; he is not a God of rigorous, recriminative justice. God is not obsessed with our sinfulness, on the lookout for the first false move on our part. We all say glibly: God loves each one of us unconditionally. Therese nuances that statement. God’s love is unconditional, but in order to receive it, we must be in touch with our weakness. Otherwise we give God no entree. We have to know and own our weakness for God’s Mercy to enter the picture. Therese’s sister Celine said that Therese’s spirituality was that of the Good Thief. The Bad Thief in the story closed the door on God’s Mercy.
Her little way is about God’s Mercy and human weakness. We need to be in touch with both these poles: God’s fullness and our emptiness. But there is one more piece to the puzzle; Therese called it the centerpiece. It is confidence and trust. My way, says Therese, is all about confidence and love. We have to trust God’s Mercy in the face of our neediness. Trust or surrender into God’s arms is the bridge that connects divine Mercy and human inadequacy Our task in life is to accept God’s love and our own powerlessness, and in the strength of that love to let God heal us. Then we can get on with life. Does this sound familiar? It is the spirituality of the Twelve Steps.
“Everything is grace”, Therese said. By this she meant that God’s love, or grace, is everywhere, in every turn of daily life, in every life situation. And it is there for the taking. And secondly, all is grace, because our success and well-being are ultimately God’s gift. Our part is to let God’s grace work in us in all the actions of our lives. In the end our lives are truly the human face of God.
The mystery of the gospel is that God’s love and power flourish best in human weakness. St. Paul puts it bluntly in II Corinthians [12: 9] in the words of Christ: “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” We have to acknowledge our infirmity. We have to own our weakness, confess our powerlessness. Then God will come.
This is the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Therese. It also happens to be the gospel according to Mark and Matthew and Luke and John, brought into clearer light by the genius of this doctor of the church.