In late October 2015, my friend was standing on his couch when he received the gift of faith. It was later in the evening, his wife and daughter were already asleep and he stood on the couch to get a different perspective on things. He did. At that moment, he knew that Jesus was God and that he was being called into a relationship with Him.
A similar thing happened to St. Thérèse after Midnight Mass on Christmas when she was 14 years old. She, of course, already had the gift of faith, but she was given a gift of grace then that changed the course of her life. Instead of getting upset about something that would have normally upset her terribly, she decided to cooperate with the grace God was giving her and to think first of making her family happy. Looking at this event within the context of her life, you can see that, from that moment on, she was committed to following Christ in a much deeper way than she had been before and — that it bore fruit in her life and the lives of others.
These encounters with God and the graces that He was giving in both of these situations were pivotal in how my friend and St. Thérèse would live from then on. For both my friend and St. Thérèse, though, other events and interactions had led to these encounters, preparing the ground so that they would be responsive to the graces the Lord was offering when they happened.
My friend and his wife had experienced the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, but had, a year before, successfully delivered a daughter. Despite not being raised to believe in God, my friend went to Eucharistic Adoration with his wife and prayed a prayer thanking God for their daughter. He then began to pray a quick prayer of thanks each day before going to sleep. He had begun to read the Bible for the first time, and he read a book where the central question was Jesus asking, “Who do you say that I am?” But probably most importantly, his wife was a Catholic who loved him and lived the Catholic faith.
Likewise, St. Thérèse had experienced the love of God and of her family throughout her life. She had been loved even when she had been difficult and moody. She had been loved when she was sick, and nobody could figure out what was wrong. On that early Christmas morning, she had the grace to realize that she should love others the way she had been loved, and she trusted God to give her the grace to do that.
These stories make me ask myself when I have had such encounters with God and what led up to them. Who has loved me and planted seeds that have sprouted later? When have I encountered God and cooperated with the graces that He offered me?
They also make me ask myself how I can help the Lord in His work in drawing others to Himself. How can I love like my friend’s wife and St. Thérèse’s family loved? How can I be a channel for those graces that lead up to encounters with God instead of an obstacle and stumbling block?
The good news for St. Thérèse (and for my friend) (and for me) (and for you) is that we have a God who loves us and with whom we can have a personal encounter. Jesus Christ loves you so much that He became one of us, suffered, died, rose and ascended into heaven so that you could have a relationship with Him, with His Father and with His Holy Spirit. He is not some distant God. He is here with us, He calls us into encounter and relationship with Him and He sends us others through whom He works to show us His love. Thank you, Lord, for the encounters we have with you, for the graces that prepare us for those encounters and for the people you send to us as channels of your grace.