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For many years, I felt like a cracked pot. Although God was pouring his love into me, I had to be made whole before I could feel that love and hold it close to my heart.
In my teen years, I had turned to alcohol, drugs, and bad relationships to help me cope with my anxiety and insecurity. But I only ended up feeling worse about myself and feeling more alienated from God. It wasn’t until I returned to the Catholic Church—around twenty-five years ago, when my husband and I started our own family—that I began to experience God’s healing touch. But it didn’t happen all at once.
“Please Show Me Your Son.” When I returned to the Church, I also sought out professional counseling and the healing gifts of the sacraments to help me with my anxiety. But while I made some progress, I still felt somewhat empty. My attempts to pray the Rosary, go to Mass, and read spiritual books felt flat and frustrating. Jesus still felt distant, always just out of reach. What I needed was to encounter the mercy of Jesus. That encounter happened when I attended an Ignatian retreat.
The retreat began on a Friday evening. On Saturday afternoon, between conferences, I went into the chapel for some quiet prayer. As I knelt down, I prayed a prayer I had never said before. I asked Mary, “Please show me your son.” I said that she knows Jesus better than anyone, so could she please tell me what he’s like. I told her that I had always thought of Jesus, as well as her too, as a little critical. No matter what I did, I felt like I couldn’t get it right. I told her that I knew these were my own thoughts, but I couldn’t escape them. I wanted to know Jesus as all-loving and merciful, not like the cold marble statue I had envisioned.
Seeing What Jesus Sees. The next morning, I went to the chapel a little before Sunday Mass. As I tried to settle in quietly, I started seeing in my mind the gospel scene of the woman caught in adultery. Since this retreat focused on meditation and contemplation, I thought “Okay, I’ll go with this.”
I saw the woman cowering in a corner, her face covered with dirt. Her accusers stood around her with stones in their hands. I saw Jesus bend down between her and the crowd and start writing on the ground. I also saw what he was writing. He was writing down all the good things he saw in her and all the hurts in her life that had caused her to do the things she had done.
When Jesus looked at the woman, it was as if he were looking at me. For the first time in my life, I saw the way Jesus looks at me. He sees the goodness in me—even more than he sees the sin. He understands the hurts of my heart and feels my pain. As I tentatively placed my hand in his, I felt its strength and tenderness. He raised me up and restored me to my dignity.
The woman in John’s Gospel was changed, not because Jesus was a knight who came to her rescue, but because for the first time in her life, someone saw her goodness. I, too, was changed. Mary had shown me her son.
He Delights in Us. I felt so overwhelmed I had to leave the chapel to find a box of tissues. When I came back in, I closed my eyes and tried to compose myself. But it seemed that the Lord wanted me to know more, because I started to see another scene.
This time, I saw a little girl playing on a grassy hillside. There was a tree by her, but she was playing in the sunshine. A little beyond her, Jesus was sitting on the ground, simply delighted by her presence. The little girl turned to see if Jesus was watching her. Then she picked a bunch of little blue-purple flowers and gave them to him.
Then the scene changed. I saw a young woman running down a dirt hill. The dust flew up as she gained speed and ran into the rocks and boulders in her path. Jesus was behind her as she went hurtling down the hill. When she reached the end, there was a cliff.
As she was about to go over, Jesus caught her and pulled her to safety. They fell to the ground, Jesus holding her in his arms. Then he opened his hand. Pressed into his palm were the little blue-purple flowers she had given him as a child.
Realizing again that I was the woman he held, it struck me that I didn’t see the scars in his hands. I knew they were there. I knew the hurts and what my sins had done to him. But instead, Jesus showed me a symbol of our relationship and his love for me.
The Eyes of Mary. When I got home from the retreat, I wanted to find out what those flowers were so that I could plant them in our garden. I went to the computer and searched “little blue-purple flowers.” The search returned a whole page of different sites, all for the same flower. It was the Forget-Me-Not. Like a lot of flowers, it also has a second name that honors Jesus’ mother: “Eyes of Mary.” There it was! As I saw my life through Mary’s eyes, I had come to know Jesus.
Now, when I’m tempted to fall back into negative patterns of thinking, I close my eyes and remember Jesus’ look of delight in my presence. I remember that I don’t have to be perfect. I still try to pray in the morning and go to daily Mass, but if I miss, I don’t condemn myself. Jesus understands that I’m doing the best I can. Because I know how merciful Jesus is, following him is no longer a burden. It’s a joy and a relief.
*The author’s name has been changed.