There is a beautiful and unusual image of Jesus on the Cross that is found in the castle of St. Francis Xavier in Spain. What makes this crucifix unique is that Jesus is smiling, having just completed His passion and agonizing death.
Ever since I first saw this image, I have been mesmerized by it and have pondered its meaning.
I recently read an article in Restoration, the newspaper that Madonna House publishes, called, “Catching Jesus Smiling at Me” by Lisa Diniz (click link to read that article). In it she speaks about how her retreat director, who was dying of cancer at the time of this last retreat she directed, spoke to her about this image and her devotion to it.
They both remembered being taught by Madonna House priest, Fr. Paul Bechard, to make it a prayerful habit to “catch God smiling at you.” In other words, to go back over your day and look for ways that God was giving you a special grace or mercy.
I tied that in with doing the daily Examen that St. Ignatius of Loyola urges us to do, and the first thing Ignatius says is to “give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits I have received.” Putting these two ideas together, perhaps we can ask at the end of each day, “Where did I catch God smiling at me today?”
Psalm 89:2 says, “For your merciful love was established forever, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.” God is always showering us with kindness and mercy, but so many times we miss seeing it because we are distracted, not paying attention, or we are not open to receiving these tender mercies. We need a change of perspective.
So much depends on what we focus on. If we are focusing on the negative, what is going wrong, how bad things are, then we can easily miss where God was showing us His love that day. However if we train ourselves to look back through the day and spot the times that God was showing us mercy or grace, we can change our outlook and realize in a deeper way that God delights in us and wants to bless us.
Father Rick Thomas taught me, too, that the Lord has a sense of humor. We often take ourselves way too seriously, and he said that God plays practical jokes on us trying to restore our joy and get us to lighten up — but that we usually miss it. Through his example and quick grasping of when God was fooling with him, Fr. Rick taught me to do the same. And things that used to frustrate or annoy me can become occasions of a hearty laugh that I share with God. For example, praying for a parking place and having not one but two cars cut in ahead of me to grab the available ones. Haha…I say out loud to God. Very funny! But I have a good laugh at myself for being in such a rush or for getting so impatient.
Try this at home
I encourage you to adopt this habit. If you can’t remember to do a daily Examen, or you can’t remember the steps, just spend a few moments going back over your day. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring things to mind, and ask yourself:
- Where was the Lord showing me His love today?
- Were there any practical jokes I missed that He wanted me to enjoy with Him?
- Where were His tender mercies for me?
As we do this more and more, our burdens get lighter, life becomes more joyful, and it becomes a fun exercise to catch where God is smiling at us each day.