from St. Benedict and St. Thérèse
In the end Thérèse made a heroic sacrifice. Her painful death, combined with a terrible spiritual darkness, took her into a full identification with the Lamb of God; but in keeping with her little way, she never aspired to a sensational sacrifice. The way of the Lamb was found through the daily routine of self-sacrificial living. "Sensational acts of piety are not for me--this shall be my life, to miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word, always doing the tiniest things right and doing it for love."
This relates indirectly to a discussion at John da Fiesole's on hypocrisy. Was Thérèse a hypocrite because she smiled when she didn't feel like it? Were these small sacrifices a sign of an interior haughtiness and hypocrisy--a servile and sniveling way to curry God's favor?
Rather, I think that the exterior actions and the will to them, gave rise to a heart of love. Yes, she did view them as sacrifices, they were small labors, but labors willingly undertaken because they gave Love a home. The actions were not hypocrisy, but humility. It was not hypocritical for Thérèse to note that there was a sister among them at whom no one would smile willingly and that she undertook to do so. Had she done so in order to win the Sister to herself, that might at least be labeled flattery. But Thérèse did so because that is what love demanded. She did so because she could bring a soul to God if only for a moment.
It is in actions like these that we get the clearest understanding of what the Little Way is and what we can do to emulate it. Starting the day with the love of God firmly in our hearts, we make an attempt to be pleasant before we've had our morning coffee. We restrain the broad spectrum of the ways to express ourselves at those who feel traffic regulations are for other people. We smile and treat pleasantly people who we would rather have nothing whatsoever to do with. And we do it not to curry favor with people, and not to get on God's good side, but to be for just a moment a placid reflection of God in a life of turmoil. We offer a momentary glimpse, a taste of salvation--in the words of Omar Khayyam:
"A momentary taste of being
from the well amid the waste."
That is what the Little Way offers to the world. What it offers to us is the possibility of a life of daily joyous sacrifice, of doing God's will and not our own wills, of working in humble obedience toward the spread of Love and the news of Jesus' saving work. Ultimately the sweetness we offer in a brief respite from the usual actions of our society can make a "Kingdom of Heaven" here on Earth. And always we do what we do because we love Jesus.
St. James taught us that "Faith without works is dead." St. Thérèse in her ageless ever-young wisdom added "Love without works is dead." Love without sacrifice is no reflection of the One True Love shown for all eternity by arms outstretched on the cross.