Finding Beatitude: Part II of Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift

by Angela M Jendro

A summary from my talk last night with the amazing women of Devoted at St. John the Baptist Church. These women are so impressive and their prayerful, thoughtful ministry shows it! What a privilege to spend the evening with them!

Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift: Part II – Finding BeatitudeBeatitude

Paradoxically, we find self-fulfillment and happiness through self-gift (a theme often taught by Pope St. John Paul II)

The culture frames the questions of happiness around self assertion and individualism in pursuit of pleasure and status. Possessions and positions are limited so we must compete for them – against men and even against each other.

In contrast, when we open the Bible we find that God frames the questions completely differently. Creation began with self-gift: God’s gift of self – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to one another, and out of that love came creation. God made man and woman in relationship to one another and to God – one of free gift of self, in which they found fulfillment and joy.

Men and Women together image God. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Although equal in dignity and sharing a human nature, men and women are also different and each has unique gifts that complement one another. Therefore, their self-gift will proceed from their masculinity or femininity.

“The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different.   Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her ‘fulfillment’ as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the ‘image and likeness of God’ that is specifically hers”

John Paul II.   On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.10

 

“In the Spirit of Christ, in fact, women can discover the entire meaning of their femininity and thus be disposed to making a ‘sincere gift of self’ to others, thereby finding themselves.”

John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.31

So how do we find happiness? Real happiness – the lasting kind, the beatitude kind. The kind that goes deep, is rich with meaning and honor, the legacy kind that makes you proud of who you are and who God made you to be?

happiness.jpg

The Beatitudes. In these we find the way of happiness.

They proceed one after another as the steps of conversion so we may, as St. Therese put it, ascend the mountain of God by descending the valley of humility. Which Jesus confirmed when He said that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humble himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12)

Let’s not be afraid of words like self-gift and humility. In Christ we can be assured of the protection of our dignity, to never be taken advantage of, and only to be lifted up to the fullness of our individual personalities and calling.

Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of His words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women. Consequently, the women who are close to Christ discover themselves in the truth which he ‘teaches’ and ‘does,’ even when this truth concerns their ‘sinfulness.’ They felt ‘liberated’ by this truth, restored to themselves they feel loved with ‘eternal love,’ with a love which finds direct expression in Christ himself.”

John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.15

St. Edith Stein asserted that women’s gifts include concern for the person and their development. This applies to every sphere and vocation.

So, to better guide and nurture others’ development, we need to first give some attention to our own by examining the steps of the beatitudes as they apply to us.

She craves for an unhampered development of her personality just as much as she does to help another toward that same goal.

St. Edith Stein. Woman.

The Beatitudes Step by Step     

  1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
  • Poverty includes dependence and vulnerability: Awareness of our need for God as His creatures and as His Children
  • Acknowledging our limitations: physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Asking for God’s help and asking for the help of others
  • Allowing God to work in His own time according to His Wisdom as our Father
“God’s response is certain, but it can’t be foreseen or programmed. Patience and sorrow have their place, but in the end even they are positive in that they perform a hidden work, create a desire, prepare an interior space for embracing the compensatory reward when it finally comes… God’s response will be so much more beautiful and rich when the wait has been long and trying. Among other things, interior poverty leads us to consent to the experience of not being masters of our time, unable to manipulate God or oblige Him to enter into our expectations or plans. His intervention remains free and sovereign, unforeseen. Having mastery of a time frame carries with it enormous human security and makes waiting easier. But there is no time frame into which God can be forced…The poverty of not being masters of our own time is hard to bear, but it calls us to a purer hope, one without human support. Little by little it engenders patience, humility, meekness, creating the desire that one day will bring fulfillment beyond all expectations.”

Jacques Philippe The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes

  • Instead of trying to be super-women, allowing ourselves to be daughters of God. This will then free us to become the best version of ourselves.
  1. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted
  • Realizing our limitations and gaining self-knowledge through poverty of spirit, we mourn over our own sinfulness but in a way that motivates change
  • Example: Friend telling me about how she hated family trips because her mom was so stressed out packing up – realizing that was me!

(go back to poverty of spirit – needed to acknowledge my limitations and ask for grace)

  • Seeing more of God’s blessings in my life, and mourning my sins as foolish or ungrateful
  1. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land
    • Trust in God during difficulties and trials
    • The more we surrender our weakness to God, the more He conquers in us and it grows loyalty and Holy Confidence.
    • Meekness is not weakness. It’s a brave, fierce, strength founded on the proven character of God. Confident that Christ will walk with you and His grace will transform you.
St. Paul: But [the Lord] said to Me,My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
  1. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfiedlittle flower.JPG
  • It gets exciting! Here’s the joy of the Gospel, the zeal to witness Christ’s deeds, to battle for His kingdom
  • Begin with prayer because you want to. Going to Mass because it’s a source of strength and peace. Reading the lives of saints because they inspire you and you want to be the best version of yourself.
  • Choose to be silent when tempted to detract; refrain from gossip
  • St Therese, “though I am little, I can still hope to be a saint”
  1. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
  • Having received mercy, you want to pay it forward
  • Forgiving others and bearing wrongs patiently – because God has done the same for you
  • Works of mercy because you realize your own dependence on God’s blessings and the help of others.
  • Examples:
    • I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist, so I want to help students overcome that slavery too
    • I know how easy it is to be overwhelmed as a mom, so I want to encourage other moms too
    • I appreciate the spiritual authors who have encouraged me, so I want to write what I can as well
    • My parents and teachers were patient with me while I was maturing, so I want to be patient with my kids and students as they mature
    • My husband is compassionate with my faults and quirks, so I want to cut him slack when I have the opportunity
  1. Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God
  • Love God above all things
  • The pure of heart aren’t distracted by illusions, they have come to recognize God in His works and they begin to see Him everywhere and in everything and every situation.
  • Purity of Heart à Sight of God à essence of Heaven’s joy
  1. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Deep peace from union with God
  • Extend that peace to others
  • How to be Peacemakers: Insights from St. Edith Stein
“Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life – or often simply of only gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?”

“Only by the power of grace… Whoever wants to preserve [divine]life continually within herself must nourish it constantly from the source whence it flows without end – from the holy sacraments, above all from the sacrament of love.”

“When we entrust all the troubles of our earthly existence confidently to the divine heart, we are relieved of them. Then our souls if free to participate in the divine life…it has a liberating power in itself; it lessens the weight of our earthly concerns and grants us a bit of eternity even in this finitude, a reflection of beatitude, a transformation into light.”

  1. Blessed are you when you are persecuted on my account, your reward is great in heaven.
  • Enduring criticism or exclusion because of living out your faith
  • Making sacrifices for your faith
  • It’s verification that you are living an authentically Christian life! You are a true disciple! Congrats!!!

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” (Jn 15: 18)

  • Examples/Sounds like this:
    • “Mom, you are the ONLY parent that…
    • C’mon, we’re just socializing. If you don’t participate in these jokes and gossip you’ll seem antisocial and won’t get ahead at work
  • G.K. Chesterton: “The Catholic Church hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it’s been found hard and left untried.” Living in Christ, He shines through you. You become a witness of the reality of grace. No one can say that the Church’s teachings are unrealistic, because you show that they can be done with grace. The lies of the world are exposed in your joy contrasted with their sadness.

Jesus steps for conversion lead to an experience of beatitude: the child-like freedom that comes from depending on God our loving Father, mourning our sins and surrendering them to His Son for redemption, the strength of conviction in our trust that the Holy Spirit will enable us to fulfill our mission, the mercy and peace we extend in our homes and workplaces which spur us on with zeal. Then we will be free for the total self-gift that results in self-fulfillment.

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Links to the books referenced in this talk:

 

©Angela M Jendro 2019

 

 

The Beatitudes: Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

by Angela Lambert
Credit for picture to: zastavki.com/pictures/originals/2014/Nature_Multicolored_valleys_and_mountains_080436_.jpg

Credit for picture: zastavki.com/pictures/originals/2014/Nature_Multicolored_valleys_and_mountains_080436_.jpg

January 29th, 2017; 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12a NAB

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Meditation Reflection:

Mountains make us think of God.  Their height, their beauty, and their majesty inspire a sense of our smallness, and of God’s greatness. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to encounter God. He prayed and fasted for 40 days and nights, during which God spoke to Him “face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).  To form His People in wisdom, justice, and peace, God gave to Moses the Law, written by God’s own hand.

When the Lord had finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.” Exodus 31:18

After this encounter, Moses’ face radiated such glory that Aaron and the other Israelites feared being near to him; so much so that Moses had to wear a veil when in their presence (Ex 34:29-34).

Moses’ relationship with God, the immediacy of God’s interaction with him, was unparalleled.  At the end of Moses’ life, he prophesied that God would one day send a New Moses. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)

Jesus ascended the Mount as the New Moses.  The immediacy of God’s word became even more immanent as the Word made Flesh spoke to the people.  Christ affirmed the Law given to Moses, but he further extended it to its full intent by God.  Through Moses, God had liberated the Jews form physical slavery and reformed their actions through the wisdom of the 10 Commandments.  Christ now extended the call to conversion to our interior intentions and desires.  As He set about the task of liberating us from slavery to sin and establishing the eternal Kingdom of God, the Beatitudes mark the fullness of God’s rule for His People – one of authentic love for God and one another.

St. Therese of Lisieux asserted that we ascend the mountain of God, by way of descending the valley of humility.  The Beatitudes, the heart of the New Law, express this paradox, building on one another in a beautiful way, as they signify the progression of the spiritual life.  The first three commandments in the Old Law began by establishing proper relationship with God – worshipping Him alone, with reverence, and every Sabbath.  In the New Law, Christ begins by affirming the interior disposition needed to make this fruitful – poverty of spirit.  The poor recognize their neediness and dependency.  The poor in spirit surrender the illusion of self-sufficiency and accept their dependence on God.

How often have we experienced the frustration of wanting to help someone but they refused to be receptive to our advice or our aid?  Common obstacles to accepting dependence on God stem from a desire for security located in things we think we can control – such as wealth, career, relationships, status, self-help, etc. If we cling to a desire to redeem ourselves, we will resist the mercy of our only Redeemer.  The poor in spirit have hit rock bottom.  Regardless of their wealth or accomplishments, they are keenly aware that only God can heal their wounds, release them from self-destructive addictions or thoughts, and provide them with security which isn’t dependent on the market, the weather, or even their employer.

Once a person looks to God, who is full of mercy, whose Son demonstrated His sacrificial love, they are moved to sorrow.  This sorrow wells up from an honest view of themselves and their sins – free of the rationalizations and false beliefs they had clung to in the past.  They see now that their sinful choices, rather than liberating, were in fact petty at best, and disloyal to their greatest defender at worst.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have failed a friend who has been there for you, or worse, betraying them despite their faithfulness through your hardest times.  When a person faces themselves however, rather than the harsh judgment they fear, they experience the warm, merciful, comfort of their Savior.

Having shed false pretentions about oneself, a person develops a beautiful authenticity which is characterized by meekness.  Meekness is not weakness.  Meekness means a person has greater compassion and patience toward others because they know that “but for the grace of God, there go I.”  In consequence, surrender to God, gratitude for His mercy and comfort, and humble authenticity, causes one to bear much more fruit in their life and work.

As gratitude for God’s love, and experiential knowledge of the wisdom of His ways increases, a person begins to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  They desire even greater freedom and deeper joy, which they know with deep conviction, can only be found in Christ.  This is a prayer to which God always says yes.

The joy of freedom in Christ’s love creates so much gratitude that it spills over in a person’s heart and they can’t help wanting to give back to Christ the kindness He has shown to them.  Thus, they show mercy to others because they empathize with the struggle of sin and desire to follow the example of Christ who has shown them mercy in their weakness.

Union with Christ in the Beatific Vision is the essence of Heaven.  Thus, those that have forsaken all for Him, whose heart is pure, begin to experience a taste of the vision of God. Reconciled to God through His son, they extend this peace to others as it radiates from their own interior peace from union with the Lord.

Finally, the more perfect a union one has with Christ, the more others will treat that person the same way they would of Him.  Jesus warned His apostles that those of the world who persecute Him, will persecute them. And those that love Him, will love them (John 15:18-25).  Thus, Christ ends the Beatitudes with the summation of the spiritual life – when one is persecuted because Christ, they ought to rejoice, because it means they are finally living in union with Him and following in His example.  In a sense, it’s confirmation that one is conformed to Christ.  Others wouldn’t bother with you if you were worldly enough to leave their consciences undisturbed.

Jesus provides the Way by teaching us the Beatitudes and showing us how to follow them by His example.  Moreover, He provides the supernatural grace, virtues, and love we need to live such a profoundly spiritual life.  The world offers countless distractions to discourage us from introspection, and our own pride can further resist taking an honest look inside our hearts.  Christ exhorts us to bravely journey within, promising to accompany us and to conform what we find to His own perfect love.

Consider:

  • Have you ever seen a mountain up close or hiked up one?  How did it affect your perspective?
  • Consider the immanence of God – His revelation to Moses and His revelation through Christ. In what way does His closeness make you somewhat afraid, like the Israelites?  In what way, does it comfort or strengthen you to have Him so near?
  • God continues to dwell with us in an immanent way in the Eucharist. Consider how it has pleased God in every age, to draw near to us.  In what ways, do you appreciate His gift?  In what ways, do you sometimes take it for granted?  How might you increase your appreciation?
  • Consider the spiritual journey laid out by the beatitudes. How does your spiritual life correspond to some of the stages?
  • Which beatitude touches you the most? Is there one that sticks out to you as the most moving?
  • How has your love for God grown through the years as a response of gratitude for His grace at work in your soul. What do you know is His work and not your own?

 

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Reflect on one beatitude each day this week and try to live it out in an intentional way.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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