God Has Blessed Us With Many Gifts
God has bestowed many special gifts upon women. Beautiful gifts that are meant to be used to glorify Him. Through these unique gifts we are to embrace and cultivate the many relationships that God places in our lives.
Compassion means to 'suffer with', and compassion is another gift that women are uniquely capable of practicing with others. This is another way we can love an serve others. Whether it's caring for small children or elderly family members, planning activities for those who suffer physical, emotional, or mental challenges, or simply being with someone in their last days when there is no one else to be there for them. It is a beautiful gift to be able to 'mother' and have compassion for others in their suffering.
'Mary is our greatest model of compassionate love. 'When Jesus was a baby, and Mary and Joseph presented Him in the temple, the prophet Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, 'Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising for many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul, also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed' (Lk 2:34-35).
We know now that the sword that pierced Mary's heart was the passion and death of her Son, Jesus. Mary was present with Jesus through every stage of His beating, whipping, torture, Bleeding, cross-carrying, and Crucifixion. She sat at the foot of the cross, helpless as He suffered, nailed to the cross above her; she received His lifeless body and wept for loss of her Child, who was also her Lord.
Jesus knew the worth of this gift of Mary's motherly compassion, and He acknowledged it, even as He hung on the cross, bleeding and dying for love of you and me. In His last moments, as He suffered terrible physical pain, He saw us and He loved us. He asked God the Father to forgive his tormentors; He forgave the 'good thief' who hung beside Him on a cross of his own, and He gave us His mother. At the foot of the cross, He saw the gift of Mary's compassionate motherhood, and He chose to give that gift to all mankind.
With this generous gesture, Jesus highlights the gift of Mary's compassion and multiplies her motherhood so that she might become the mother to all, and the truest example of motherly love for every one of us. She is who we are to emulate in our caring for each and every person God places in our lives. ('Manual for Women', Bean, pgs. 30-32).
Women are gifted with a unique feminine capacity to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. We readily see and understand others in a way that most men do not.
At the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary noticed that, during the wedding, the wine had failed. In her sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others, she noticed the young couple's moment of need and wanted to help. She said to Jesus, 'They have no wine' (Jn 2:1-3). She was not ultimately the one who could help the couple, but she knew who could. She says to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you' (Jn 2:5).
Women have the opportunity to embrace our own feminine sensitivity within our families; noticing when our husband seems stressed and plan for a quiet evening, or when a toddler might not be feeling well, or when a teenager might need to talk. But not only is our gift practiced inside the family, but also outside the home; in the workplace where we might notice someone's financial struggles, or maybe a need to adult day care, or food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, childcare for the single mom, etc. We look for ways to fill these needs.
Like Mary, we may not always be the one who will ultimately meet the needs of others, but we can use our unique capacity for noticing the details of others' lives, for understanding how they feel, and for calling attention to their needs in order to help get them met. We can look for God's will in the needs of the people He places in our care and in our lives. Truly we can 'mother' those around us with sensitivity and be that embodiment of human love and connection for them. Women alone can, in imitation of Mary, be what St. John Paul II called 'the Mother who understands everything and embraces each of us with her heart.' ('Manual for Women', Bean, pgs. 23-25).
'Necessary emphasis should be placed on the 'genius of women', not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts.' (St. John Paul II)
The angel came to Mary in the Annunciation, but the angel also told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, was expecting a child. 'And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren' (Lk 1:36).
In Mary's generosity, what did she do? 'In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth' (Lk 1:39). Mary didn't focus on herself, nor wait and think about it. No, she went 'with haste' to be of service to her cousin.
Mary's fast-acting example demonstrates the importance of service to others. Both Elizabeth and Mary were filled with the Holy Spirit. The public praise she gives to God in her cousin's presence is an outward gesture of giving and generosity to all. 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour' (Lk 1:46-47). Mary's Magnificat that follows is a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving for the goodness of God. This public display is different than the 'keeping and pondering' she will do later, after Jesus' birth. Her example shows us there is a time for going out of ourselves in service to others, a time for speaking out loudly and sharing the goodness of God, and a time for quiet focus on more hidden, but still important, things.
We practice a particularly feminine kind of generosity when we meet others in their time of need, as Mary did for Elizabeth, and bring them Christ through our actions and our words. May our actions and words speak the Truth of God's greatness and love to others. ('Manual for Women', Bean, pgs. 41-46).
Women are receptive. We are open to others. We are uniquely designed by God to be a place of welcome and nurturing for others. ('Manual for Women', Bean, pg. 17).
A woman's body is a physical expression of who we are and who we are called to be. The fact that female and male bodies differ in fundamental ways is a meaningful expression of our different gifts and vocations as male and female.
'The body and only the body,' wrote St. John Paul II in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, 'is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and the divine.' ('Manual for Women', Bean, pg. 16).
Female bodies are designed by God to be receptive to life. We have wombs that can welcome a newly-conceived human being and provide the perfect, protected space in which that person can develop and grow. ('Manual for Women', Bean, pg. 17).
For the perfect example of feminine receptivity we need look no further than Mary at the Annunciation. When the angel visited Mary and told her 'you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, she didn't fully know or understand how this could happen. So the angel explained, 'The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come down upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God'. (Lk 1:35). Mary's response was, ' Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word'' (Lk 1:35, 38).
There is a beautiful parallel between Mary's yes and Jesus' gift of self to us in the Eucharist. Jesus says, 'This is My body given up for you'. As women, we have the unique privilege of engaging in actions, physically and spiritually, that closely correspond with Jesus' and Mary's examples of self-giving love.
Yet in today's world receptivity is seen as weakness, our bodies ability to become pregnant a 'liability'. Yet what can be more sexist than telling a woman there is something wrong with her body. That in order to be successful and fulfilled they must measure up to, and be like, men. 'True sexism is telling women that they must squash, kill, and hide their unique capacity for receiving and nurturing new life, both physically and spiritually, in order to be truly happy.'
'The people God places in our lives are living, breathing manifestations of God's will for us. The people God entrusts to our care are the ones we are to say yes to and to be open to receiving. They might be your own husband and children, nieces, nephews, neighborhood kids, the elderly, the poor, your co-workers, your sick mother-in-law, friends at your parish, or that lonely teenager who lives down the street.
All human beings are worthy of love, and the ones God places in your life are both a gift and a calling. A calling to motherhood, and a gift our world so desperately needs. They are our call to a vocation of love.' ('Manual for Women', Bean, pg. 19).
All women share a natural feminine beauty in our bodies and in our souls. Real feminine beauty has little to do with what the world focuses on--in the Catholic sense, 'the world, the flesh, and the devil.' Women are most authentically and truly women when we embrace our natural gift of nurturing, self-giving live. We are most authentically beautiful when we are most authentically ourselves. Women have a way of finding beauty, highlighting it, and bringing it into the world in a way that enhances the human experience. Small things add joy to our lives in a way that is hard to quantify. We find ways to bring beauty, order, and comfort to our homes and places of work.
Women readily see the beauty of human connections and relationships, and we value these in a way that protects and nourishes them, to the benefit of all. Most of our lives are made up of small events. It's these smaller things that we remember and cherish and gives meaning to our lives. They add beauty to human connections and relationships. Our feminine instincts tell us that meaning and worth are not necessarily found in showy displays or lots of words.
Mary manifests for us the ideal of the feminine value of and appreciation for beauty through her actions (and inactions). She quietly and lovingly observed all that was happening around her. 'But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart' (Lk 2:19). We don't know how much Mary knew about how Jesus was to save the world from sin or when she knew it, but we see her pondering the beauty of God's plan.Respectfully, she watches it unfold in the life of her little family. We can do the same. Mysteries of wonder and beauty unfold before our eyes every day in the ordinary goings-on of our lives. What a gift and beautiful opportunity to be attentive to these everyday human relationships and connections and invite others to see it, too. ('Manual for Women', Bean, pgs. 33-39).
'For He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!' (Lk 1:49)