Recently, I came across a book by Alice Von Hildebrand titled, The Privilege of Being a Woman. While I have not read this book, the title carried to me an important reminder: it is a gift to be a woman. So often, our culture tells us that we, as women, are oppressed…But in reality, we are privileged! When viewed at from this lens, one’s entire perspective changes. One of these privileges given to us by God is the ability to be receptive. Women not only have the capacity to receive life within their womb, but also within their heart. Each person we encounter gives us the opportunity to exercise our feminine capacity to receive the other.
Pope Saint John Paul II in his papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, beautifully stated:
"We need first of all to foster, in ourselves and in others, a contemplative outlook. Such an outlook arises from faith in the God of life, who has created every individual as a ‘wonder’ (cf. Ps 139:14). It is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility. It is the outlook of those who do not presume to take possession of reality but instead accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image (cf. Gen 1:27; Ps 8:5). This outlook does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at death's door. Instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity." (Evangelium Vitae, 83)
In each person, there is a facet of Christ. Every person is a unique and irreplaceable creation of God. If we allow it, we can open ourselves up to recognizing Christ in each person and discovering His qualities in them. There are many things that we can learn from others if we only open ourselves up to them. However, many times we fail to come out of ourselves and our own concerns in order to receive the gift of the other. When we do this, we miss out on receiving the gift God wants to give us through those around us. In addition to this, we miss out on the opportunity to serve others in their needs.
Mother Teresa constantly sought out “Jesus in his most distressing disguise.” She desired that all people recognize the presence of Christ in the poor; for when they serve the poor, they are serving Christ. Mother Teresa embodied this message and is a powerful intercessor for those of us who desire to see the face of Christ in each and every person.
It is so easy in today’s world to go about our busy lives constantly thinking about what I have to do next instead of taking in the gifts of the present. Do I take time to pause and reflect on where God is around me? Am I constantly on my phone while I am walking down the street or am I looking ahead to see whom I can greet? Am I always talking about what I want to talk about or do I listen to what others want to say?
It is not easy to always be open to the gift of the other. In some instances, it is difficult to see a person as a gift. Sometimes, it is much easier to see their faults instead of the gifts and virtues they possess.
This reminds me of an encounter I had with a homeless man and woman. They were sitting outside a store with blankets over their legs trying to keep warm. From the exterior, these individuals looked extremely rough. They both had strange piercings and tattoos. The man even had a profane word tattooed onto his knuckles. At first I felt very hesitant and uncomfortable when speaking with them, but after listening to them tell their stories, I realized that they were human beings with real emotions just like me. Their hard exterior began to melt away as I began to see them for who they really were and empathize with their sufferings. These individuals touched my heart and made me more open to seeing Christ in others.
Let us pray for the eyes of faith so that we may see each individual as Christ sees them. When you cultivate such an attitude of heart, you will be amazed at whom God puts in your life and what these individuals can teach you. May we never forget how privileged we are to be women of God; women who have the beautiful capacity to receive others into our hearts. May we use this gift of our femininity to serve the Church and those around us.
St. John Paul II, pray for us.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.