God made us for communion, and as women, we have been given an incredible gift. In fact our fundamental value as women is our ability to receive the other, our gift of receptivity that is characterized by our self-gift, giving the gift of presence. It is a special gift that is important in society today—that is to witness to the primacy of love, primacy to the heart. This is what St. John Paul II is referring to when he speaks of the feminine genius. And who embodies this better than Our Blessed Mother? In reflecting on authentic friendship, we can look to her relationship with her cousin and kindred spirit, Elizabeth, in the story of the Visitation in the Gospel of Luke.
My favorite pictures of the Visitation are those that portray the joy in the faces of Elizabeth and Mary, as they greet each other and share in each other’s joy. They receive the gift of each other and by the gift of presence they give the gift of themselves to the other. In authentic friendship we recognize and humbly accept the gift of the other who is beloved by God.
Have you ever experienced an authentic friend who gave you their full attention? Where they are not easily distracted by something going on around them or by their cell phone going off? What do you experience but the knowledge that you are loved? I can still remember when my Sister in Community was fully attentive to what I was so excited to share. I was coming through the kitchen feeling like I was about to burst with my news. Her simple movements of stopping what she was doing, stepping away from the cutting board and counter and turning toward me giving her full attention showed me that what I was about to share was the only thing that mattered to her at that moment.
Mary and Elizabeth shared in each other’s joy of the gift of new life. Both of them experienced what was humanly unexplainable and humbly accepted their gift in faith. As women, we have been given the gift of receptivity which begins with knowing a God who loves us. But how come we can sometimes have difficulty in receiving the gift from another? Instead, we find it easier to give than to receive. Perhaps, it is because In order to receive, we need to be able to show and accept our own vulnerability. Mary recognized herself as the “handmaid of the Lord” and humbly received from “the Almighty who has done great things for her.”
An example in my own life was when a Sister and I returned home after spending the day hiking and I noticed that I no longer had my wallet. We searched inside and around the car, looking in every possible nook and cranny—nothing. My heart sank. I knew we were both looking forward to the next couple of hours for some prayer, rest and to change into a clean habit before joining the rest of Sisters for dinner. The Sister suggested that we drive back to the park and look for the wallet. It was a 30 minute drive one way and now the free time we had would be eaten by going back to the park. We did drive back to the park but after looking around and checking with the ranger station with no success in finding the wallet, we started to head for home. As we were driving out, we once again passed the spot where we had parked earlier and noticed a car pulling away and decided to check just one more time. It was at that moment something in the dirt caught my eye and I jumped out of the car and there was the wallet covered with sandy dirt! Definitely a miracle!
On the way home I felt a sense of relief marked with a feeling that just left me very quiet. I realized that I was grateful to have the wallet back and was deeply touched and humbled by my Sister’s spontaneous generosity. Our Lord was asking me to humbly receive the gift He was giving me through her. And once again I was learning from Our Blessed Mother what it means to give oneself authentically in friendship through gift of self, of presence and humble gratitude.
By Sister Elizabeth Therese
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Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
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Alhambra, California 91801