by Fr. Peter deSousa
The first characteristic of the Missionaries of Charity, as we saw, is Loving Trust. The second characteristic is Total Surrender. In order to understand this we need to ask God's Spirit to help us understand with our hearts the meaning of God's Word for us, found in Philippians 2 verses 5-8. It is about the Self-emptying of Jesus on the Cross. This was the culmination of his whole Incarnation, life and ministry.
He enters our world in the stable of Bethlehem without any wealth, power or show of strength. A newly born baby is helpless and powerless and cannot survive without a person to nurture it. An all powerful and omnipotent God freely and deliberately chooses to enter our world in this way. Why? God's ways are not like human ways. As the heavens are above the earth so are God's ways from ours.
He chooses to be born into a poor family who live in the despised village of Nazareth. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" asks Nicodemus. Jesus lives in the home of a poor carpenter. For almost all his life (30 of 33 years) he lives in obscurity. Why?
"In order that God's power may be manifest in human weakness." God does not choose to save the world through a powerful army, political machinations or a worldly-wise philosophy but through the Word made flesh who dwelt amongst us. Flesh means man under the influence of sin. It means "unredeemed."
In Jesus, there is no pride, false religiosity, external show of religion or exhibition of piety to attract attention to himself. He is not numbered among the Pharisees, Scribes or High Priests.
Now let us reflect on Phil 2:1-4. St Paul speaks to us about how we are called to empty ourselves everyday in order to put on the mind and heart of Jesus. Married disciples can learn from the Missionaries of Charity about total surrender.
"Here I am Lord, completely at your disposal. Send me where you will. I will not take back the gift of my self offering to you in love." I can only do this when I focus on:
- The wonderful love of Abba Father for me. He is my Father and I am his beloved child.
- Jesus' presence in and with me as my personal Savior and the Lord of my entire life, especially of my weaknesses.
- The life-giving power of the Holy Spirit who sets me free to walk with Jesus in love. His grace is sufficient for me.
The Sisters take the focus off the problems and obstacles on the way and remember He is leading them and knows where to go. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The good sisters really mean the words of the hymn "All to Jesus I surrender" when they sing it. What is Jesus asking you as a married disciple personally to surrender?
A husband and wife are called to make a total gift of themselves to each other everyday, as channels of God's presence, love and life to each other, as a couple to their children and to the world.
The conjugal love of a husband and wife is expressed in their unreserved giving of themselves to each other, to love, appreciate, encourage, affirm, forgive, heal and comfort each other. This is done both verbally and non-verbally. Each one has to be open to the other's need for love and ready to respond wholeheartedly. Very often one may have to make a decision to do so, especially when one is not in the mood. Each one also has to be aware of the other's state of health, fatigue or difficulties he or she is facing at work or in the home, that affects their ability to respond.
Surrender is not a cowardly submission of a weak person to a stronger person. Nor is it giving in or giving up to keep the peace at any cost, pretending or suppressing one's true self. Surrender is a conscious decision to love even when one does not feel loving. Jesus on the cross, as a human person shrank from facing the passion and death. " My Father, if it is possible take this cup of suffering from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want"
(Mt 26:39b) "My God, my God why did you abandon me?" (Mt 27:46b) Very often, spouses and parents may cooperate with God's will for them by an act of total surrender.
I know of a wife being willing to give up a lucrative profession that brought personal fulfillment, in order to be with her husband and to be more available to the children at home. Sometimes one gives us a hobby, pastime or even a good work that brings one individual satisfaction or attention, in the interests of one's marriage or home.
Religious believe that the Religious Superior and their Rule reveals to them God's Will for them. It is not blind obedience for they are encouraged to dialogue with Superiors who are not omniscient. In a marriage and home, how do people know what is God's will for them? Does God reveal everything to them directly or also through their spouse? Unless they dialogue and share their thoughts and feelings with each other, as a couple and as a family, how will they discover God's Will for them?
Our personal relationship with Abba Father, with Jesus our Savior and with the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of life to us at every moment, will help us to live this total surrender all the while. One may have to give up wanting his own way, to manipulating or controlling her spouse, to using force or cunning to get what he wants. God will reveal to the humble of heart how to make a total surrender. In prayer we humble ourselves to listen to his voice and obey it. Our children may also well be the voice through which God speaks to us. Out of the mouths of babes, His wisdom may be revealed!!
Religious and Married disciples have their own unique way of being disciples who obey the Divine Master. In this response, they attain holiness of life. He did not call us to place our security in wealth, possessions, comforts and luxuries, but in Him and Him alone. No one can serve two masters: God and money.( Mt 6:24)
What is invested in us is not just for ourselves, but rather to be shared with the least of His brothers and sisters. All of us will have to account for our stewardship on the day of judgment. (Mt 25:40) Are our children security-conscious in terms of their future? Have we taught them how to share with others? Do they trust in God? Unless we consciously adopt the values of the Gospel as a way of life, we will all too easily fall prey to the insidious values of the world in which we live. "All that we do not need and that is superfluous belongs to the poor", said a famous saint. "All that we can take with us when we die, is what we have freely and joyfully given away".
The tombs of the Pharaohs reveal the bodies of slaves and horses and all sorts of possessions and provisions, they thought they may need in the next life. Today some want to be buried in the most expensive clothes and coffins. Very expensive wreaths and bouquets are thrown into the grave. But all will decay. If that money was given instead to the poor quietly and lovingly instead, how much better for the departed soul!!
Let us then realize that God alone is the Giver of all gifts. We have to work hard and use our talents and opportunities to earn and share with others who are in need. For God is the Father of all. He will certainly reward those children who are mindful of their siblings who are in distress.
With Gospel values we will be a happy, loving and united family who will never be in need ourselves, for we will receive a hundredfold even in this life and eternal life in the next.
Like the Sisters, we too sing some very nice hymns with great fervor and expression. What is the meaning of "All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give?" What is this "All"? "Is He my everything and my all, both great and small?" As long as the things of this world: money, possessions, comforts, luxuries, honors, status, reputation, degrees are important to us, they compete with God for first place in our hearts. Having the reputation of being a "pillar of the Church" can also give us a false security. " Let him who stands, beware lest he fall." (1 Cor 10:12) Many so called "pillars" have fallen when shaken by the evil one.
God can only supply gifts to us in the measure that we are open to receive, for He respects our free will to give and to receive. He is also never outdone in generosity. How much do we need God right now, when all is going well for us? Total Surrender means just what it implies, always and everywhere.
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