Whenever Rachel was upset with something she would try to spend at least a few minutes in prayer to settle her nerves, then she would call Sister Rita, a retired religious, who had been her spiritual director for many years now. It was an almost uncanny thing that ninety-nine percent of the time when Rachel called Sister Rita, Sister would pick up the phone. She seemed to always be there when Rachel needed her.
After listening to Rachel describe her problem or situation, Sister would then, in a very calm manner, begin to offer Rachel another way to look at her circumstances. Once Sister Rita started talking Rachel could feel her heartbeat slowing, and a sense of calm coming over her. Sister would then offer her some wisdom in how to respond to the situation while at the same time never actually telling Rachel what to do.
One day Sister Rita and Rachel were out to lunch together and Rachel said to Sister, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for how much you have helped me over the years that you have been my spiritual director. You have had such a calming effect on me and I know on others, too!” And Sister replied, “Well, I have had many experiences in my lifetime and I’ve learned a lot through God’s grace. The biggest thing I was forced to learn early on in my religious life was to trust God. My third assignment was really a tricky one. The school I was principal of was experiencing many difficulties and there were concerns of closure. I used to dread it when the phone rang. We didn’t have all the texting and email and other things that we have now. But, I found that I was always living in fear—afraid to turn a corner worrying what would jump out at me. Once, in Confession, I told this priest of all my fears and anxiety, and he said, very confidently, that I had to pray to God for the grace to be able to surrender to God and to trust him—but I really had to lead with Him for this grace because I would never be able to conquer this on my own. He also said that I should pray the Surrender Novena whenever the temptation arose to be fearful or anxious. And he gave me a copy of it right then and there. After each reflection you’re asked to say: O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything! You are asked to say this 10 times. I found that the repetition really would let the message sink in. Another phrase that I would say is the line of Jesus from the Gospel: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” You have to learn to place your life in God’s hands and completely rely on him. The more I understood this, the more settled my life became.”
Today we hear the Beatitudes proclaimed in Mathew’s Gospel. It’s significant that each beatitude begins the same way. For Jesus to say something nine times in Scripture is significant. The word that’s repeated nine times is “Blessed”. But a better way to translate that word, which comes from the Greek, is to say “Fortunate”. This gives the sense the person in question is in possession of a good that many desire but cannot obtain. Jesus is saying that there are certain attitudes that the world would say are useless and makes them guideposts for how to move forward in faith.
That first Beatitude: How fortunate the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is saying a person is in a good place when they cling to God with one’s whole being and have nothing to offer in return. That’s the highest fulfillment. (Repeat) But to do this requires courage. We learn to rely on our very breath from God.
Let me close with this beautiful quote:
Only adventuresome hearts are capable of following Jesus intimately. A seasoned monk, who had not left his monastery in four or five decades, was once described as having a face like an old sailor’s, with the permanent look in his eyes of someone who has spent his whole life gazing far, far away.
Keep your gaze on Christ, not on your problems. Trust and don’t be fearful.