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At the Heart of the Celebration
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

As the saying goes, each time a soul gets converted, the angels in heaven celebrate. Luke 15:7 attests to this. And daily, God calls each one of His children to conversion.

It may not be as dramatic as Saul’s conversion, but day by day, a little bit at a time, God calls each person to surrender his or her life more and more deeply. This was how Deanna Griño presented Session 1 of the CFC Handmaids of the Lord International Conference, in the form of a worship concert, where she told of Saul’s transformation, mission and imprisonment, and how he exhibited joy, prayer and gratitude in his ministry.

When Saul became Paul after his change of heart, he immediately set out on mission, going to different places proclaiming the Word of God. Among those whom he led to conversion were women, influential women who used their resources in helping the mission and converting their households.

In the same way, the Handmaids of the Lord, following the lead of the CFC, have embraced as their mission sharing the Gospel to other women.

The Beatitudes—A Stairway to Heaven

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “the beatitudes are also a roadmap for the Church… they are directions for discipleship, directions that concern every individual…” This echoes what St. Gregory of Nyssa said: “the Beatitudes build one upon the other”, like a stairway that each person needs to climb in order to reach heaven.

Flor Victoriano, HOLD Coordinator in Mindanao, discussed the first four beatitudes in her talk during the conference. These are:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Admitting that one cannot make it on his own efforts is the first step on the path to heaven. Being poor in spirit means everything one has can only come from God. Humility and being childlike brings openness and a sense of inner peace, knowing fully well that one can trust God who is all powerful and loving.

Blessed are they who mourn: for they will be comforted.
The more one is humble and becomes aware of God’s presence in one’s life, the more he or she becomes aware of one’s imperfections. This sorrow allows one to come to repentance. Through the sacrament of reconciliation, one gains strength to resist sin despite the external pressures.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness does not mean weakness. It is strength under control. Despite His power, he surrendered fully to the Father’s will, becoming the servant of all. After His sacrifice, death and resurrection, Jesus affirmed God’s promise of inheriting the Kingdom prepared for each person by the Father.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
This beatitude focuses on God’s call for all to be holy, to be intimate with God as each has been called to do as His children.

The first four beatitudes represent a soul’s journey of searching for a right relationship with God. The last four, discussed by Ching Santiago (HOLD Coordinator for Indonesia), represent a continuing journey of a transformed soul that is slowly bearing fruit and having a deeper relationship with God.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall be shown mercy.

Jesus taught his followers to understand true mercy, through the Lord’s Prayer, the parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ conversation with the thief while on the cross. Forgiveness is cooperating with God’s grace. As mercy is shown, the healing grace of God flows in and through a person.

Blessed are the pure of heart: they will see God.
Purity of heart means shedding much of the things that keep it away from the Lord. The promise of seeing God does not only pertain to the eternal perspective but being embraced by God’s love while here on earth.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Peace is more than the absence of war. It is a condition of completeness, not lacking, no anxiety or fear.

Blessed are they who are persecuted because of righteousness, theirs is the kingdom of God.
Dying to one’s self, one’s ambitions, desires and sins out of love for God and others promises the eternal life in the Father’s kingdom.

God did not give the beatitudes to burden man but to give him a foretaste of God’s image. Climbing up the stairway must not be a dreadful experience, rather it should push each one to immerse himself in prayer, seek God’s guidance and graces, embrace our weaknesses as God does, and develop a humble desire to serve. Surely, the Lord will bless one’s heart with joy.

Growing in Intimacy with God

As discussed by Didi Galsim, HOLD Coordinator for Europe, Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily that Jesus is the true picture of the beatitudes. Therefore, the Handmaids must mirror Him, and aspire to faithfully live out the beatitudes.

The beatitudes, coupled with prayer, God’s Word, the sacraments and the presence of other people, can manifest that the Lord is truly near.

Christ thirsts for His people. It is not a physical thirst, but a longing for love and intimacy with Him. How then, should God’s children respond to this yearning? By praying, participating in His work, in His suffering, and in faith.

Committing in intimacy

Journeying towards an intimacy with God gives a beautiful experience of being covered by Him. The HOLD mantle, which was given to all the delegates, represents this covering, like a cloak or shawl worn by people of the Old Testament.

It is a token of God’s intimate presence, something that covers a person and serves as protection from the elements, a symbol of being enveloped in God’s love and protection.

It is also a sign of one’s calling, which if one accepts, can be a symbol of anointing and empowerment. Galsim challenged everyone—Are you prepared to accept God’s offer and pledge to pursue a life of deep intimacy with Him?

Celebrating the intimacy

Having been touched like Paul by God’s transforming love, and going through the process of becoming more intimate with the Lord, the Handmaids, according to Edythe Avendaño, HOLD International Coordinator, are being transformed into women of prayer, women of gratitude and women of joy.

Despite obstacles to praying, like lack of time, cares of the world, distractions, sin, spiritual dryness, and spiritual sloth or acedia, prayer should be a non-negotiable part of one’s life.

The HOLD are also exhorted by St. Paul to give thanks in all circumstances, cultivating an attitude of gratitude. He likewise encourages all to rejoice in the Lord always. How? By having the right attitude, being in the right relationship with God, walking by His Spirit, seeing things from God’s perspective, and serving the Lord. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Hence, one’s interior transformation must also find expression outwardly in serving God and others. Many saints are great models of this expression. It is fitting to grow in intimacy with God, experience joy that is found only in Him and maintain an attitude of gratitude. (Alma Alvarez)


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