Sensitivity. The dictionary defines sensitivity as:
1. Readily or excessively affected by external influences
2. Having acute mental or emotional sensibility
3. Aware of and responsive to the feelings of others
4. Easily pained, annoyed, etc.
Yep, that’s me.
I never saw this nature of mine as a good thing. My sensitivity would cause a thoughtless remark to crush me. I could not control the tears and flushed face that sent me fleeing to my room; or if not possible, to the very dark corner inside of me. My inflamed emotions would curse me, “Why do you let these remarks cut you to the bone!?”
My conclusion: There is something seriously wrong with me.
After my ‘encounter with Jesus’ at age 41, I returned to the Catholic faith determined to find my place in His Church. Seeking led me to discover “The Woman’s Pope,” Pope John Paul II, who wrote extensively on the holy vocation of womanhood. He coined the term for women’s nature, the Feminine Genius, and said the attributes of a woman’s nature are generosity, maternity, receptivity and sensitivity.
This was the first time I heard that sensitivity was a good thing.
Pope John Paul II says not only is it part of a woman’s feminine nature, but it is greatly needed to aid in humanizing the world. A woman’s sensitivity takes into account the feelings and needs of the ‘other’ and contributes, along with the other attributes, in valuing the dignity of every human person.
So, then why did my sensitivity cause me such angst?
What I have learned is that it matters whether your sensitivity is ordered or disordered. A disordered sensitivity is usually rooted in fear and expresses itself in fight or flight (for example: me.) An ordered sensitivity is rooted in hope and expresses itself in courage.
To see what an ordered sensitivity looks like we have to look no further than our Blessed Mother, the exemplar of the Feminine Genius, at the Wedding Feast in Cana (John 2:1-11).
Mary, readily affected by external influences (def. #1) caused by the dilemma of no wine in the middle of a party, and aware of the embarrassment it would cause her friend (def. #3), responds by asking her Son to remedy the problem (def. #2). Jesus responds, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
Ouch! That had to cut her to the bone (Def. #4).
Many have written about this ‘rebuke’ of Jesus to His mother and what we should make of it.
I believe this remark did in fact “cut her to the bone” and I believe Jesus rebuked her on purpose. He wanted to expose the place where His mother was most vulnerable; her sensitive nature and get right in there where either fear or hope takes root. He knew her request would set everything in motion, ending their quiet family life together. He knew, as Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, has written, “Once His ministry had started, Jesus would have nowhere to rest his head, and Mary nowhere to rest her heart.” In this tender place where the Cause of her joy was to become the Cause of her sorrow, would she choose to hold on to the Reason for her hope, come what may?
We know her choice by her response. Courageously turning towards the ‘other’ she tells the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.”
This made me wonder, Were all those times I was crushed by some perceived slight, Jesus asking the same of me?
I’ve contemplated this through many years of daily rosaries and have made a most wonderful discovery: the Blessed Mother has been working in the garden of my soul, preparing it for Jesus. Through the meditation of the mysteries, her stories of Jesus have loosened the weeds of fear, softened the ground with her tears and fertilized it with her intercessory prayer.
A few years ago, after a hurtful episode that I handled very poorly, I fled in shame to my dark interior place of hurt, to lick my wounds and suffer alone. In this familiar hurt, I confess, I let doubt grow. Cowering in the dark corner of my mind, I heard Jesus ask, “You do know I can see you, right?”
Ouch, right to the bone!
It hurt, but this time my Mother’s work was bearing fruit and I sensed a deeper question was being asked, “Are you ready for Me to come in?”
Making room for Mary’s Heart to rest His Head, I chose the Reason for my hope, come what may.