Domestic Church: Overcoming Self-Comparison

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by Katie Sciba

Christmas is around the corner. We’re about to experience the birth of Jesus, who wants to be born into our hearts. Let’s pray for the grace to work through some common walls we use to keep Jesus out. Though overwhelming, we find each of their antidotes in the life of Mary.

“No time.” We’ve all made this excuse. Our schedules and our families are so busy we’re glad to just make it to Mass, nevermind individual prayer at home. It’s clear that we need the peace of Christ.

I don’t know how busy Mary was, but when we consider when 12 year-old Jesus was missing and the consequential panic of his parents, we feel relief when Mary and Joseph found him in his Father’s house. This is the cure for our frenzy, too. We need the grace of the Sacraments. Away from church, simply putting ourselves in the Father’s gaze for five minutes will help us breathe easily in our hustle and bustle.

But deeper than busyness is the obstacle of self-comparison. We keep Jesus out when comparing ourselves to others in a way that rouses jealousy and self-deprecation (we don’t have what they have), or even conceit (we take credit for our blessings). We measure ourselves by others’ successes and gifts and, finding ourselves either lacking or superior, we disregard the Lord’s will in our lives.

Looking to Mary, we find humility as the antidote. When given the highest honor of bringing Jesus into the world, she glorified God, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… he has regarded the humility of his handmaid… He that is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49). The Lord blesses and withholds with wisdom, and when something we desire is truly out of reach, trust in God will be our highest wisdom and deepest consolation.
Though busyness and self-comparison are obstacles to opening our hearts to Christ, the hardest reason is our own pain. Like it or not, we’re all battered by life’s storms in one way or another, and rather than revealing our anger, sadness or hurt to Jesus, we sometimes shut him out and turn to the world. “Retail therapy,” addiction, approval of others – there’s always something to bandage the wound, though it never heals the way Christ does.

Newly pregnant and thus a societal outcast, Mary praised God. Without a proper place to give birth, she submitted to the stable. She remained near her Son during his torture and death. Mary was no stranger to pain, but regardless of circumstance, she hoped in God.

St. Thomas Aquinas said that hope is looking forward to “a future good, difficult but possible to attain,” and we receive it “by means of the Divine Assistance… on Whose help it leans.” Hope is trusting that, by God’s grace, greatness will come.

Taking our busyness, insecurities and pain to the Lord finally allows Him a place to dwell in our hearts. It’s being humble like Mary, and submitting ourselves to the Divine Will; it’s being hopeful that God has only our benefit in mind when we encounter pain. And ultimately, in imitating Mary, we will find the Christ Child within us, ready to bring comfort and joy from his birth.

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