Preparing for the Centenary of Mother Teresa’s Birth
“Created for Greater Things”
Preparing for the Centenary of Mother Teresa’s Birth
“You and I and every single human being in this world is a child of God, created in the image of God, created for greater things, to love and to be loved. That is why today we have so much suffering in the world because we forget that we have been created for greater things, that we have been created to love and to be loved. So it is very necessary for us to pray, for prayer will give us a clean heart and a clean heart can love. For the fruit of prayer is love and the fruit of love is service; and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the giving.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Next year we will be commemorating the centenary of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s birth (August 26, 1910). This significant anniversary gives us the opportunity to reflect on the life of “one of the most important figures of our time,” as our late Holy Father John Paul II called her, and the contribution this “humble Gospel messenger” has made to the Church and to the world. May her life, work and message inspire us anew and lead us to discover or rediscover the truth that God has “created us for GREATER THINGS: TO LOVE AND TO BE LOVED.”
Jesus makes Himself visible anew
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that God, who “seeks to win our hearts,” made Himself visible in Jesus and “encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence…” (Deus Caritas Est, #17). This is particularly true of Mother Teresa, who was an instrument of God’s love to so many throughout the world. Those who came in contact with her and her work amongst the poorest of the poor were often touched in a way that gave an entirely new meaning to their lives. Christians saw Jesus’ teachings about love of God and love of neighbor lived out concretely and the Gospel “came alive” for them in seeing how she “went about doing good.” Non-Christians understood her charity as coming from and leading to God. Both groups were drawn by Mother Teresa and her charitable activity because they triggered within them the deepest yearning of the human heart: to love and to be loved. In reaching out with compassion to their suffering brothers and sisters, people of all beliefs began to experience that through their giving, they themselves were receiving and a spiritual need within them was being satisfied. That spiritual need, ultimately, is for a relationship with God, and loving one’s neighbor escorts us to Him.
She “incarnated that love"
We all want to love God because we have been created for greater things—to love and to be loved. How do we love God? Where is God? Jesus has answered: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me”; and when we are dead, when we go home to God, God is going to judge us on what we have been to the poor. And He says, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was homeless and you took me in, I was lonely and you smiled at me . . . Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you have done it to me.” And this is what Jesus again and again told us: to love one another as He has loved us.
As the Holy Father explained, “love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God,” (DCE #16) for “in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God” (DCE, #15). The two, love of God and love of neighbor, become one.
Mother taught us how to put “love into action” and so became for our times “an icon of charity.” Pope John Paul II noted in an address for the 3rd anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death that she “incarnated that love which Jesus indicated as the distinctive mark of his disciples: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn 13: 35).”
The centenary of her birth gives us an opportunity ...
Some of us might have become almost over-familiar with Mother Teresa’s words and we no longer sufficiently reflect on the depth of their meaning or apply them to our own lives. Others among us may know of Mother but actually may not know who she really was and what she stood for. This year of preparation for the centenary of her birth gives us the opportunity to spend it in her company, allowing her message to inspire us once more or perhaps for the first time. One way to do this might be to take up a book, or see some of the documentaries that are available about her life and work (a list of these resources are attached). These could well be channels for God’s grace to touch our hearts, stirring us to do as Mother Teresa did in some way. Not all who desire it have the health or financial resources to go to an underdeveloped country. And in fact this is not necessary, according to Mother: “As I often say to people who tell me they would like to serve the poor as I do, ‘What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.’” We each have opportunities given to us to do good to others in whatever place and situation we are in, something which no one else can do at that moment. “There’s so many things that we can all do,” Mother said. “Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling very lonely, very depressed, very discouraged, very sad, in great pain. Do I know? What have I done [for them]?” “What is my concern — maybe just a smile, maybe just a little flower to bring, maybe just a little shake of the hand.” We must be convinced that in doing good to others we are loving them and helping them to discover that they are loved by God. We must also be convinced that it is Jesus Himself whom we are loving in them.
The gospel calls all of us to LOVE
The gospel calls all of us to LOVE—in our particular circumstances and relationships and with our own unique talents and gifts. “God at the final judgment will ask us if we have loved not in an abstract way, but with concrete acts. At the end of life, as St. John of the Cross liked to repeat, we will be judged on love” (Pope Benedict XVI, February 10, 2007). Whatever our state or walk of life, we are all called to the perfection of charity. Mother Teresa explained that “in all of us there is the seed of something greater, the desire for holiness.” If we love one another, she says, “we become holy. And if we are holy, then . . . people can look up and see only Jesus in us.” This, then, is the perfection of charity: holiness. And Mother would remind us over and over again, “Holiness is not a luxury of the few but a simple duty for each one of us.” Everything in our lives, even the most ordinary things, is part of God’s providence to help us become holy. We must learn to see them as such and use them as means for coming closer to God, as means to show our love for Him. Like Mother Teresa and with her help, let us strive to make our lives something beautiful for God by loving as Jesus Himself has loved each one of us.
“Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working.” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, help us to believe that “love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God.” Like you, we want “to experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world.”
(adapted from Deus Caritas Est)
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, you showed us the beauty of a life lived in and for love and you never stop reminding us that we are all “created for greater things, to love and be loved." Help us to live, like you, a life of love that is worthy of our calling as children of God. Amen.