Canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
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CARRIER OF GOD’S TENDER AND MERCIFUL LOVE
The canonization of Mother Teresa invites us to look to her as a Christian hero, an outstanding model of the Christian life. But as Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council tells us, “It is not only through their example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; rather we seek, by devotion to them, to exercise that bond of fraternal charity which unites and strengthens the whole Church in the Spirit (cf. Eph 4:1-6). Just as Christian charity brings us closer to Christ on our earthly journey, so does the communion of saints join the People of God to Christ, the fountainhead of all grace and life, on their eternal journey” (LG 50).
The Holy Father’s desire is to have Mother Teresa’s canonization during this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, particularly during the Jubilee celebration for workers and volunteers of mercy. The whole pontificate of Pope Francis is marked by attention and love for the last, the least and the lost, for the marginalized, for those at the peripheries of human existence – the poorest of the poor. How fitting, then, to have Mother Teresa to be, we could even say, the saint of this Jubilee!
Wishing to place Mother Teresa, with her example and message, directly and clearly into the context of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the theme, “Carrier of God’s Tender and Merciful Love” has been chosen.
At the time of the Inspiration (1946), Jesus gave to Mother Teresa the name of the religious community He was asking her to begin: Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa “translated” this to “carriers of God’s love.” In this too, she was following Jesus’s directions; He had invited her: “You come - go amongst them [the poor] - carry Me with you into them.” Thus, she would exhort her religious family to be faithful to the mission entrusted to them: “Carry Him and His light into the homes of the poor, especially to the souls most in need. Spread the charity of His Heart wherever you go.”
The theme expresses as well those particular qualities of charity that she was to make known to the poorest of the poor: the tenderness of God’s merciful love for those most in need. She urged her followers to “serve the poor with tender and compassionate love.” This is “carrying” the love of Jesus who, she was absolutely convinced, “loves each one of us tenderly with mercy and compassion.” and “wants us to love each other as He loves each one of us with a tender love.” Mother Teresa insisted that love “cannot remain still. It has to get into action, and that action is service.”
The service that the Missionaries of Charity render to the poorest of the poor is actually comprised of what are traditionally called the “works of mercy.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “works of mercy” are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God” (CCC 2447).
As we approach the canonization of Mother Teresa, we may be encouraged by her example and message of God’s tender and merciful love to put “love into living action” as she did, to do “ordinary things with extraordinary love.” We may not be called to do exactly what Mother Teresa did, but we can do what God entrusts uniquely to each one of us. Mother Teresa understood this so well: “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.”
As the Church wishes to present Mother Teresa as an icon of the Father’s mercy in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, it is our hope that her words and example will urge all of us to become generous servants and to reflect the “face” of God’s mercy to those around us, beginning in our own families. As Mother Teresa’s face radiated God’s tender and merciful love, so too may we become more and more a reflection of His tender mercy through our loving actions.
Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.
25 March 2016
Text © Mother Teresa Center of the Missionaries of Charity