(Homily by Archbishop Henry D’Souza, 26 August 2009 at Mother Teresas tomb in Kolkata
The birth Centenary of Mother Teresa begins today and we have gathered here to remember her lovingly and gratefully. Mother Teresa was God’s gift to Calcutta and to the world. This was amply evident at the time of her death. Surrounded by queens, cardinals and presidents, the mortal remains of Mother Teresa lay in state in the Netaji Subhas Indoor Stadium with 15000 people attending the service. The Papal Representative Cardinal Sodano officiated and he said: "She taught the world this lesson -- it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Behind her body, on the front of the altar, was a large banner reading, "Works of love are works of peace." At the conclusion of the Catholic Mass, in a demonstration that her life's work transcended any single religious doctrine, representatives of other faiths -- Anglican, Hindu, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi -- rose to offer messages and prayers in honor of Mother Teresa.
What made Mother Teresa such a great personality? Alpion wrote: “Her works were in the dull and drab surroundings of poverty and anonymity. Scattered garbage, stray dogs and under nourished children were the scenario for her compassion and mission. Here she was at home. Here she offered unstinted and unconditional love. Here she picked up little dying babies and hugged them into life. Here she walked and shared her time, energy and love. No big deal indeed for TV cameras! Yet she emerged from the rubble and dirt of the slums to become the most well known face of divine compassion – Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's Cabinet declared a day of national mourning . Reuter reported: "As a matter of respect and homage, the government decided to break out of protocol and observe state mourning Saturday all over the country and to accord her state funeral status”. Mother Teresa was thus accorded honors usually reserved for presidents or serving prime ministers. Her coffin draped with the national Flag was taken on a military wagon and with the roll of drums from St Thomas Church to the Netaji Indoor Stadium, and after the service was brought to the Mother House, where today her mortal remains lie buried. It was a fitting tribute to Mother Teresa, who had won the Nobel Prize and was given the highest Indian award of Bharat Ratna in 1980.
The President of India, K.R. Narayanan, said: “Though she was a world citizen, she was particularly Indian in the true spirit of our culture and her passing away is an immense loss." Flags flew at half-mast throughout India as devotees gathered in the rain at the headquarters of her Missionaries of Charity order, to pay their respects to a small woman who had performed big acts of charity throughout her life by attending to the "poorest of the poor”
When Mother Teresa was told by Jesus “Be my light,” in the dark hovels of the poor, she went to bring joy and hope into the hearts of others. The external way in which she did it was through food, clothing and consoling words and gestures. But interiorly she was passing on God’s love to the poorest of the poor. She would tell the people who were suffering that God loved them not just in words but also in actions.
In a letter to Fr. Picachy, who went to Basanti leaving his post of Rector in Calcutta, she wrote, “In all the houses the Sisters are praying for you and I only keep “smiling” for you. Your feast day will be soon. May St. Lawrence obtain for you the graces you ask for yourself! With me the sunshine of darkness is bright. Pray for me.”
Can we understand the words “the sunshine of darkness is bright”? How can darkness provide sunshine? Yet Mother Teresa experienced the sunshine of darkness. To others, Mother Teresa gave “smiles”, as she had written to Fr. Picachy. , Sister Nirmala speaking about this aspect of Mother’s life said: "This is part of the spiritual life of people, and God sometimes wants to unite the soul very closely to himself. He will allow them to feel abandoned by Him. And Jesus also on the cross felt he was abandoned,"
I now believe that though her senses were in darkness, her heart radiated light and thus she could state the sunshine of her darkness was bright. She expressed in her own way, what St. Lawrence the Martyr said at the time of his martyrdom: “The night of mine is not dark; rather everything shines with light.” (Verse of Magnificat, Office of St. Lawrence, 10th August.) No wonder then those who met Mother Teresa, found that she exuded joy. Her smile was seraphic. Her warmth was comforting. Her words were simple but they touched the hearts if those who heard them.
Mother Teresa has already been declared by the Church “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”. When will she become St Teresa of Calcutta is not known! Canonization, or full sainthood, is a process and may take an undetermined number of years. In her lifetime, Mother Teresa was internationally admired for her selfless commitment to lead a simple life. She often said that the poor gave her more than she could ever give them. Because of these qualities, many people of all faiths already have already given her the title she shunned on Earth: Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
"As we begin this 100th birthday of Mother Teresa we want to thank God for her . She was God’s gift to the Church and the Missionaries of Charity. She was God’s gift to the city of Calcutta, which had experienced the traumatic consequences of the partition of Bengal and the displacement of millions of people. She was able to charm the whole world. Her spirit found responses in the hearts of thousands of young people, many of whom became themselves Missionaries of Charity.
We pray to Mother Teresa that she share her spirit, which allowed her “to be the light” of God’s love to the world.