August 31, 2016 // Uncategorized

Mother Teresa: A Saint of Mercy

It is providential that Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized a saint during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Next Sunday, September 4th, Pope Francis will declare this humble nun, renowned throughout the world, a saint of the Catholic Church. It will be a day for all of us to rejoice as we give thanks to God for the blessing of Mother Teresa’s life and her beautiful example to all of us of our call to holiness by bringing the love and mercy of Jesus to others, especially the poor and the suffering.

Pope Francis wrote that he desired that this Jubilee Year “be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” That is what Mother Teresa did, especially during her fifty years as a Missionary of Charity, the name of the religious congregation she founded. She heard God’s call to give up everything to serve Him in “the poorest of the poor.” She was truly His face of mercy, love, and compassion in the lives of so many suffering people. She saw the face of her beloved Jesus in the faces of all whom she served.

Mother Teresa’s successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala, said that “Mother’s heart was big like the Heart of God Himself, filled with love, affection, compassion, and mercy. Rich and poor, young and old, strong and weak, learned and ignorant, saints and sinners of all nations, cultures, and religions found a loving welcome in her heart, because in each of them she saw the face of her Beloved – Jesus.”

Pope Francis invites us in this Jubilee Year to “enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.” Mother Teresa has taught us how to do so. She entered into the heart of the Gospel through her daily prayer, daily Mass, and adoration of the Eucharist. She gazed on the Body of Christ in the Sacred Host and then saw the Body of Christ in the poor whom she served. There was no disconnect between her contemplative and her active life, between her prayer and her works. Mother Teresa said: “The Jesus whom I receive in the Eucharist is the same Jesus whom I serve. It is not a different Jesus.” This was her deep desire: to serve and love Jesus in the poor.

I feel so privileged to have met and spoken with Mother Teresa on several occasions. It was always a very humbling experience when I would go to the house of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome to celebrate a weekly Mass there and sometimes Mother Teresa would be present, kneeling in the back of the chapel. I knew then that she was a saint, so I always felt a little nervous about my homily – I would think: “what can I preach to Mother Teresa?” Even if I felt my words were inadequate, Mother Teresa was always so kind and loving, also humorous(!), in our conversations after Mass.

One of the greatest joys of my life was introducing my mother to Mother Teresa in Rome. After being disappointed that I was unable to get close enough at a general audience to have my Mom meet Pope John Paul II, I took her to the San Gregorio convent to meet some of my Missionary of Charity friends. One of my friends, Sister Prema, now the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, whispered to me that Mother Teresa was in the convent. She went to get her to meet my mother. When Mother Teresa came down, my mother was totally surprised and speechless! Mother thanked my Mom for giving her son to the priesthood. I will never forget the joy in my mother’s tear-filled eyes and the joy of that encounter. My disappointment turned to joy since my mother got to meet the other “living saint” who, like John Paul, so inspired me as a seminarian and young priest.

In the faces of the saints, we see something of the love and mercy of God. This is because the saints, like Mother Teresa, opened their hearts to the merciful love of God in their lives. Because Mother Teresa believed in God’s love with all her heart, she was able, by His grace, to carry that love to the poorest of the poor. She had an absolute childlike trust in God’s loving care for us. And she believed in Mary’s love for us. Mother Teresa would often give Miraculous Medals to people.

One of the central themes of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life were the words of Jesus on the cross: “I thirst.” She felt the call to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls. Mother Teresa said: “We are to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love. By each action done to the sick and the dying, I quench the thirst of Jesus for love of that person – by my giving God’s love to that particular person, by caring for the unwanted, the unloved, the lonely, and all the poor people. This is how I quench the thirst of Jesus for others by giving His love in action to them.”

We can learn so much from Mother Teresa that helps us to follow Jesus and to live as His true disciples. This new saint of merciful love is an inspiration for us to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. She is an example for us of fidelity to prayer, of devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Mother, and of serving our Lord in the least of our brothers and sisters. She teaches us, as Pope Francis exhorts us, to “go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” She was able to do so because she allowed Jesus to act in and through her. She was filled with the energy of Christ’s love.

May soon-to-be “Saint” Teresa of Calcutta intercede for us, that we may live in the love of the Lord and spread His merciful love to all, especially to the poor, the suffering, and all those who are hurting!

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