Saint Teresa of Calcutta. A saint so close to our modern times, that most of us reading this article remember reading about her and seeing her on TV. She was a woman so short in stature, weak and powerless in appearance; yet relentless and powerful in her pursuit of perfection. Even when faced with doubts, failures, and depression – she continued to selflessly serve the poorest of the poor, one person at a time. I would like to share with you my favorite quote of hers, one that has sustained me through many difficulties:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
As we celebrate this Sunday, under the title: Mary, Mother of God…one has to pause and reflect (like Mary did)…God chooses to do (what seems to us) something impossible. He, the Creator, becomes creature in His creation. Even more amazing…God becomes subordinate to a human being. Sunday’s Gospel had a very challenging message for us. But, Mary’s answer is similar to Saint Teresa: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” I believe this quote from Saint Teresa is one of the best interpretations of this Gospel passage. God, through the words of the Evangelist, is trying to drive a very important point home to us. We cannot let our success be dictated by the visible, tangible results that we perceive. We cannot let the Truth of our faith be determined by majority vote. We cannot let our desire to be affirmed by others become a stumbling block to our absolute dedication to the mission of the Gospel.
Throughout my ministry as a seminarian and a priest, I have not met many people who I would consider to be unreasonable, self-centered, and accusative. This is no doubt a blessing from God, and a reason why I have never viewed serving God’s people as a burden rather than a privilege. But what about Saint Teresa? She was called to work hands-on with the poor, sick, and destitute every single day. On top of that, she was constantly faced with criticism from big shot political gurus who couldn’t wait to find some ulterior motive or flaw in her relentless and uncompromising charity towards others. She could have continued to teach Geography to school kids (and probably would have still been united to God forever), yet she chose to quench the thirst of her less fortunate sisters and brothers. But it wasn’t primarily the thirst of the poor that captivated her attention. It wasn’t even her own thirst for Christ that captivated her the most. It was, without a doubt, Christ’s thirst for her, that dictated every action and word that came from her. The greatest truth of our faith is that God loved us first; Christ thirsts for you and me. Once we agree to accept this with the freedom that God gives to us, it is then that we can be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ to others. Jesus calls all of us to have a laser-focus on Him and Him alone. Nothing or no one can get in the way of His love affair for us. When we live in this reality, then nothing (including anyone else says or does to distract us from God’s Will) can touch us. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us as our parishes prepare to witness (reflecting in our hearts) the Gospel of Life in our little way on January 22nd at the State Capitol.