KOLKATA — This morning, the community of the Missionaries of Charity – nuns, novices and Mother Prema, the superior general – celebrated the 110th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A mass was celebrated in the chapel of the Mother House, where Mother Teresa’s tomb is. The mass was presided over by Fr. Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the archdiocese of Kolkata.
Here is what he said in his homily:
“One woman, one mission – That’s all it took to change this world!” Mother Teresa captivated the whole world and so it would not be inappropriate to call Mother Teresa “The Patron Saint of the Twentieth Century”.
“As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” In these words which Mother Teresa often repeated and here we find hallmark of Mother Teresa’s service to the poor, was the basis of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest meaning of service — an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners (cf. Mt 25: 34-36) is done to Jesus himself.
Recognizing him, she ministered to him with wholehearted devotion, expressing the delicacy of her spousal love. Thus, in total gift of herself to God and neighbour, Mother Teresa found her greatest fulfilment and lived the noblest qualities of her femininity. She wanted to be a sign of “God’s love, God’s presence and God’s compassion”, and so remind all of the value and dignity of each of God’s children, “created to love and be loved”. Thus was Mother Teresa “bringing souls to God and God to souls” and satiating Christ’s thirst, especially for those most in need, those whose vision of God had been dimmed by suffering and pain.
“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Mk 10: 43). She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give “until it hurts”. Her life was a radical living and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.
The cry of Jesus on the Cross, “I thirst” (Jn 19: 28), expressing the depth of God’s longing for man, penetrated Mother Teresa’s soul and found fertile soil in her heart.
For her work was contemplation in action. Today the Missionaries of charity is spread all across the world in more than 700 (including the brothers) communities. Whenever she opened a community she would say ‘I have opened one more tabernacle for Jesus,’ which clearly manifest the orientation and purpose of her mission.
Mother Teresa used every opportunity she got in life to magnify the Lord and to defend the poor. On receiving the Nobel Prize at Oslo in 1979 she said, “Christ makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one and He says: ‘You did it to me.’ He is hungry for our love, and this is the hunger that you and I must find.” Yes Jesus is God and therefore His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man.
Cheerfulness, loving trust, and total surrender to the Lord, simplicity, an annunciation attitude were the hall mark of Mother Teresa’s personality. The strength for her mission derived from a strong faith nourished and renewed every day in the Eucharist. She would often say; “The Holy mass is the spiritual food that sustains me – without which I could not get through one single day or hour in my life.” To the priests she said my dear priests celebrate the Holy mass as if it is your first mass and the last Mass.
Mother Teresa fits very well into this definition of the modern prophet. Mother Teresa grew where she was planted. She is a prophet because with every breath she drew, she tried to do “something beautiful for God”. She is a prophet because she tried to make everything she did, even the smallest thoughts and tiniest gestures, an oblation, an offering of love.
Thus she fulfilled the golden rules in the books of Amos and Isaiah, by learning to do good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphans and pleading for the widows.
Mother Teresa was a messenger of Peace. In her letter to two egoistic and proud leaders (George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein) of 1990s during the time of Gulf war, she said, “Please choose the way of peace. … In the short term there may be winners and losers in this war that we all dread. But that never can, nor never will justify the suffering, pain and loss of life your weapons will cause.” Thus she requested them to choose the path of peace than bloody wars.
Mother Teresa once said, “A sacrifice to be real, must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.” She also said, “Give yourself fully to God. To give ourselves fully to God is a way of receiving God Himself. I for God and God for me. I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore, to possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul.
Yes, my dear sisters and brothers, Jesus will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” Her whole life and personality could be summarized in her own words; “I don’t claim anything of the work. It is His work. I am like a little pencil in His hand”.
Let us then my brothers and sisters imbibe in us some of her qualities, virtues and values in our daily lives which will be fitting tribute to Mother Teresa. Let us then live them in our daily lives.