“I believe that we are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours. We have 24 hours in this presence, and so you and I. You too try to bring that presence of God in your family, for the family that prays together stays together. And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.” — Blessed Mother Teresa
Today is the feast day of Blessed Mother Teresa, the 16th anniversary of the date of her death. Mother Teresa was a 36 year old teacher when she received her “call within a call” to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. She served the poor for over 45 years, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
For today’s reflection, rather than focus on two important events in her life.
First, is her initial call to Calcutta. In September 1946, at the age of 36, during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.” “Come be My light,” He begged her. “I cannot go alone.” He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin. On August 17, 1948, she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor. Deacon David Backes does an excellent job of summarizing the importance of this event here. This initial encounter with Christ was so powerful that it carried Mother Teresa through many years of doubt.
Second, is her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. You can read speech the full text of her speech here and see the video here. Her speech is a very counter-cultural message in Western Society of putting God first and recognizing that deep interconnectiveness of all humanity. I encourage you to read the entire speech but below is an excerpt:
Mother Teresa’s 1979 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
Lord, make a channel of Thy peace
that, where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that, where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that, where there is error, I may bring truth;
that, where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that, where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that, where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that, where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
to understand than to be understood;
to love than to be loved; for it is by forgetting self that one finds;
it is forgiving that one is forgiven;
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
As we have gathered here together to thank God for the Nobel Peace Prize I think it will be beautiful that we pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which always surprises me very much – we pray this prayer every day after Holy Communion, because it is very fitting for each one of us, and I always wonder that 4-500 years ago as St. Francis of Assisi composed this prayer that they had the same difficulties that we have today, as we compose this prayer that fits very nicely for us also. I think some of you already have got it – so we will pray together.
Let us thank God for the opportunity that we all have together today, for this gift of peace that reminds us that we have been created to live that peace, and Jesus became man to bring that good news to the poor. He being God became man in all things like us except sin, and he proclaimed very clearly that he had come to give the good news. The news was peace to all of good will and this is something that we all want – the peace of heart – and God loved the world so much that he gave his son – it was a giving – it is as much as if to say it hurt God to give, because he loved the world so much that he gave his son, and he gave him to Virgin Mary, and what did she do with him?
As soon as he came in her life – immediately she went in haste to give that good news, and as she came into the house of her cousin, the child – the unborn child – the child in the womb of Elizabeth, leapt with joy. He was that little unborn child, was the first messenger of peace. He recognized the Prince of Peace, he recognized that Christ has come to bring the good news for you and for me. And as if that was not enough – it was not enough to become a man – he died on the cross to show that greater love, and he died for you and for me and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and New York, and London, and Oslo – and insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us. And we read that in the Gospel very clearly – love as I have loved you – as I love you – as the Father has loved me, I love you – and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home.
You can read the rest of Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech here.