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          Family First by Mother Teresa

The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “One Heart Full of Love,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado

 

1. In your family, if it is your vocation to have a family, love one another as husband and wife and have a family. The service you perform and the work you accomplish are your love for God put into practice. (43)

 

2. Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else. (113)

 

3. If we admit that we are sinners and we need forgiveness, then it will be very easy for us to forgive others. But if I don’t admit this, it will be very hard for me to say, “I forgive you” no matter who comes to me. (121)

 

4. Does each of you, before anything else, know the poor in your homes? Are you aware that in your own family, in your own living situation, there may be someone who is very lonely, who feels unloved or hurt? Are you aware of this? Maybe that lonely or hurt one is your own husband, your wife or your child, who is lonely at home, in the same home where you live. Are you aware of that? (4)

 

5. Before anything else look for the poor in your homes and on the street where you live. There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards. There are so many people that are homeless. (11)

 

6. When Jesus came into the world, He loved it so much that He gave His life for it. He wanted to satisfy our hunger for God. And what did He do? He made Himself the Bread of Life. He became small, fragile, and defenceless for us. Bits of bread can be so small that even a baby can chew it, even a dying person can eat it. He became the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for God, our hunger for love.

     As if that were not enough, He Himself took on our human condition. He became hungry. He became naked. He became the poor one dying in our streets, so that we could satisfy our hunger for human love by loving Him. This is not something which is imaginary. It is not something out of the ordinary. God comes to us in human love so that we can love Him with our hearts. He wants us to love Him in those who are hungry, in those who are naked, in those who are homeless. This is what you and I are called to do. We must learn to pray steadfastly for this call.

     The work that each one of you carries out in your families for those you love is an expression of your love for God. Love starts at home. For your love to be real, it cannot waver at home. (91)

 

7. In your homes you have a starving Christ, a naked Christ, a homeless Christ. Are you capable of recognising Him in your own homes? Do you realise that He is right there in your midst?

     How many times does a child run away from home because there is no one there to love him! How often it is that the elderly in the family are not at home. Instead, they are in nursing homes because no one has time for them. The poor are right in your own homes. Are you aware of that? (21)

 

8. Bring love into your homes. If you truly love God, start loving your son or your daughter and your spouse. And the elderly, where are they? In nursing homes! Why are they not with you? And where is the retarded child? In an institution! Why is he not with you? That child, young mothers and fathers, is a gift from God. (45)

 

9. First of all, we must share with those in our homes because love starts at home. From there, charity extends to our neighbours who are right next door, then to those who live on the same street, and from there to those in the city where we live. (23)

 

10. We should gather to give thanks to God for what He has done in us, with us, and through us. We thank Him for having used you and us to be His love and mercy. God is still love, and He still loves the world. We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And God so loves the world today that He gives you and me to love the world, so that we may be His love and His mercy. What a beautiful thought and conviction for us, that we can be that love and mercy right in our homes, above all. Then we can be that love and mercy for our next door neighbours and for our neighbours down the street.

     But do we know our neighbours? Do we know the poor in our neighbourhood? It’s easier for us to talk and talk about the poor in far away places. We are often surrounded by the sick and the abandoned. We are often among people who are despised, outcast, and depressed. We have many elderly whom we don’t even know. At times, we don’t even have the time to smile at these people. (90)

 

11. I believe we must look for holiness, joy, and love in our homes. We must make our home like a second “Nazareth” where Jesus can come and live with us. Holiness is not a luxury, meant for only a few. It is a simple duty for each one of us. Holiness is to take whatever Jesus gives us and to give Jesus whatever He asks of us with a big smile. That is God’s will. In your life, in mine, in the life of each of us, God has made us for bigger things. He has created us to love and to be loved, so that we walk toward our heavenly home. As we carry Jesus in the world, we will be prepared to return eagerly to our Father’s house when the day arrives for us to be called home. (22)

 

12. This is what I want you to feel and experience. You must be able to understand what I am telling you. I had to experience it before I was able to understand. The same thing happens to each one of you. You have to start by experiencing it firsthand in your own homes. You must make “Nazareths” of your own homes and families. There love, peace, joy, and unity must reign. Then you will see what I have described to you in the faces of your own family and communicate it to those around you. (94)

 

13. People are hungry for love. We don’t have time to stop and smile at each other. We are all in such a hurry! People are hungry for love. We have received so much.

     Pray. Ask for the necessary grace. Pray to be able to understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you can love others. And pray for the sisters, that we won’t spoil God’s work. Pray that we allow Jesus to use each of us as He wishes and wherever He wishes. (12)

 

14. You need to learn how to give, not to give because you have to give, but because you want to give. I always tell people that I don’t want leftovers. Our poor don’t need your pity. They don’t need your sympathy. They need your love and compassion. (5)

 

15. We know that poverty means, first of all, to be hungry for bread, to need clothing, and not have home. But there is a far greater kind of poverty. It means being unwanted, unloved, and neglected. It means having no one to call your own.

We may experience this kind of poverty even in our own homes. Often it is difficult for us to smile, even at our children, our husband, or our wife. Our young boys and girls then sense the lack of affection around them. Here is where love really starts. Love should start at home. We must give Jesus absolute reign in our homes. Once we have Jesus with us, then we can give Him to others. (71-72) 

 

16. These professors came to see me and we were talking about love and kindness. One of them asked me, “Mother, tell us something that we can remember.”

     I told them, “Smile at each other. Take some time for each other in your families. Smile.”

     Then one of them asked me, “Are you married?” I said, “Yes, and sometimes I find it very difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be so demanding.”

     It’s true. But that is where you can see love best. When it is most demanding and you give cheerfully in spite of that, that is love at its best.(88)

 

17. You need to make an effort to know your poor. It is possible that your people enjoy material security, that they don’t need anything of that sort. But I think that if you look inside your own homes, you may notice how hard it is for you to smile at one another sometimes! And yet smiling is the beginning of love. Let’s be willing to smile at one another. Yes, a smile is the beginning of love. And once we begin to love one another, the desire to do something more naturally follows. (86)

 

18. I believe that the most important thing is for us to love Jesus, then to love one another---ourselves and the members of our families---and to show our love for the poor. What is important is that we are able to smile at one another in our families. With a generous and cheerful smile, we should be able to accept everything that happens in our families, both the joyful things and the sad things.

     I believe that the commitment spouses profess in their marriage vows is important. They accept each other in good times and in bad times. I think that this is something that we should always try to do with a smile. And it really helps if we can then do the same in the homes of the poorest of the poor. (75)

 

19. It is very important to understand that love has to hurt to be true. It hurt Jesus to love us. It truly hurt Him. And to insure that we would be reminded of His great love, He made Himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for His love. We hunger for God because we have been created to love. We have been created in His image and likeness. We have been created to love and to be loved. For that reason, He became man to make it possible for us to love as He has loved us.

     Jesus became the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the forsaken, and the unwanted in our midst. And He says, “And you did it unto Me.” They are hungry for our love. That is the hunger of our poor. That is the hunger that you and I must meet, because it may even exist in our own homes.

     See, here is where love finds its place. Poverty comes into our homes to give us the chance to love. Perhaps in our own families, there is someone who feels lonely, who is sick, or who is overwhelmed with worry. Are we there, open and willing to offer support and affection? Are you, mothers, available to your children? (79)

 

20. You, too, must try to bring the presence of God to your families, for the family that prays together, stays together. I think that just being together and loving one another brings peace and joy. It strengthens the bond between family members in the home. That is the way to overcome all the evil that is in the world.

     There is so much suffering, so much hate, so much sorrow! We can be real pillars in our homes through our prayers and sacrifices. Love begins at home. It isn’t how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do that really counts. That is because our actions are focused on God. It doesn’t matter how much we do, but how much love we put into our actions, for His love is infinite. (83-84)

 

21. There is in the world today a great hunger for God. Everywhere there is so much sin caused by broken homes! Fathers and mothers don’t have the time to pray together. If the family doesn’t pray together, if the children aren’t united with their parents in prayer, how are they going to stay together? Nazareth was truly Nazareth because Jesus, Mary, and Joseph stayed together. They stayed together precisely because they prayed together. If we really want peace, we don’t need to resort to weapons and bombs. Let’s bring prayer into our lives and into our homes. Let’s bring love and peace into our homes, and we will begin to experience peace on earth. (42)

 

22. We cannot share unless our lives are full of God’s love and our hearts are pure. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Unless we are able to see God in our neighbour, it will be very hard for us to love. Since love begins at home, let’s love each other at home. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He loved until it hurt. Jesus’ love is so overwhelming that you and I can love Him and find life. We can love Jesus in the hungry, the naked, and the destitute who are dying. We can love Him because our prayer gives us the faith we need to be able to love. If you love, you will be willing to serve. And you will find Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. (42-43)

 

23. I always say---and I don’t get tired of repeating it---that love starts at home. I will never forget that I was in a country once where there were many co-workers, but two of the coordinators for the co-workers were very distant from each other. And they were husband and wife. They came to me and I told them, “I can’t understand how you are able to give Jesus to others if you can’t give Him to each other. How can you find Jesus hidden under the distressing appearance of the poor if you cannot see Him in each other?”

     The husband and wife started up an endless argument. Both of them let out all their frustrations and hurts, saying everything they had to say. Then I interrupted. “Now that’s enough. You have said everything that you needed to say. Let’s go to Jesus so that you can tell Him all these things.”

     We went to the chapel and the two knelt down before the altar. After a few moments, the husband turned to his wife and said, “You are my only love in this world, the only one I love and have.” Other things of that sort followed. It was all very beautiful.

     Now all the co-workers there have changed for the better. Why? Because those in charge of the group have come to understand that if we don’t accept Jesus in one another, we will not be able to give Him to others. (54-55)

 

24. There are little things that inevitably happens in our lives and in our homes. Misunderstandings and suffering come to everyone, even in our own congregation. Someone said to me one day, “You never talk to us about problems.” I said that I didn’t need to talk about such things precisely because everyone knows that there are always problems. What I do have to say again and again is that sometimes it seems we aren’t aware of them when we should be. We don’t recognise that a problem exists. This is something that often happens. Let’s focus more on the things we ought to do in serving our husband, our wife, our children, our brothers---rather than on other people’s shortcomings. (55-56)

 

25. I feel that we too often focus only on the negative aspect of life, on what is bad. If we are more willing to see the good and the beautiful things that surround us, we would be able to transform our families. From there, we would change our next-door neighbours and then others who live in our neighbourhood or city. We would be able to bring peace and love to our world which hungers so much for these things.

     I have another conviction that I want to share with you. Love begins at home, and every co-worker should try to make sure that deep family love abides in his or her home. Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next-door neighbour. Then it will show forth and you will be able to say to them, “Yes, love is here.” And then you will be able to share it with everyone around you. (56-57)

 

26. Know the poorest of the poor among your neighbours, in your neighbourhoods, in your town, in your city, perhaps in your own family. When you know them, that will lead you to love them. And love will impel you to serve them. Only then will you begin to act like Jesus and live out the Gospel. Place yourselves at the service of the poor. Open your hearts to love them. Be living witnesses of God’s mercy. This may lead you to give up your own sons so that they may serve God, who gives preference to the poor. (129-130)

 

27. Mother Teresa answered this question at a press conference.

Q. Mother Teresa, how is it possible for you to discover Christ under the appearance of alcoholics and drug addicts, as you say you do?

A. None of us has the right to condemn anyone. Even though we see some people doing something bad, we don’t know why they are doing it. Jesus invites us to not pass judgement. Maybe we are the ones who have helped make them what they are. We need to realise that they are our brothers and sisters. That leper, that drunkard, and that sick person is our brother because he too has been created for a greater love. This is something that we should never forget. Jesus Christ identified Himself with them and says, “Whatever you did to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me.” That leper, that alcoholic, and that beggar is my brother. Perhaps it is because we haven’t given them our understanding and love that they find themselves on the streets without love and care.

     I believe that we should realise that poverty doesn’t only consist in being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity. We need to love and to be somebody for someone else. This is where we make our mistake and shove people aside. Not only have we denied the poor a piece of bread, but by thinking that they have no worth and leaving them abandoned in the streets, we have denied them the human dignity that is rightfully theirs as children of God. They are my brothers and sisters as long as they are there. And why am I not in their place? This should be a very important question. We could have been in their place without having received the love and affection that has been given to us. I will never forget an alcoholic who told me his story. He was a man who gave in to drinking so he could forget that he wasn’t loved. I think we should examine our own conscience before judging the poor, be they poor in spirit or poor in material goods. (130-131)

 

28. Ralph Rolls interviewed Mother Teresa on January 15, 1973 for a program entitled Belief and Life for the BBC.

Q. What should we do when suffering comes to us?

A. Accept it with a smile.

Q. Accept it with a smile?

A. Yes, with a smile, because it is the greatest gift that God gives us.

Q. What? To smile?

A. To smile at God. To have the courage to accept everything that He sends us, and to give to Him what He asks of us with a big smile. (121)

 

29. Introduce prayer into your families. The family that prays together stays together.

. . . .the Missionaries of Charity say every day (the St. Francis of Assisi Prayer):

     Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

     Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

     Where there is injury, pardon;

     Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is despair, hope;

     Where there is darkness, light;

     Where there is sadness, joy;

Where there is error, truth.

     O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

     To be consoled as to console;

     To be understood as to understand;

     To be loved as to love; for

     It is in giving that we receive;

     It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

     It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

     Amen. (29-30)

 

 

The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "The Joy in Loving," compiled by Jaya Chalika and Edward Le Joly.

 

1. "Love begins at home; love lives in homes, and that is why there is so much suffering and so much unhappiness in the world today. If we listen to Jesus, He will tell us what He said before: 'Love one another, as I have loved you.' He has loved us through suffering, dying on the Cross for us, and so if we are to love one another, if we are to bring that love into life again, we have to begin at home." (188)

 

2. "It is easy to smile at people outside your own home. It is so easy to take care of the people that you don't know well. It is difficult to be thoughtful and kind and to smile and be loving to your own in the house day after day, especially when we are tired and in a bad temper or bad mood. We all have these moments and that is the time that Christ comes to us in distressing disguise." (65)

 

3. "I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other, there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world." (201)

 

4. "I'll never forget my own mother, she used to be very busy the whole day, but as soon as the evening came, she used to move very fast to get ready to meet my father. At that time, we didn't understand, we used to smile, we used to laugh and we used to tease her. But now I remember what a tremendous, delicate love she had for him. It didn't matter what happened, she was ready there with a smile to meet him. We have no time. The father and mother are so busy. The children come home and there's no one to love them, to smile at them. That's why I am very strict with my co-workers. I always say: Family first. If you are not there, how will your love grow for another?" (146)

 

5. "In Calcutta, there are visible homes for the dying. In other countries, many of the young are in homes for the dying which are invisible, but none the less real. Speaking of the parable of the prodigal son, a boy in New York told me, 'In my family it is not the son who left us---it's the father.' There are parents who, although they take care of material needs, are in fact totally absent in the eyes of their children." (89)

 

6. "A co-worker is a person who puts her love for God into living action and service to the poor. Where? In the family first and then for others. We must not neglect our homes and go out before we have started inside and begin with ourselves first. Then, because we have practiced that, we are able to give to others." (182)

 

7. "How can we teach students to see the richness of community service? Teach them. And ask them to love in their own family. Love begins at home. Lots of love always brings lots of peace. That's why it is important for the family to pray together, and they will stay together and love one another. Then it will be easier to be a fountain of love for each other." (209)

 

8. "Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family. Be holy---let us pray." (37)

 

     The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado

 

1. Once in a while we should ask ourselves several questions in order to guide our actions. We should ask questions like: Do I know the poor? Do I know, in the first place, the poor in my family, in my home, those who are closest to me---people who are poor, but not because they lack bread?

     There are other types of poverty just as painful because they are more intrinsic.

     Perhaps what my husband or wife lacks, what my children lack, what my parents lack, is not clothes or food. Perhaps they lack love, because I do not give it to them! (51)   

 

2. Sometimes people can hunger for more than bread.

     It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, do not lack a house. But are we equally sure that none of them feels alone, abandoned, neglected, needing some affection? That, too, is poverty. (27)

 

3. Love begins by taking care of the closest ones---the ones at home.

     Let us ask ourselves if we are aware that maybe our husband, our wife, our children, or our parents live isolated from others, do not feel love enough, even though they may live with us.

     Do we realize this?

     Where are the old people today?

     They are in nursing homes (if there are any).

     Why?

     Because they are not wanted, because they are too much trouble, because. . . .(52)

 

4. Jesus comes to meet us. To welcome Him, let us go to meet Him.

     He comes to us in the hungry, the naked, the lonely, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the prostitute, the street beggars.

     He may come to you or me in a father who is alone, in a mother, in a brother, or a sister.

     If we reject them, if we do not go out to meet them, we reject Jesus Himself. (29)

 

5. We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus. (30)

 

              ------       p;       ------

 

In our stressful modern life, many families are plagued by hurt, harmful words, resentment, rage, disappointments, despair, discord, hatred, etc. The challenge for all of us is to rise above these negative feelings. Perhaps, we need to change our mindset and heart set, and one way maybe:

1.  Never be too proud to say, “I am sorry.”

2.  Never stop asking, “Can you please forgive me?”

3.  Always pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me, a sinner.

4.  Do not doubt Jesus when He says, ”Your sins are forgiven.” As a forgiven person, forgives.

5.  So, be ready to forgive, even when we don’t feel like forgiving. Keep saying, “In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven.”

     Can we do it? Not easy but always possible with the help of Jesus. The challenge calls for us to face up to the problems, never running away from the problems. To start to love more, we have to ask Jesus to help us to forgive more and to turn the other cheek more in our homes.

           James

 

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