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Mother Teresa on Blessed are You among Women
The following passages are taken from the book, “A Life for God,” compiled by LaVonne Neff and published in 1995.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read a beautiful story about an angel and a girl. The angel, Gabriel, went on God’s errand to a virgin named Mary. “And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’
“Seeing that Mary was frightened, Gabriel said, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name him Jesus.’
“But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’
“And the angel said to her in reply. ‘The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’
“Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’”
Immediately Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,. ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.... Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’”
This Bible story is the basis for a thousand-year-old prayer, the Hail Mary. It is the main prayer of the rosary, which Mother Teresa and her companions say as they walk through poverty-ridden streets. Mother Teresa has a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and she often speaks of Mary’s obedient response to the angel Gabriel.
Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with you;
blessed are among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now
and at the hour of our death.
Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord if with you. . .
1. Many years ago an angel came to bring the good news to Mary. The Prince of Peace was anxious to come to earth and an angel was used to bring the good news that the Creator would become a little child. The Prince of Peace was attracted to a young girl who was a nobody in the eyes of the world. Even the angel could not understand why he was sent to a creature like that. But she was so beautiful that the King of Kings wanted to become flesh in her. She was so full of grace, so pure, so full of God. She looked at the angel—--she must have been surprised for she had never seen an angel—--and asked, “How? What are you saying? I don’t understand what you are saying; it makes no sense to me.” And the angel said simply that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ would be formed within her. And Mary answered simply: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord? (104)
2. No one has learned so well the lesson of humility as Mary did. She, being the handmaid of the Lord, was completely empty of self and God filled her with grace. “Full of grace” means full of God. A handmaid is at someone’s disposal, to be used according to someone’s wish with full trust and joy, to belong to someone without reserve. This is one main reason for the spirit of the Society. Total surrender: to be at God’s disposal, to be used as it pleases him, to be his handmaid, to belong to him. (104)
3. She will teach us her humility though full of grace—--yet only the handmaid of the Lord; though the mother of God—--yet serving like a handmaid in the house of Elizabeth though conceived immaculate—--she meets Jesus humiliated, carrying his cross, and near the cross she stands as one of us, as if she were a sinner needing redemption.
Like her, the greater are the graces we have received, let us with greater and more delicate love touch the lepers, the dying, the lonely, the unwanted.
Like her, let us always accept the cross in whatever way it may come.
Humility of the heart of Mary, fill my heart. Teach me as you taught Jesus to be meek and humble of heart and so glorify our Father. (105)
4. We read in the Gospel that God loved the world so much that he gave his Son. He gave him to an ordinary, simple, young woman. She was the most pure, the most holy human being. And she on receiving him--—knowing who he was—--just said, “Humble me. Be done to me according to thy word.” What was the word? “Be the mother of Jesus.” And that’s why I always say, no one in the world could have been a better priest than Mary the most pure. Yet she remained only the handmaid of the Lord. Jesus did not consecrate her. (105)
5. See how Our Lady obeyed the angel: “Be it done to me according to thy word.” Whose word? The angel’s—--because he took the place of God. He was sent by God to her. She, the queen of heaven, obeys the angel. See how she obeyed St Joseph, with what love and submission, without an excuse. To her, St. Joseph was “he” whose place he took. (105)
6. The season of Advent is like springtime in nature when everything is renewed and so is fresh and healthy. Advent is also meant to do this to us refresh us and make us healthy, to be able to receive Christ in whatever form he may come to us. At Christmas he comes as a little child, so small, so helpless, so much in need of his mother and all that a mother’s love can give. It was his mother’s humility that helped her to do the works of handmaid to Christ—--God from God, true God from true God. Let us see and touch the greatness that fills the depths of their humility. We cannot do better than Jesus and Mary. If we really want God to fill us, we must empty ourselves through humility of all that is selfishness in us. (105)
7. Let us beg from Our Lady to make our hearts ”meek and humble” as her Son’s was. It was from her and in her that the heart of Jesus was formed. Let us all try to practice humility and meekness. We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully. Do not let a chance pass you by. It is so very easy to be proud, harsh, moody, and selfish—--so easy. But we have been created for greater things; why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts? How much we can learn from Our Lady! She was so humble because she was all for God. She was full of grace. She made use of the almighty power that was in her, the grace of God. (106)
8. Let Mary be the cause of our joy. Let each one of us be Jesus to her.
No one learned humility as well as Mary did. She was the slave girl. Being a slave means to be used by all, with joy.
Joy was the Virgin’s strength. Only joy could give her the strength to walk without getting tired up to the hill country of Judea in order to carry out a servant’s work. We too have to walk without stopping and go beyond the hills of trouble. (106)
9. When you look at the inner workings of electrical things often you see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light.
That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, produce the light of the world—--Jesus. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.
Our Lady was the most wonderful wire. She allowed God to fill her. By her surrender---“Be it done to me according to thy word”--— she became “full of grace.” The moment she was filled by this current, by the grace of God, she went in haste to Elizabeth’s house to connect the wire, John, to the current, Jesus. As his mother said, “This child, John, leaped up with joy at your voice.”
Let us ask Our Lady to come into our lives also and make the current, Jesus, use us to go round the world—--especially in our own communities so that we can continue connecting the wires of the hearts of men and women with the current, Jesus. (106)
. . .blessed are you among women...
10. The silence of the mind and of the heart: Our Lady “kept all these things in her heart.” This silence brought her close to our Lord, so that she never had to regret anything. See what she did when St Joseph was troubled. One word from her would have cleared his mind, she did not say that word, and our Lord himself worked the miracle to clear her name. Would that we could be so convinced of this necessity of silence! I think then the road to close union with God will become very clear. (107)
11. Our Lady—--the most beautiful among all women, the greatest, the most humble, the purest, the holiest—--in the moment when she felt flooded by grace, full of Jesus, ran in haste.
I think this is why God chose a woman to show his love and compassion toward the world. It was she, the woman, who gave evidence of her kindness by immediately sharing what she had just received. To say it in another way, she hastened to share the Eucharist.
As St. Therese once said, “I want to place myself in the heart of the church in order to offer love.” You and I have been created for that same end: for loving and for that love, as Mary did everywhere and at all times.
We too have to go look for our children, just as Mary did when Jesus was lost. We must live through the worry of not knowing where our children are. The home is not a home without the child. We also discover the genuine Mary, full of tenderness, in the wedding feast at Cana. She was moved by seeing the newlyweds exposed to the humiliation of not having wine. That is why she said to Jesus, “They have no more wine.”
I think this is the wonderful tenderness of a woman’s heart: to be aware of the suffering of others and to try to spare them that suffering, as Mary did. Do you and I have that same tenderness in our hearts? Do we have Mary’s eyes for discovering the needs of others?
Perhaps in our own homes: Are we able to perceive the needs of our parents, of our husband, of our children? Do our children come home with us, as Jesus went home with Mary his mother? Do we offer our children a home?
We know what happened to Mary, the mother full of tenderness and love who was never ashamed of proclaiming Jesus her Son. Eventually everyone abandoned him. Mary stayed beside him.
Mary was not ashamed by the fact that Jesus was scourged, that his face was spit upon, that he was treated as a leper, as one unwanted, despised, hated by all. Because he was Jesus, her Son. And there surfaced the deep tenderness of her heart as a mother.
Do we know how to stay beside our own in their suffering, in their humiliation? When our husband loses his job, what do we represent to him? Do we feel tenderness toward him? Do we understand his anguish?
When our children are pulled away from us and receive bad advice, do we feel that deep tenderness that makes us go after them in order to draw them toward us, to welcome them kindly in our home, and to love them with all our heart?
Am I like Mary for my sisters in the community? Do I realize their suffering, their sorrows?
If I am a priest, do I have a heart like Mary’s? Do I experience the tenderness of forgiveness? Can I offer God’s forgiveness to the humbled sinner who stands before me? (107)
12. People like to see the sisters accompanied by Mary. With rosary in hand, they are always willing to spread the Good News. (108)
13. Through all the work we do for Jesus, with Jesus, to Jesus, we will ask him to deepen our love for his mother, to make it more personal and intimate, so as to:
—love her as he loved her;
—be a cause of joy to her as he was;
-keep close to her as he kept close
—share with her everything, even the Cross, as he did when she stood near him on Calvary. (109)
14. During this time of grace let us, in a special way, ask Our Lady to teach us her silence, her kindness, her humility. (109)
Silence of Mary speak to me, teach me how with you and like you I can learn to keep all things in my heart as you did, not to answer back when accused or corrected, to pray always in the silence of my heart as you did.
. . .and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
15. It is very, very important for us to have a deep love for Our Lady. For she was the one who taught Jesus how to walk, how to pray, how to wash, how to do all the little that make our human life so beautiful. She had to do them. And the same thing now—--she will always be willing to help us and teach us how to be all for Jesus alone, how to love only Jesus, how to touch him and see him, to serve him in the distressing disguise. (109)
16. Our vocation is to belong to Jesus. The easiest way and the simplest way of belonging is this: the Holy Spirit makes us do that giving of self, that total surrender to God, without any reflection, without any counting the cost. We call that “blind surrender.” It is like Our Lady. When she knew that the Lord was calling she said Yes. And she never withdrew that Yes. It was a blind, continual Yes in her life. It is the same for us. The whole of our life must come to that one word Yes. Yes to God: that is holiness. We allow God to take from us whatever he wants and we accept whatever he gives with joy. That is Yes in action. (109)
17. Because God loves the world he sent his Son. Now he sends you to be his word, and that word has to take flesh in the hearts of the people. That’s why you need Our Lady; when the Word of God came to her, became flesh in her, then she gave it to others. It is the same for you. The Word of God has come to you and has become flesh in you and then you must be able to give that love. (110)
18. Mary in the mystery of her annunciation and visitation is the very model of the way you should live, because first she received Jesus in her life, then she went in haste to give to her cousin Elizabeth; what she had received, she had to give. You must be like her, giving in haste the word you have received in meditation. In every Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life, a special, delicate, beautiful gift of God. But you must protect it with tender care because he is giving himself, the Word, to you to be made flesh, to each one of you, and to those who will come after. (110)
19. I believe that our mother the Church has elevated women to a great honor in the presence of God by proclaiming Mary the mother of the Church. God so loved the world that he gave his Son. This was the first Eucharist: the gift of his Son, when he gave him to Our Lady, establishing in her the first altar. Mary was, from that instant on, the only one who was able to affirm with complete sincerity, “This is my body.” She offered her body, her strength, her whole being, to form the body of Christ.
It was on her that the power of the Holy Spirit rested, and in her that the Word became flesh. Mary gave herself to him completely because she had previously consecrated herself to him—--in order to preserve her virginity virgin, her purity pure, and her chastity chaste, and in order to offer them to the only living God.
When the angel announced to Mary the coming of Christ, she only posed a question: She could not understand how she could take back the gift of herself that she had made to God. The angel explained it, and she understood immediately. Her lips uttered a beautiful response that asserted all that she was as a woman: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” (110)
20. Mary did not feel ashamed. She proclaimed Jesus her Son. At Calvary we see her standing upright—--the mother of God, standing next to the cross.
What a deep faith she must have had because of her love for her Son! To see him dishonored, unloved, an object of hatred. Yet, she stayed upright.
As the mother possesses her son, she possessed him, knowing that he who belonged to her was at the same time her absolute master. She was not afraid to accept him as her belonging.
Do we know how to consider our own as our belonging when they suffer, when they are discarded? Do we acknowledge our own as our family when they suffer? Do we realize the hunger they have for Jesus in the hunger they feel for a love that understands them?
This is the source of Mary’s greatness: her understanding love. You and I who are women—--do we possess that great and magnificent thing, that love full of understanding?
This is the love I observe with amazement in our people, in the poor women who day after day discover suffering and accept it because of their love for their children. I have seen many fathers and mothers deprive themselves of many things—--very many!—--and even beg, in order for their children to have what is needed. I have seen fathers affectionately carry their abnormal children in their arms because those children are their own. I have seen mothers full of a very tender love toward their children.
I remember a mother of twelve children, the last of them terribly mutilated. It is impossible for me to describe that creature. I volunteered to welcome the child into our house, where there are many others in similar conditions.
The woman began to cry. “For God’s sake, Mother,” she said, “don’t tell me that. This creature is the greatest gift of God to me and my family. All our love is focused on her. Our lives would be empty if you took her from us.”
Hers really was a love full of understanding and tenderness. Do we have a love like that today? Do we realize that our child, our husband, our wife, our father, our mother, our sister or brother, has a need for that understanding, for the warmth dour hand? (111)
21. I desire for you the joy of the Virgin, who because she was humble in her heart, was able to keep Jesus in her womb for nine months. What a long communion! (112)
Holy Mary, mother of God
pray for us sinners, now...
22. Let us beg from Our Lady to make our hearts “meek and humble” like her Son’s was. It was from her and in her that the heart of Jesus was formed. (112)
23. Let us always ask Our Lady to be with us when we pray together. Our intercessory prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus, shall be this:
Give us a heart as beautiful pure, and spotless as yours. A heart like yours, so full of love and humility. May we be able to receive Jesus as the Bread of Life, to love him as you loved him, to serve him under the mistreated face of the poor. We ask this through Jesus our Lord. Amen. (112)
24. The Magnificat is Our Lady’s prayer of thanks. She can help us to love Jesus best; she is the one who can show us the shortest way to Jesus. Mary was the one whose intercession led Jesus to work the first miracle. “They have no wine,” she said to Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you,” she said to the servants. We take the part of the servants. Let us go to her with great love and trust. We are serving Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. (112)
25. Ask Jesus to help you to personalize your love for Mary—--in order to love as he loves; in order to be sources of joy, as he is; in order to be closer to her, as he is; in order to share with her everything, even the cross.
Every one of us must carry his or her own cross; it is our sign of belonging to Christ. We need Mary to help us share it.
Holiness is not a luxury but a duty. Great holiness is simple if we belong completely to Mary.
We must be very grateful to God for the burdensome trips we have undertaken in the streets, by train, by plane, by bicycle, in search for souls; for the joy we have tried to spread in the world. Let us give full freedom to the Virgin for her to use us. (112)
26. Let us ask Our Lady to keep us company, to stay with us. Let us ask Mary, who besides being the mother of Jesus, is so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, and full of grace! If Mary stays with us, we can keep Jesus in our hearts, so that we can love and serve him through ministry to the poorest of the poor. (113)
. . .and at the hour of our death.
27. Death is the most decisive moment in human life. It is like our coronation: to die in peace with God. (113)
28. The Virgin always protects us. She is the cause of our joy, and we try to be a cause for her joy. Thus gathered, following her example, invoking her protection, staying united with her, we can move through the most difficult places with no fear at all because Jesus is with us and he will never abandon us: Jesus is our love, our strength, our source of kindness. (113)
29. At the moment of death we will not be judged by the amount of work we have done but by the weight of love we have put into our work. This love should flow from self and it must be felt to the point of hurting. (113)
30. Death, in the final analysis, is only the easiest and quickest means to go back to God. If only we could make people understand that we come from God and that we have to go back to him!
Everyone knows that we have not been created by ourselves. Someone else has created us. Going back to him is going back home.
We sisters face death almost every day. It is beautiful to see people who die with dignity, radiating joy at going back to the place they came from, at going back to the only One who loves them.
Those who have had many possessions, who have had many goods and riches, are obsessed by them. They think that the only thing that counts is possessing wealth. That is why it is so difficult for them to leave all things. It is much easier for the poor who are so free, for this freedom allows them to depart with joy. (113)
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