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Mother Teresa on Holy, Holy, Holy Lord

      The following passages are taken from the book, “A Life for God,” compiled by LaVonne Neff and published in 1995.

 

People often refer to Mother Teresa as a saint. In one sense, she is not a saint--—the church officially gives that title to a select number of holy people after much careful study, and Mother Teresa’s life has not yet been reviewed. In another sense, though, she is definitely a saint--—as are all Christians. In the New Testament, Jesus’ followers are often called saints (“holy ones”).

Holiness, or sanctity, is a constant theme of Mother Teresa’s. To become holy is to become like God.

Long ago human beings were created like God, “in the divine image” (Genesis 1:27). But sin intervened and distorted the image. In order for the imago to shine forth clearly again, it would be necessary to remove sin. This is why Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, and this is why God sent the Holy Spirit to his people.

God, in his love for the human race, calls us to him so that we may “share the image of his Son” (Born 8:29). He wants to make us holy, to sanctify us, to make us like God. This holiness is not given to us magically. We become more and more like God as we spend our lives with him, listening to him, learning his will, and doing his work on earth.

     Every day at Mass, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity sing a hymn of praise to God’s holiness. The hymn was already ancient in Jesus’ day. The first part is taken from Isaiah’s words when he had a vision of God in the temple (Isaiah 6:3); the second part comes from Psalm 118.

The Christian hymn is sometimes called the Sanctus, from the Latin word for “holy.” It was sung in the East from the earliest days of Christianity and came to the West no later than the fifth century. During the Middle Ages, when most church music was sung by choirs, the people still sang the Sanctus. It is appropriate that Mother Teresa’s missionaries begin each day singing about God’s holiness, before they go out into the world as holy people, doing God’s work on earth, restoring the divine image in humanity.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

 

1. Let us thank God for all his love for us, in so many ways and in so many places. Let us in return, as an act of gratitude and adoration, determine to be holy because he is holy. (146)

 

2. Jesus wants us to be holy as his Father is. (146)

 

3. Holiness consists of carrying out God’s will with joy. (146)

 

4. Each one of us is what he is in the eyes of God. We are all called to be saints. There is nothing extraordinary about this call. We all have been created in the image of God to love and to be loved. (146)

 

5. The first step to becoming holy is to will it. St. Thomas says, “Sanctity consists in nothing else than a firm resolve, the heroic act of a soul abandoning herself to God. By an upright will we love God, we choose God, we run toward God, we reach him, we possess him.” 0 good, good will which transforms me into the image of God and makes me like him! (146)

 

6. With a will that is whole we love God, we opt for him, we run toward him, we reach him, we possess him. Often, under the pretext of humility, of confidence, of abandonment we forget about using our will. But it all depends on these words—--I want or I do not want. I have to pour all of my energy into the words I want. (147)

 

7. If we earnestly desire holiness, self-denial must enter our lives fully after prayer. The easiest form of self is control over our bodily senses. We must practice interior mortification and bodily penances also. How generous are we with God in our mortifications? (147)

 

8. A day alone with Jesus is apt to spur us on in the vigorous pursuit of holiness through personal love for Jesus. Jesus desires our perfection with unspeakable ardor. “It is God’s will that you grown in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). His Sacred Heart is filled with an insatiable longing to see us advance toward holiness. (147)

 

9. Am I convinced of Christ’s love for me and mine for him? This conviction is like a sunlight which makes the sap of life rise and the buds of sanctity bloom. This conviction is the rock on which sanctity is built. What must we do to get this conviction? We must know Jesus, love Jesus, serve Jesus. We know him through prayers, meditations, and spiritual duties. We love him through holy Mass and the sacraments and through that intimate union of love. (147)

 

10. The church of God needs saints today. This imposes a great responsibility on us sisters, to fight against our own ego and love of comfort that leads us to choose a comfortable and insignificant mediocrity. We are called upon to make our lives a rivalry with Christ; we are called upon to be warriors in saris, for the church needs fighters today. Our war cry has to be “Fight—--not flight?” (147)

 

11. We need a very deep life of prayer to be able to love as he loves each one of us. We must ask Our Lady, “Dear Mother, teach me to love, prepare me.” It’s not enough just to join a priesthood or a brotherhood or sisterhood. That’s not enough. We need to be more and more humble like Mary and holy like Jesus. If only we are humble like Mary, we can be holy like Jesus. That’s all: holy like the Lord. (147)

 

12. Be faith in little things, for in them our strength lies. To the good God nothing is little; because he is so great and we so small. That is why he stoops down and takes the trouble to make those little things for us—--to give us a chance to prove our love for him. Because he makes them, they are very great. He cannot make anything small; they are infinite. (148)

 

13. My prayer for all families is that you grow in holiness through this love for each other. Bring Jesus wherever you go. Let them look up and see only Jesus in you. Pray for your children and pray that your daughters and sons will have the courage to say yes to God and to consecrate their lives totally to him. There are many, many families that would be so happy if their children would give their lives to God. So pray for them that they will be able to fulfill the heart’s desire. (148)

 

14. The words “I want to be holy” mean: I will divest myself of everything that is not of God; I will divest myself and empty my heart of material things... I will renounce my own will, my inclinations, my whims, my fickleness; and I will become a generous slave girl to God’s will. (148)

 

15. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2, RSV). (148)

 

16. Q: What is the biggest obstacle that you encounter in your work?

MT: Not being holy yet. (148)

 

17. God said to one of our sisters: “I have so many sisters like you--—ordinary, good sisters; I can pave the streets with them. I want fervent ones: saints. ‘I looked for one to comfort me and I found none.’” (148)

 

18. There is so much unhappiness, so much misery everywhere. Our human nature stays with us from beginning to end. We must work hard every day to conquer ourselves. We must learn to be meek and humble of heart. Let us try to give everything to Jesus: every word, every moment. Jesus, use my eyes, my ears, my feet! My resolution must be firm: to become a saint. (149)

 

19. If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed, you won’t be discouraged; if anyone calls you a saint, you won’t put yourself on a pedestal. If you are a saint, thank God; if you are a sinner don’t remain one. Christ tells us to aim very high, not to be like Abraham or David or any of the saints, but to be like our heavenly Father. (149)

 

20. I cannot long for a clear perception of my progress along the route, nor long to know precisely where I am on the path of holiness. I ask Jesus to make me a saint. I leave it to him to choose the means that can lead me in that direction. (149)

 

21. Total surrender to God must come in small details as it comes in big details. It’s nothing but that single word, “Yes, I accept whatever you give, and I give whatever you take.” And this is just a simple way for us to be holy. We must not create difficulties in our own minds. To be holy doesn’t mean to do extraordinary things, to understand big things, but it is a simple acceptance, because I have given myself to God, because I belong to him—--my total surrender. He could put me here. He could put me there. He can use me. He cannot use me. It doesn’t matter because I belong so totally to him that he can do just what he wants to do with me. (149)

 

22. To become holy we need humility and prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray, and he also told us to learn from him to be meek and humble of heart. Neither of these can we do unless we know what is silence. Both humility and prayer grow from an ear, mind, and tongue that have lived in silence with God, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. (149)

 

23. I say to all priests: Be holy and teach us to become holy also. Teach us prayers that will purify our hearts and help us grow in our faith. Remind us of the importance of meditation on Jesus, our source of love and service.

You who have consecrated your lives and your hearts must be poor, chaste, and holy, to be able to say, “This is my body” at the consecration, and to give us this Bread of Life by which we live.

I ask you, I beg you to give all your time to others and fully live your priesthood. Wherever obedience may send you, you must become a living presence of Christ. (150)

 

24. If we really want to grow in holiness through obedience let us turn constantly to Our Lady to teach us how to obey, to Jesus who was obedient unto death: he, being God, “went down and was subject to them.” (150)

 

25. Your work on behalf of the poor will be better carried out if you know how God wants you to carry it out, but you will have no way of knowing that, other than by obedience. Submit to your superiors, just like ivy. Ivy cannot live if it does not hold fast to something; you will not grow or live in holiness unless you hold fast to obedience. (150)

 

26. “He, being rich, became poor.” It is difficult for a proud person to obey. We do not like to bend, to be humble. To be holy we need obedience. The Gospels are full of the humility of Mary. As spotless as she was, as holy as she was, she obeyed. “Humility of the heart of Jesus, fill my heart.” Let us, during the day, pray this prayer often. If there has been resentment in our hearts or if we have not accepted humiliation, we will not learn humility. We cannot learn humility from books. Jesus accepted humiliation. Nothingness cannot disobey. In our lives as Missionaries of Charity, obedience is the greatest gift we can give to God. Jesus came to do the will of his Father, and he did it from the very beginning to the very end. (150)

 

27. Foresight is the beginning of holiness. If you learn this art of foreseeing, you will be more and more like Christ, for his heart was sweet and he would always think about others. (150)

 

28. We all know that there is God who loves us, who has made us. We can turn and ask him, “My Father, help me now. I want to be holy, I want to be good, I want to love.” Holiness is not a luxury for the few; it is not just for some people. It is meant for you and for me, for all of us. It is a simple duty, because if we learn to love, we learn to be holy. (151)

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