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Mother Teresa on The Poor

The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “Loving Jesus,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado

 

1. LET US SEEK OUT THE POOR (54-55)

The call is basically the same for you too, you who have chosen to be Christians. With Jesus and for Jesus, you will be able to live happily.

What we are doing, you cannot do.

And what you are doing, we cannot do.

But together, we are doing something beautiful for God.

If we want to be holy, let us find the poor, first in our own homes and then right next door. May our service to the poor further the salvation of all mankind, of you and me, for we are touching Jesus.

 

2. POOR PEOPLE DO NOT COMPLAIN (105)

The poor are great people; they can accept very difficult things.

We have so many lepers to look after. When we ask for volunteers among our young Sisters to go and work with the lepers, every hand is raised.

Even though they are so disfigured and so difficult to look at, here is Christ in our midst. For he said, “I was sick and hungry and naked and homeless. And you did it to me.” And, like Christ, they do not complain.

Jesus cannot deceive us. Each time you make these sacrifices, each time you think of the poor both near and far off, every time you give up something you would like and give it to the poor, you are feeding the hungry Christ, you are clothing the naked Christ, you are giving a home to the homeless Christ.

Whether you are directly serving the poor or not, whenever you think of the poor and make sacrifices for them, you are really doing it to Christ.

 

3. Do YOU KNOW THE POOR? (2-4)

Nakedness is not only the need for a piece of clothing. Nakedness is the need for human dignity which people sometimes lose, which we unjustly take away from the poor. We think they are useless and hopeless. We have so many adjectives for poor people! That is the real nakedness of our world today.

Nakedness is being thrown away by society, unwanted, deserted. That man, that woman, that child---it does not matter who---is unwanted and thrown away.

Some time ago I visited parts of Tokyo, and I found lonely, unwanted people. That is a terrible form of nakedness to me, that is a homelessness of the heart and spirit.

I don’t know if you know your own poor.

Maybe there are not the same numbers of poor as in Calcutta or other places in the Third World. But even if there is just one, he or she is my brother, my sister. Why should he or she lie in the gutter?

Why should that one brother be unwanted?

Why is there no one to take him in?

He may be a drunkard, but he is my brother, abandoned, unwanted and uncared for. Maybe---just maybe!---he felt so lonely, so unwanted that he had to take something to drink in order to forget.

That is why I ask you, let us pray that we come to know the poor right in our midst.

The poor may be in our own families. Maybe you have plenty to eat. Maybe you have wonderful things and beautiful houses. But what if your father, your mother, your wife, your husband or your child feels lonely?

Are you aware of that loneliness?

They may feel unwanted, but you may be so busy you have no time even to smile at your own child, at your husband or at your wife.

Then there is poverty right in your family!

If you want that to change, you must bring prayer into your family life. You must pray, if you want to be able to love. Whatever way you know how to pray, you must pray.

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.

But if we want to be able to love, we must pray! Prayer will give us a clean heart, and a clean heart can see God. If we see God, immediately God’s love works in us. And we need to love not with words, but with deeds!

 

4. THE DISTRESSING DISGUISE OF JESUS IN THE POOR (18-20)

See the goodness of God! It was not enough for him to feed us, to make himself one of us. He had to satisfy his own hunger for us:

So he makes himself the hungry one.

He makes himself the naked one.

He makes himself the homeless one.

And he said, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat” (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus, in the least of his brethren, is not only hungry for a piece of bread, but hungry for love, to be known, to be taken into account.

He is not only lacking a piece of clothing, he is stripped of human dignity. Very often, through injustice, we take human dignity away from the poor! Or the poor may have been robbed of chastity, purity of soul and body.

Jesus is the homeless one. He is not only lacking a house made of bricks or wood. He is suffering the terrible loneliness of being homeless, a more terrifying disease than leprosy, tuberculosis, AIDS, or any other disease a human body can bear. The disease of being unloved and unwanted, of having no one to call your own, is a very great poverty and a very harmful disease in our days.

To make sure that we understand what he says, Jesus is going to judge us on love. He is going to judge us on our response to this very beautiful call, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Come, the blessed of my Father!” Or, “I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat. Go, I do not know you!”

You and I will have to face that one day. But it is not necessary for us to be afraid of Jesus. Let this be our response today:

If we really understand the Eucharist,

if we really centre our lives on Jesus’ body and blood,

if we nourish our lives with the bread of the Eucharist,

it will be easy for us to see Christ in that hungry one next door,

the one lying in the gutter,

that alcoholic man we shun,

our husband or our wife, or our restless child.

For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguises of the poor: Jesus in our midst.

 

Do I recognize Christ in a distressing disguise?

Right in my own home!

In the very heart of my family!

There is no need for me even to leave the house.

What about the elderly---my own father, my own mother?

Do I recognize Jesus in them?

Do they seem like a burden as they grow older?

Am I capable of bearing their pain?

Am I capable of smiling at them?

Are they special to me?

 

5. THE POOR DON’T NEED OUR SYMPATHY (52-55)

What great poverty!

Are we aware of that?

Do we know what fear is?

Do we know the lonely?

Do we know the unwanted and the unloved?

Do we know the hungry?

Do we really know what hunger is?

 

I’ll give you an example of what hunger is. A child got a piece of bread from a Sister. (He had not eaten for some time.) I saw that child eating the bread slowly, crumb by crumb. I said to him, “I know you are hungry. Why don’t you eat the bread up?”

The little one answered, “I want it to last longer!”

He was afraid that when he finished the bread, his hunger would come back again. And so he ate it crumb by crumb!

The other child next to him was not even eating. I thought that he had finished his bread. But the little one said, “My father is sick. I’m very hungry, but my father is sick, and I think he would love to have this piece of bread.”

That good little child was willing to go without food to be able to give his father the joy of having a little piece of bread.

The poor are great people!

They don’t need our sympathy.

They aren’t asking us to feel sorry for them.

They are great people!

They deserve our love!

Not long ago, some Sisters and I went out and picked up four or five people off the streets. One of them was in a terrible condition, so I told the Sisters, “I’ll take care of her”. And I tried to do all that I could for her, all that my love of Jesus could do.

When I put her in bed, she took hold of my hand. There was a beautiful smile on her face. She said only, “Thank you!” And then she died.

She gave me much more than I had given her. She gave me her grateful love.

I couldn’t help but examine myself. I said, “If I were she, what would I have done?” And my answer was very sincere, “I would have tried to draw some attention to myself by saying, ‘I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m dying!”

But she had courage, and she had love to give to me, instead of keeping it for herself, instead of being focused on herself. These are very admirable things!

 

6. A FLAME THAT CONSUMES (101-102)

The words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 15:12) must be not only a 1ight for us but a flame that consumes the self in us. Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.

People are trying to make God a relic from the past. But you, by your love, by the purity of your lives and your compassion, can prove to the world that God is up-to-date.

The co-workers of Christ must give special attention to those who feel unwanted and deprived of love.

For the worst disease of all is feeling unloved. The greatest sin is the terrible indifference to those on the fringe of the social system.

May the sick and suffering find in us angels of comfort and consolation. May the poor by seeing us be drawn to Christ and invite him into their lives.

 

7. THE RUNAWAY CHILD (108-110)

One day I found a little girl in the street, so I took her to our children’s home. We have a nice place and good food there. We gave her clean clothes and we made her as happy as we could.

After a few hours, the little girl ran away. I looked for her, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. Then after a few days, I found her again.

And, again I brought her to our home and told a Sister, “Sister, please, follow this child wherever she goes.”

The little girl ran away again. But the Sister followed to find out where she was going and why she kept running away.

She followed the little girl and discovered that the little one’s mother was living under a tree in the street. The mother had placed two stones there and did her cooking under that tree.

The Sister sent word to me and I went there. I found joy on that little girl’s face, because she was with her mother who loved her and was making special food for her in that little open place.

I asked the little girl, “How is it that you would not stay with us? You had so many beautiful things in our home.”

She answered, “I could not live without my mother. She loves me.” That little girl was happier to have the meagre food her mother was cooking in the street than all the things I had given her.

While the child was with us, I could scarcely see a smile on her face. But when I found her there with her mother, in the street, they were smiling.

Why?

Because they were a family.

The father must have gone to collect whatever had been thrown away, I suppose.

That little one could do without many things, but she could not do without the love of her family, of her mother. Unhappiness does not necessarily come from not having this or that. If we have each other, we have everything.

This is why it is very important for mothers and fathers to love their children.

Children will remain faithful.

Children will love their families.

Children who are loved never run away from home.

No young man, no young woman, runs away from home because they do not have this or that. They only run away from a home where love is missing.

 

8. THE BABIES OF OUR LEPER PEOPLE (94-95)

We care for more than fifty-three thousand leprosy patients. With the help of the Indian government, we are creating rehabilitation centres for them.

As you know, in the time of Jesus, lepers were not accepted by anybody. They had to hide in cemeteries, stay away from everybody, and ring bell as they were passing by to give people chance to move away from them.

Today love for Jesus is allowing more and more people to approach lepers. The number of those who feel like helping them keeps growing. More and more lepers are beginning to realize there are people who love them, who do not mind being near them. Quite the contrary!

In our leprosy centres, we are also building children’s homes. The miracle of God is that children born of leprosy patients are perfectly clean and healthy at birth.

Before the children are born, we prepare the parents to give them up for the sake of their children’s future. They must give them up right away, before they start feeding their children, before they even kiss them. Our Sisters care for the children in the home attached to the rehabilitation centre.

One day, I saw a mother and father put their baby between them. It was a newborn baby boy, three days old.

They put the baby between them, and each one looked at the little one. They extended their hands towards the child, and then they would pull back. They made gestures, wanting to kiss their child, and again they would pull back.

I cannot forget the deep love that father and mother had for their little child. I picked up the child, and I could see the father and mother following him with their eyes as I walked away. I held up the child towards them, and they kept on looking and looking at him with great tenderness until I disappeared from their sight.

What agony and sorrow it caused them! They are allowed to see their child, but they cannot touch him. It hurt them to give up their child. But because they loved him more than they loved themselves, they had the strength to give him up.

It is beautiful to see the enormous sacrifice our leper parents make for the sake of their children, so that they will not be infected and may grow up as normal, happy children.

 

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