You did it to Me when we love our difficult family members by Mother Teresa

You did it to Me when we love our difficult family members by Mother Teresa

On the Cross Jesus cried out:

     “I thirst” (John 19:28)

He could have easily said:

     “I pain”

     “I suffer”

     “I fear”

     “I am terrified”

     “I am terrorised”

“I am alone”

Jesus also cried out:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)

He could have said:

     “My friends, where are you?”

     “My friends, why are you not helping Me?”

     “My friends, why have you left Me to suffer alone?”

     “My friends, why are you not here for Me?”

We could not have done anything for Jesus as we were not there then. But Jesus is giving us a lot of opportunities to do something for Him and to Him here and now. He said it very clearly that “whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of Mine, you did it for Me!” (Matthew 25:35-40 NKJV) “Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of Mineyou did it to Me.(Matthew 25:40 NJB)

Everyday we come across poor or suffering individuals who cry out, “I thirst,” “I hunger,” “I pain,” “I suffer,” “I am lonely,” “I am terrorised.” And Jesus says that if we do any simple act, like giving water or spending time, with much love to that suffering person, we are to consider it done to Him and for Him. What Jesus is asking us to see with new mindset is that the suffering person is Jesus Himself suffering on the Cross.

The definition of poverty is very broad in Mother Teresa’s terms. She defines “least of My brethren” as: 

“the hungry and the lonely, not only for food but for the Word of God;

the thirsty and the ignorant, not only for water but also for knowledge, peace, truth, justice, and love;

the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity;

the unwanted, the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves;

the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body but also in mind and spirit:

all those who have lost all hope and faith in life, the alcoholics and drug addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Spirit.” (A Simple Path, xxx)

“Who are the poorest of the poor? They are the unwanted, the unloved, the ignored, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the leper, and the alcoholic in our midst.” (One Heart Full of Love, 27)

Many of us when we think of the poor, we often think of someone who has very little money and has difficulty feeding himself. But all of us are poor in some way or other. Our poverty could be lack of loving partner, lack of emotional stability, lack of security, lack of confidence. And the sick need not necessarily be in the hospitals, it could be any of us who are troubled emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Finally, the prisoners need not be people who are in prisons but people who are trapped in their fear, people who feel persecuted or terrorised, people who are locked in their own prisons of their past or people who cannot break out of their own closed mindset. Thus the poor, the sick and the prisoners can be anyone of our family members as well.

Mother Teresa says: 

If anyone wants to help me, let them begin at home. There is help needed on your doorstep, in your place of work, in your office and in your factory” (The Joy of loving, November 30)

“Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Let us know the poor in our own families first. We have old people: they are put in institutions and they are never visited; with less and less time even to smile at each other, with less and less time to be together. Love begins at home, if we can only make our own homes temples of love.” (The Joy of loving, 7 December)

“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 liveAre you aware of that?” (One Heart Full of Love, 4)

“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.” (One Heart Full of Love, 11)

“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.” (One Heart Full of Love, 43)

“We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” (“A Gift for God”, 18)

“We know that if we really want to love we must learn how to forgive. (“A Gift for God”, 42)

Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113) 

“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?” (One Heart Full of Love79)

“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.” (One Heart Full of Love, 86)

“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.” (One Heart Full of Love, 71-72)  

So, if we think in terms of helping our family members first, then, Jesus is asking us to make the connection between the suffering and loneliness in our family members and His suffering on the Cross. He is asking us to do something for our suffering and lonely family members. And do it with lots of love. And when we do it for our family members consider it done for Him and to Him. If we have this change in our mindset and heart set we will be able to be transformed like Him. It is very easy to do good to people far away but it is very difficult to be loving to the demanding, the exacting, the unreasonable, the irritable, the manipulative, the depressed, the disgusted, the hot-tempered, the nagging, the morose family members next to us. But, then, when it is demanding that’s when we are being challenged to do our loving at it’s best! Only in union with Christ will we be able to pour forth our loving.

     It is not how much we do but how much love we put into our doing that is important. If our simple acts of doing does not come from the desire to be loving and to be with the suffering individual, then it really becomes just social work. So, for instance, if we have to spend time with a lonely or suffering member in our family, we can do it mechanically or feel that it is an imposition on our enjoyment time or that we have to as it is expected. But we can give our full attention and spend time gladly and with smiles for the suffering member. We do not smile at him but smile with and for him to cheer him up. We do it with love. We do not ask why this or that, how come he is suffering, what has happened to him, we just see the need and take care of him. This is doing it with lots of love and this is very tough if there appears to be no end to this doing. Jesus tells us to see the connection of our family member’s suffering as His suffering on the Cross and see with new eyes that what we are doing with much love to the family member, we are doing it to Jesus and for JesusOnly then can we do it without any ending in sight. There are so many loving acts we can do in the family: We can care, we can console, we can be compassionate, we can be patient, we can be gentle, we can be civil, we can be kind, we can be humble, we can apologise often, we can forgive often, we can give more, we can give more smile, more laugh, more joy, dance more, enjoy more. We can concentrate on bearing “much fruit” (John 15:5).

But what are the fruits? They are:

·         Our smiles

·         Our laughter

·         Our kisses

·         Our embraces

·         Our encouragement

·         Our support

·         Our hugs

·         Our gratitude

·         Our thanks

·         Our care

·         Our joy

·         Our compassion

·         Our gentleness

·         Our trust in God

·         Our kindness

·         Our goodness

·         Our patience

·         Our humility

·         Our hospitality

·         Our presence

·         Our friendship

·         Our words of love

·         Our acts of love

·         Our every gesture of love

·         Our every word of forgiveness

·         Our every little bit of joy 

·         Our faithfulness

·         Our peace

·         Our hopes

·         Our gifts

     Indeed, we have much to do at home even before we venture out of the family! And for our love to be real, it cannot waver at home!

 Mother Teresa says:

     “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.” (One Heart Full of Love, 91)

 The full text of “you did it for Me” is:

     “When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. A11 nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heeritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the upright will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”(Matthew 25:31-40 NJB)

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