Proclaiming the Gospel to all People by Mother Teresa
After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared and instructed His eleven disciples to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 NJB)
It is vitally important that a Christian knows what and how to proclaim the Gospel. The manner he presents Jesus can be very offensive or sensitive to other people’s religions. If a Christian is not sensitive, he will not be able to bring across the message of the love of Christ to others. And if a Christian’s arrogance turns off someone, that person will not be receptive to the Christian message of Divine love at all. That will be defeating what Jesus meant when He told Christians to proclaim the Gospel to all people. This will also cause that person to lose the chance of hearing about Jesus and, perhaps, have faith in Jesus. Therefore, Christians should know how to give the sensitive, tactful answer to everyone. St Paul encourages all Christians to be very careful concerning their speech, “Your speech should always be pleasing and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.” (Colossians 4:6 TEV)
We know for a fact that when a salesman starts to run down his competitors’ product, we subconsciously suspect the salesman and his product. And if he is very pushy and aggressive in his sale, we automatically don’t trust him and his product. Similarly, if a Christian pushes his Christianity too hard or run down other religions or other Christian groups, he should expect people not to trust him or his Christian message.
It is very illuminating to hear how Mother Teresa proclaims the Gospel:
“The Sister must have one thing clear: there is a soul to save, a soul to bring to God. The Sister has to be extremely kind and gentle; in touch of hand, in tone of voice, in her smile—for the work is very delicate. . . .An unkind word or look is enough to spoil the work. Such perfection of charity is not in us but we must acquire it—kindness in action. You will not learn kindness by looking after sick people unless you practice it on healthy people, because the sick are often trying and hard to please.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 122)
“We shall go freely in the name of Jesus, to towns and villages all over the world, even amid squalid and dangerous surroundings, with Mary the immaculate mother of Jesus, seeking out the spiritually poorest of the poor with God’s own tender affection and proclaiming to them the good news of salvation and hope, singing with them His songs, bringing to them His love, peace, and joy.
We shall call sinners to repentance, and turn them to God by our personal concern for them, proclaim to them the mercy of God, and when necessary remind them also of the justice of God, and teach them the way to salvation through abnegation and the cross, through a total change of mind and heart, through belief in the name of Jesus, and through living his message of love for the Father and one’s neighbor.
We shall instruct the ignorant by the power of the example of our lives lived entirely in and with Jesus Christ our Lord, bearing witness to the truth of the gospel by our single-minded devotion to and burning love of Christ and His Church, and also by verbal proclamation of the Word of God fearlessly, openly, and dearly, according to the teaching of the Church, whenever opportunity offers.
We shall counsel the doubtful by listening to them attentively, lovingly, and prayerfully and then speaking to them the truth of God, firmly, gently and with love.
We shall sustain the tempted by our prayer, penance, and understanding love and when opportunity offers also by enlightening and encouraging words.
We shall befriend the friendless and comfort the sick and sorrowful by our real love and personal concern for them, identifying ourselves with them in their pain and sorrow and by praying with them for God’s healing and comfort and by encouraging them to offer their sufferings to the Lord for the salvation of the whole world.
We shall bear wrongs patiently by offering no resistance to the wicked—–if anyone hits us on the right cheek by turning the left also; if anyone takes away anything from us by not trying to get it back.
We shall forgive injuries by seeking no revenge but returning good for evil, by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us and blessing those who curse us.
We shall bring prayer into the lives of the spiritually poorest of the poor by praying with them and for them and making them personally experience the power of prayer and the reality of the promise of Jesus, ‘“Ask and you shall receive. Whatever you ask in my name I will do.’” (A Life for God, 199)
“To convert and sanctify is the work of God, but God has chosen the Missionaries of Charity in His great mercy to help Him in His own work. It is a special grace granted to the Missionaries of Charity, without any merit of theirs, to carry the light of Christ into the dark holes of the slums. “I have other food to eat that you know not of. Lift up your eyes and see the fields, white and ready for the harvest” (John 4:32-35). This is my food, the conversion and sanctification of souls.” (A Life for God, 96)
“Often we Christians constitute the worst obstacle for those who try to become closer to Christ; we often preach a gospel we do not live. This is the principle reason why people of the world don’t believe.”(In My Own Words, 100)
Father Henri Nouwen advises how we are to witness for Christ:
“Why must we go out to the far ends of the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus when people do not have to know Jesus in order to enter the house of God? We must go out because we want to share with people the abundant love and hope, joy and peace that Jesus brought to us. We want to ‘proclaim the unfathomable treasure of Christ’ and ‘throw light on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden through all ages in God, the creator of everything.’ (Ephesians 3:8-9)
What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it to every human being we meet.” (Bread for the Journey, Aug 3)
Sometimes people ask us about our Christian religion and St Peter tells us to “Be ready at all times to answer anyonewho asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 TEV) We are exhorted to learn how to answer, in a sensitive, gentle and respectful manner, the hard questions that will come our way.
See how Mother Teresa does it:
“What was the good news Christ came to announce?
God is love.
God loves each one of us.
God loves me.
God loves you.
God has made you and me for greater things: to love and to be loved. We are not just numbers in the world.” (Loving Jesus, 58)
“The whole gospel is very, very simple. Do you love me? Obey my commandments. He’s turning and twisting just to get around to one thing: love one another.” (No Greater Love, 21)
“If you give to the people a broken Christ, a lame Christ, a crooked Christ—–deformed by you, that is all they will have. If you want them to love Him, they must know Him first. Therefore, give the whole Christ—–to the Sisters, first, then to the people in the slums. Do I give the Christ who is full of zeal, love, joy, and sunshine? Do I come up to the mark? Or am I a dark light, a false light, a bulb without connection, having no current and therefore shedding no radiance? Put your heart into being a bright light. ‘Help me to shed thy fragrance everywhere I go.’
Let the poor, seeing you, be drawn to Christ. Poverty makes people very bitter, and they speak and act without realizing what they do. But do they remember Christ when they see you—–even if they get angry—–because you remind them of Christ?
Draw them to God but never, never to yourself. If you are not drawing them to God, then you are seeking yourself, and people love you for yourself and not because you remind them of Christ.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the world, 122)
“Oh, I hope I am converting. I don’t mean what you think. I hope we are converting hearts. Not even Almighty God can convert a person unless that person wants it. What we are all trying to do by our work, by serving the people, is to come closer to God. If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him. If we accept Him fully in our lives, then that is conversion. What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept. But I cannot prevent myself from trying to give you what I have.” (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 136).
“The Word of God becomes flesh during the day, during meditation, during Holy Communion, during contemplation, during adoration, during silence. That Word in you, you give to others. It is necessary that the Word live in you, that you understand the Word, that you love the Word, that you live the Word. You will not be able to live that Word unless you give it to others.” (A Life for God, 185)
Jesus’ central message is that God loves us unconditionally. As Henri Nouwen says, “Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness and insecurity.
The greatest block in the spiritual life is fear. Prayer, meditation, and education cannot come forth out of fear. God is perfect love, and as John the Evangelist writes, ‘Perfect love drives out fear.’(1 John 4:18) Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.” (Bread for the Journey, Feb 29)
“Often we are preoccupied with the question ‘How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?’ These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love, Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God’s love, so connected with God’s will, so burning with zeal for God’s Kingdom, that He couldn’t do other than witness. Wherever He went and whoever He met, a power went out from Him that healed everyone who touched Him. (see Luke 6:19)
If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.” (Bread for the Journey, Aug 10)
People are always persuaded more by seeing than by listening. So, a Christian has to proclaim a Gospel he tries to live and when he tries to preach to people he has to be very sensitive, gentle and respectful of their religions. He has always to remember that his actions speak for themselves so loudly that people, often, don’t hear his words at all. Yet, he intuitively knows that he will not live the Word well if he does not proclaim the Word to others.
Finally, we must leave it to Jesus and not be discouraged whether we succeed in converting a person or not, as Mother Teresa says, “Don’t give in to discouragement. No more must you do so when you try to settle a marriage crisis or convert a sinner and don’t succeed. If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. It is very difficult in practice because we all want to see the result of our work. Leave it to Jesus.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 107)