Mother Teresa on Love
St. Paul’s definition of love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV):
- Patience (Be Presence) — Love suffers long
- Kindness (Goodness) — Love is kind
- Generosity (Sacrifices) — Love does not envy
- Humility (Less ego) — Love does not parade itself and
is not puffed up
- Courtesy (Smiles) — Love does not behave rudely
- Selflessness (Thoughtful) — Love does not seek its own
- Good temper (Gentle) — Love is not easily provoked(KJV)
- Guilelessness (Forgiving) — Love thinks no evil
- Sincerity (Judge less) — Love does not rejoice in
iniquity but rejoices in the
· Forbearance (Accepting) — Love bears all things
· Faithfulness (Committed) — Love believes all things
· Hopefulness (Less despair)– Love hopes all things
· Endurance (Gutsy) — Love endures all things.
Mother Teresa is right smack on when she said that for love to grow in the family there must first be a lot of apologies. “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) But it is extremely difficult for a proud person to say, “I am sorry.” However, it is also not easy for a person to say, “I am sorry” if he feels that by doing so he is being taken advantage of. Without an apology, it would practically be impossible for the other person to forgive, unless he/she is saintly and can, nevertheless, really mean and say, “In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven.”
We are all so human in our love, in that, it is so imperfect, limiting and conditional but we expect the other person to give us unconditional, perfect and unlimited love. That’s tough. And it is asking for the moon. Because our expectations far exceeded the reality, there will be lots of misunderstanding and miscommunication. So, for me to be able say, “I am sorry” in the family, I need first to be humble!
The sequences of events are:
For love to grow, we have to forgive often;
But before we can forgive, there must be apologies,
And for apologies to come about, we have to be humble.
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “The Joy in Loving,” compiled by Jaya Chalika and Edward Le Joly.
1. Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal. (31 October)
2.These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest. (8 December)
3. It strikes me how God is humble. He humbled Himself; He who possessed the fullness of the Godhead took the form of a servant. Even today God shows His humility by making use of instruments as weak and imperfect as we are. He deigns to work through us. Then there must be joy in the heart. That is not incompatible with humility. (19 Oct)
4. Let us not be afraid to be humble, small, helpless to prove our love for God.
The cup of water you give the sick,
the way you lift a dying man,
the way you feed a baby,
the way you teach a dull child,
the way you give medicine to a sufferer of leprosy,
the joy with which you smile at your own at home—all this is God’s love in the world today. (14 January)
5. We know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. Forgive and ask to be forgiven, excuse rather than accuse. Reconciliation begins first, not with others but ourselves. It starts with having a clean heart within. A clean heart is able to see God in others. We must radiate God’s love. (4 March)
6. Every human being comes from God. We all know what is the love of God for us. Whatever we believe, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. We must radiate God’s love. (23 May)
7. At Christmas, we see Jesus as a little babe—helpless and poor. And He came to love and be loved. How can we love Jesus in the world today? By loving Him in my husband, my wife, my children, my brothers, my sisters, my parents, my neighbors and the poor. Let us gather around the poor crib in Bethlehem and make a strong resolution that we will love Jesus in all those we meet every day. (25 December)
8.In the Scriptures, it is written, ‘I looked for one to comfort Me and I found none.’ Jesus is your child, your spouse, your neighbor, looking for someone to comfort Him. Are you there? Let us make a resolution: I will be there for my child, my spouse, my neighbor—not just in words, but by my sharing and sacrificing. Maybe just a beautiful smile instead of that ugly look, maybe a beautiful word instead of that angry word. Let us take the trouble to be that one to comfort Him. (18 April)
9. Clothe the naked Christ—by your charity in words and protecting the good name of others. Give a home for the homeless Christ—by your making your own home a home of peace and joy and love, through your thoughtfulness for all and everyone in your family and your next-door neighbor. (29 August)
10. For us to be able to love we need to see, we need to touch, and that is why we read in the Scriptures, Jesus made the poor the hope of salvationfor you and for me. (17 May)
11. Where is God? We believe He is everywhere—He is the creator, He is everything. But where is He to my human eyes? To make it possible for me to see the face of God with my human eyes, He has made Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the lonely one and He says: ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of My brethren you do it to Me.’ Gandhiji has said: ‘He who serves the poor serves God.’ (7 September)
12. God dwells in us. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you are clean of heart. Clean of heart means openness, that complete freedom, the detachment that allows you to love God without hindrance, without obstacles. When sin comes into our lives that is a personal obstacle between us and God. Sin in nothing but slavery. (17 January)
13. The very fact that God has placed a certain soul in our way is a sign that God wants us to do something for him or her. It is not chance; it has been planned by God. We are bound by conscience to help him or her. (27 Jan)
14. Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Every one should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes, it appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious. (5 March)
15. Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be a living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face,
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile,
kindness in your warm greeting.
To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile. Give them not only your care, but also your heart. (2 September)
16. I believe God loves the world through us—through you and through me. We use Mother Teresa’s name; it is only a name, but we are real co-workers and carriers of His love. Today God loves the world through us. Especially in times like these when people are trying to make God ‘was’, it is you and I, by our love, by our purity of our lives, by our compassion, who prove to the world that God ‘is’. (13 January)
17. Once a man came to the Home for the Dying in Kalighat and he just walked right into the ward. I was there. After a while he came back and said to me: ‘I came here with so much hate in my heart, hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty, faithless, embittered and I saw a sister inside giving her wholehearted attention to that patient there and I realized that God still lives. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and that He loves us still.’ I want this to be imprinted on your mind that God loves the world through you and through me today. (21 April)
18. Have you gone out to help any charitable organization in your own country? If you have never gone, I think you should not miss such an opportunity in life. It gives you the experience of sheer joy and fulfillment. You will get in touch with Christ as you would nowhere else. (12 June)
19. A smile must always be on our lips for any child to whom we offer help, for any to whom we give companionship or medicine. It would be very wrong to offer only our cures; we must offer to all our hearts. (14 December)
20. Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving, they begged me: ‘Tell us something that will helps us to live our lives better.’ And I said: ‘Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other—it doesn’t matter who it is and that will help you to grow in greater love for each other.’ And one of them asked me: ‘Are you married?’ I said; ‘Yes, and sometimes I find it very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding.’ This is really something true. And that is where love comes in—when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy. (10 Dec)
21. Let us remember that Jesus has said: ‘Whatever you do to the least of My brothers, you do it to Me.’ Just think—that little smile that you give to a lonely person, that hand you give a blind person to cross the road, that little bit of food you sacrifice for someone who is hungry, you do it for Him. (16 March)
22. When we say no to violence, we always imagine a knife, a bomb, a gun. However, to me, violence is caused by our attitude. For example, telling people that they are good for nothing, that they are lazy, and that they are this, and that they are that. I think this a great violence. If you and I could only make that one strong resolution that we will say ‘no’ to violence, and say ‘yes’ to peace by our kindness, by our attitude towards each other, even in a small thing—a smile when we meet each other, it would help more than anything. (6 June)
23. The greatest injustice we have done to our poor people is that we think they are good for nothing; we have forgotten to treat them with respect, with dignity as a child of God. People have forgotten what the human touch is, what it is to smile, for somebody to smile at them, somebody to recognize them, somebody to wish them well. The terrible thing is to be unwanted. (27 July)
24. To my co-workers: I would like you to concentrate more in giving wholehearted free service to the poor in your own area. Each one of you tries to find out the lonely, the unwanted, the handicapped. Maybe just a smile, a small visit, just to light the fire for someone, read to somebody. Small, yes, very small. But that will be your love of God in action. This spirit must radiate from your own heart to your family, neighbor, town, country, the world. (12 November)
25. Don’t search for Jesus in far lands—He is not there. He is close to you. He is with you. Just keep the lamp burning and you will always see Him. Keep on filling the lamp with all these drops of love, and you will see how sweet is the Lord you love. (17 February)
26. You will find Calcutta all over the world if you have eyes to see. The streets of Calcutta lead to every man’s door. I know that you may want to make a trip to Calcutta, but it is easy to love people far away. It is not always easy to love those people who live beside us. What about the ones I dislike or look down upon? (25 April)
27. People today are hungry for love, which is the only answer to loneliness and great poverty. In some countries there is no hunger for bread. But people are suffering from terrible loneliness, terrible despair, terrible hatred, feeling unwanted, helpless, hopeless. They have forgotten how to smile, they have forgotten the beauty of the human touch. They are forgetting what is human love. They need someone who will understand and respect them. (16 February)
28.Charity begins today.
Today somebody is suffering,
today somebody is in the street,
today somebody is hungry.
Our work is for today, yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered. Do not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will not have them if we do not feed them today. (5 January)
I have special love for doctors. Yours is not only a profession but a vocation—the vocation to be God’s love, God’s compassion, God’s healing power to the suffering. God has chosen you for a special mission. Being a doctor means going out and touching God in each of the suffering, whether it be the rich or the poor, for sickness strikes all. (4 February)
30.To students of medicine:
I beg of you not to add to the millions of doctors already present who are just doling out medicines. You must treat each patient with love and compassion and fulfill all the hopes they come with. Your hands are instruments of peace and are used to restore life while at the same time others use them to cause destruction. Peace in the world is brought about not by force but by love. (28 May)
It is very important that children learn from their fathers and mothers how to love one another—not in the school, not from teacher, but from you. It is very important that you share with your children the joy of that smile. There will be misunderstandings, every family has its cross, its suffering. Always be the first to forgive with a smile. Be cheerful, be happy. (30 August)
32. It is better to make mistake in kindness than to work miracles with unkindness. It is very important to be kind to ourselves and control ourselves by keeping our balance. If we want to live in peace and harmony with each other we must pay attention to our tongue. Especially when we deal with the poor we must be very careful in talking to them. (18 October)
33.Be the living expression of God’s kindness;
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your face,
kindness in your smiles,
kindness in your warm greetings.
We are all but His instruments who do our little bit and pass by. I believe that the way in which an act of kindness is done is as important as the action itself. (13 April)
34. God loves you. Love one another as He loves you. Love is sharing, love is giving the best we have. We are carriers of God’s love and whoever you are, you can become one also. (1 February)
35. Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service. A mission of love can come only from union with God. From that union, love for the family, love for one’s neighbor, love for the poor is the natural fruit. (2 Feb)
36. There was a man we picked up from the drain, half eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the Home for the Dying in Kalighat, he only said, ‘I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for.’ Then, after we removed all the worms from his body, all he said, with a big smile, was, ‘Sister, I’m going home to God,’ and he died. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of a man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. This is the greatness of people who are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor. (5 Feb)
37. When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said; ‘I thirst.’ Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts. (12 March)
38. There is no limit, because God is love and love is God. And so you are really in love with God, and God’s love is infinite. And that’s why it’s not how much you do, but how much love you put into the action. (30 March)
39. There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. It is a danger if we forget to whom we are doing it. This is where the respect and love and devotion come in, that we give it and do it to God, to Christ and that is why we do it as beautifully as possible. The beautiful experience that we have by serving, we must pass on to people who have not had it. It is one of the great rewards of our work. (4 April)
40. People who love each other fully and truly are the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another. (1 May)
41. I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us, what matters is an individual. To get to love a person, we must come in close contact with him. If we wait till we get numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers, and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person-to-person; every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the one person in the world at that moment. (26 June)
42. Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. She gives most who gives with joy. The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy. (12 July)
43. God is joy, joy is prayer. Joy is a sign of generosity. When you are full of joy, you move faster and you want to go about doing good to everyone. Joy is a sign of union with God—of God’s presence. (1 August)
44. Faith is a gift of God. Without it there would be no life. And our work, to be fruitful and beautiful, has to be built on faith. Love and faith go together. They complete each other. (21 November)
45.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. Once I went with the head of a big company to his factory in Bombay where over 3,000 people were working. He had started a scheme among them, where they all gave something to feed the people in Asha Dan, our home. I had gone there to thank them and to my surprise I found that many of his employees were disabled. I was also struck that he knew nearly all of the workers by name and as we went through the factory, he had some greeting or word to say to everyone. Thoughtfulness comes when there is true love. Never be so busy as not to think of others. (30 November)
46. The most important rule of a family founded on love and unity, is that the children show an unbounded trust in and obedience to their parents. Jesus practiced this for thirty years in Nazareth for we hear nothing of Him but that ‘He was subject to them,’ that is, He did what He was told. (28 November)
47.Instead of death and sorrow; let us bring peace and joy to the world. To do this we must beg God for His gift of peace and learn to accept each other as brothers and sisters, children of God. We know the best place for children to learn how to love and pray is in the family, by seeing the love and prayer of their mother and father. When families are strongly united, children can see God’s special love in the love of their father and mother and can grow to make their country a loving, prayerful place. (31 December)
The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado
1. God has created us to do small things with great love. I believe in that great love, that comes, or should come from our heart, should start at home: with my family, my neighbours across the street, those right next door. And this love should then reach everyone. (45)
2. Jesus announced which will be the criteria of the final judgement of our lives: we will be judged according to the love we have shown the poor, with whom God identifies: “You did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) (45)
3. To help us to be worthy of heaven, Christ put as a condition that at our hour of death, you and I, regardless of whom we were (Christians or non-Christians, each human being has been created by the loving hand of God in His own likeness), will stand before God and be judged according to how we have acted toward the poor. (Matthew 25:40) (36)
4. Once more, today and yesterday, Jesus comes to His own and His own refuse to welcome Him (John 1:11).
He comes in the broken bodies of the poor.
He also comes in the rich who are drowning in the loneliness of their own riches. He also comes in their lonely hearts, when there is no one to offer them love. (37)
5. There are thousands—millions—of people who dies for lack of bread.
There are thousands—millions—of human beings who grow weak for lack of a little love because they would like to be recognised, even if just a little.
Jesus becomes weak and dies in them. (37)
6. Someone once told me that not even for a million dollars would they touch a leper. I responded: “Neither would I. If it were a case of money, I would not even do it for two million. On the other hand, I do it gladly for love of God.”
7. The lepers, the dying, the hungry, the ones sick with AIDS: they are all Jesus.
One of our novices was aware of this. She had just entered the Congregation, after finishing her studies at the university. The next day she was supposed to accompany another Sister to help at the Home for the Dying in Kalighat.
Before they left, I reminded them, “You know where you have to go. During the Mass notice how tenderly and lovingly the priest touches the body of Christ. Do not forget, that Christ is the same Christ you touch in the poor.”
The two Sisters left for Kalighat, and three hours later they returned. One of them, the novice, knocked on my door. She told me, full of joy, “Mother, I touched the Body of Christ for the last three hours.” Her face reflected her deep joy.
“What did you do?” I asked her. “Right after we arrived,” she answered, “they brought us a man covered with wounds. He had been picked up from the rubble. I had to help take care of his wounds. It took three hours. Therefore, I touched the Body of Christ for three hours. I am sure it was Him.”
That young novice had understood that Jesus cannot deceive us when He assures us: “I was sick and you took care of Me.” (Matthew 25:36) (41)
8. The Missionaries of Charities are firmly convinced that each time we offer help to the poor, we really offer help to Christ.
We try to do this with joy because we cannot go to Christ, even under the guise of the poor, with long faces.
I very often tell the Sisters to approach the poor with joy, knowing that they have plenty of reasons to be sad. They don’t need us to confirm their sadness for them.
We are committed to feed Christ who is hungry, committed to clothe Christ who is naked, committed to take in Christ who has no home—and to do all this with a smile on our face and bursting with joy.
It is very beautiful to see our Sisters, many of them still very young, given totally and with such love to the service of Christ’s poor. (109)
9. Sometimes ago, while I was in New York, one of our AIDS patients called me. When I got to his bedside, he said, “Because you are my friend, I want to confide in you. When I can hardly stand my headaches (I imagine that you know that one of the symptoms of AIDS is terrible headaches), I share it with the pain that Jesus must have suffered because of the crown of thorns. When the pain moves to my back, I share it with the pain Jesus must have felt when the soldiers gave Him the lashes. When my hands hurt, I share that pain with the pain Jesus felt when He was crucified.”
That is truly proof of the greatness of love: the one of a young man who suffers from the scourge of AIDS!
I assure you, he had no hope for a cure and he was aware that he did not have long to live. However, he had extraordinary courage.
He found it in his love for Jesus, sharing His passion.
There was no sadness or anguish in his face. Instead, you could see a great peace and a deep joy in him. (85)
10. Who are we to accuse anybody? It is possible that we see them do something we think is not right, but we do not know why they are doing it.
Jesus encouraged us not to judge anyone.
Maybe we are the ones responsible for others doing things we think are not right.
Let us not forget that we are dealing with our brothers and sisters. That leper, that sick person, that drunk, are all our brothers and sisters. They, too, have been created by a greater love.
This is something we should never forget.
That sick person, that alcoholic, that thief, are my brothers and sisters.
It is possible that they find themselves abandoned in the street because no one gave them love and understanding. You and I could be in their place if we had not received love and understanding from other human beings.
I will never forget the alcoholic man who told me his story. He was a man who had surrendered to alcohol to forget the fact that no one loved him.
Before we judge the poor, we have the duty to look inside ourselves. (55)
11. When I visited China in 1969, one of the Communist party’s top members asked me, “Mother Teresa, what is a communist to you?”
I answered, “A child of God, a brother, a sister of mine.”
“Well,” he exclaimed, “you think highly of us. But where did you get that idea?”
I told him, “From God Himself. He said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) (39)
12. We have been created to love and to be loved.
A young man was dying, but for three or four days fought to prolong his life. The Sister there asked him, “Why do you continue this fight?”
“I cannot die without asking forgiveness from my father,” he answered.
When his father arrived, the youth embraced him and asked forgiveness.
Two hours later, the young man passed away peacefully.(38)
13. All sicknesses have cures. The only one that cannot be cured is the sickness of feeling unloved.
I invite all those who appreciate our work to look around them and be willing to love those who have no love and to offer them their services.
Are we not, by definition, messengers of love?
14. As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved.
The greatest suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not knowing what it means to be loved, not having a family or friends. (91)
15. Do not be afraid of loving to the point of sacrifice, until it hurts. Jesus’ love for us led Him to His death. (37)
16. True love causes pain.
Jesus, in order to give us the proof of His love, died on the cross.
A mother, in order to give birth to her baby, has to suffer.
If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices. (35)
17. Love is, just like Christ Himself showed with His death, the greatest gift. (41)
18. To love and to serve the poor presupposes something that has nothing to do with giving them our leftovers, or giving them the food we do not like. It has nothing to do with giving them the clothes we no longer wear just because the clothes are no longer in fashion or because we no longer like them.
Is this sharing the poverty of the poor? Of course it is not. (36)
19. It is very compelling that before Jesus explained God’s work, before He explained the beatitudes to the crowd; He felt compassion for them and fed them (Matthew 5).
Only after they were fed did He start to teach them. (35)
20. God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important. (40)
21. God pays attention to our love. Not one of us is indispensable. God has the means to do all things and to do away with the work of the most capable human being.
We can work until we drop. We can work excessively. If what we do is not connected to love, however, our work is useless in God’s eyes. (39)
22. At the moment of death we will not be judged according to the number of good deeds we have done or by the diplomas we have received in our lifetime. We will be judged according to the love we have put into our work. (65)
23. If faith is scare, it is because there is too much selfishness in the world, too much egoism. Faith, in order to be authentic, has to be generous and giving.
Love and faith go hand in hand. (34)
24. I am convinced that as long as the Sisters are faithful to poverty and the Eucharist, and also to the poor, the Congregation will not run into any danger. (43)
25. I tell my Sisters that when we lovingly help Christ in the poor, we do not do it like social workers. We do it like contemplatives in the world. (35)
26. Do not ever allow sadness to take such a hold of your spirit that it leads you to forget the joy of the resurrected Christ.
We all long for God’s paradise, but we all have the opportunity to find ourselves in it right here. We only need to be happy with Christ right here and now. (44)
27. “I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
We are talking about the joy that comes from union with God, from living in His presence, because living in His presence fills us with joy.
When I speak of joy, I do not identify it with loud laughter or with noise. This is not true happiness. Sometimes it hides other things.
When I speak of happiness, I refer to an inner and deep peace, which shows itself in our eyes, on our faces, in our attitudes, in our gestures, in our promptness. . .(42)
28. When a young lady of the upper class chooses to place herself at the service of the poor, it causes an authentic revolution, the biggest, the most difficult one: the revolution of love. (33)
29. We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.(30)
30. To those who say they admire my courage, I have to tell them that I would not have any if I were not convinced that each time I touch the body of a leper, a body that reeks with a foul stench, I touch Christ’s body, the same Christ I receive in the Eucharist. (103)
31. My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love Him. (8)
32. I am asked what is one to do to be sure that one is following the way of salvation. I answer: “Love God. And, above all, pray.” (11)
The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “One Heart Full of Love,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado
1. In your homes you have a starving Christ, a naked Christ, a homeless Christ. Are you capable of recognising Him in your own homes? Do you realise that He is right there in your midst?
How many times does a child run away from home because there is no one there to love him! How often it is that the elderly in the family are not at home. Instead, they are in nursing homes because no one has time for them. The poor are right in your own homes. Are you aware of that? (21)
2. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you.” The Father’s love, the Son’s love, and our love is but a giving until it hurts. Christ has identified himself with the hungry, the sick, the naked. I mean the hungry who not only hunger for bread but for love and care. We need to be someone for someone who needs us. We need to be someone for the naked who not only lack clothing but mercy. We need to be someone for the destitute who not only lack a roof over their heads, but who are deprived of having someone who care, someone to belong to. (31)
3. People are hungry for God. People are hungry for love. Are you aware of that? Do you know that? Do you see that? Do you have eyes to see? Quite often we look but we don’t see. We are all passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see.
You have received a lot from your brethren: the gift of love. You have seen love in action through their lives. Take their example to heart, the example of sacrificial giving. 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. (11)
4. The first Christians died willingly for Jesus, and they were known for their love for one another. Never has the world had a greater need for love than in our day. People are hungry for love. We don’t have time to stop and smile at each other. We are all in such a hurry! People are hungry for love. We have received so much!
Pray. Ask for the necessary grace. Pray to be able to understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you can love others. And pray for the sisters, that we won’t spoil God’s work. Pray that we allow Jesus to use each of us as He wishes and wherever He wishes. (12)
5. What you and I must do is nothing less than putting our love for Christ into practice. The important thing is not how much we accomplish, but how much love we put into our deeds every day. That is the measure of our love for God. (26)
6. The amount of good works is not important. The key is the love that the sisters put into everything that they do. To be able to do this kind of work, not only for a day but for a lifetime, the sisters cleave to Jesus with an undivided love by means of their chastity, the freedom of poverty, and total submission to obedience. In our order, we profess a fourth vow to offer wholehearted, free service to the poorest of the poor. This vow—the vow of love— directs our attention completely to the poorest of the poor. It also predisposes us to depend totally upon God’s providence.
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.
To live out such a calling every Missionary of Charity must have a life focused on the Eucharist. We see Christ in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread, while we see Him in the poor under the distressing disguise of poverty. The Eucharist and the poor are nothing more than the same love of God. To be able to see and love Jesus in the poor, we must be one with Christ through a life of deep prayer. That is why the sisters start their day with Mass and meditation. And they finish it with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Communion with Christ gives us our strength, our joy, and our love. (26-27)
7. If our poor have at times starved to death, it is not because God doesn’t care for them. Rather, it is because you and I have refused to give food to them. We have not been instruments of love in God’s hands, so that He can give them bread or offer them clothing. It has happened because, once again, we have not recognised Christ under the disguise of suffering in the hungry. We have not recognised Him in the one who suffers from loneliness. We have not recognised Him in the homeless child looking for shelter.
Some time ago a small child came to our door around midnight. I went down and opened the door for him. The child was crying and he said to me, “I went to my mother and she didn’t want me. I went to my father and he wouldn’t accept me either. Please love me. You, at least.” That is a situation that is repeated every day in many places.
You also have people who are unloved and unwanted. Yet they are, just like us, children of God. Even more, they are Christ in our midst and they belong to us. They are our brothers and sisters.
The same hunger exists in India and in Europe, for example. It exists wherever the sisters find Christ under the appearance of suffering. It is possible that in Australia, in Europe, and in the United States, it isn’t always hunger for a piece of bread or a garment of clothing. Everywhere there exists that same loneliness, the same deep need to be loved and cared for. Right in our midst there are those who suffer because they do not feel wanted or loved. They experience the anguish of having no one to call their own. This is real poverty without a doubt.
We must believe Christ who does not deceive us and who says, “I was hungry and you gave Me to eat. I was naked and you clothe Me. I was homeless and you offered Me shelter. As often as you did it to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me.” (35-36)
8. Jesus loved us, and He still loves us. He loved and still loves the lepers, the destitute who are dying, the alcoholics, the unwanted, and the unloved. He loves them deeply. He died for them, and He doesn’t stop saying: “Love one another as I have loved you. As the Father loves Me, love one another. I have loved you as My Father loves me.”
The father loved Jesus and gave Him to us. Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life, so that we could eat of Him and have life. He wants to satisfy our hunger for love and for God.
As if that were not enough, Jesus became the hungry one, so that you and I could satisfy His hunger, cover His nakedness, and offer Him shelter. He said, “You did it to Me. I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless.” The forgotten man in the street, the one we picked up in the streets of Calcutta, was Jesus bearing that man’s appearance. It was Jesus who was hungry. I will never forget the man who was half eaten by worms when we found him. He was tenderly carried to the Home for Dying Destitutes. On the way, he murmured, “I have lived like an animal, but now I am going to die loved and surrounded with care.” That is how he died and went home to God. That was Jesus under the disguise of the poor. (39-40)
9. Love, to be real, must hurt. If you want to truly love the poor, you must share with them. If you want poverty to disappear, share it. A gentleman asked me, “What must we do to eliminate poverty from India? I answered, “We need to learn to share with the poor.”
That is what I want to share with you. We cannot share unless our lives are full of God’s love and our hearts are pure. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor of heart, for they shall see God.” Unless we are able to see God in our neighbour, it will be very hard for us to love. Since love begins at home, let’s love each other at home. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He loved until it hurt. Jesus’ love is so overwhelming that you and I can love Him and find life. We can love Jesus in the hungry, the naked, and the destitute who are dying. We can love Him because our prayer gives us the faith we need to be able to love. If you love, you will be willing to serve. And you will find Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. (42-43)
10. Let’s believe in God’s love, and let’s be faithful to Him. If you look at the cross, you will see His head lowered to kiss you. You will see His arms stretched out to embrace you. You will see His heart open to welcome you. Don’t be afraid. He loves us in spite of how poor and sinful we are. His love is true, and we should believe in His love. If we truly believe, it will not be hard for us to identify with the poor, even the poor in our own homes. (44-45)
11. To be able to do something beautiful for God, we need Jesus. Jesus became the Bread of Life so that you and I, and even a small child, can receive Him and have life. In a special way we need the Bread of Life to know the poor, to love them, and serve them. Each one of us needs to encounter Jesus. Without Him, we can do nothing. We need the Bread of Life to live. Jesus said very clearly, “If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will not have eternal life.”
This is the most wonderful surprise for all of us. To satisfy our love for God, Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life. Let’s marvel at God’s hunger for us. He makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the dying one. In that way He gives us the opportunity to feed Him, to clothe Him, and to aid Him through our service to the poorest of the poor.
Here a beautiful standard for judgement presents itself. We have to become increasingly aware that the poor are the hope of humanity, for we will be judged by how we have treated the poor. We will have to face this reality when we are summoned before the throne of God: “I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless. And whatever you did to the least of My brethren, you did to Me.” (49-50)
12. Recall the momentous event in St Paul’s life when he was touched by Jesus on the way to Damascus. Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Jesus did not say, “I am the people of Damascus,” or even “I am the Christian people.” He said, “I am Jesus.” In the same way, we have seen many times in the history of the church where Jesus has personally identified Himself with the poor. He has shown a very personal concern for how they are treated.
For this very reason, I always tell Christians, as well as non-Christians, that we are not merely social workers. No co-worker or Missionary of Charity is a social worker. If we take Jesus at His word, all of us are contemplatives in the heart of the world, for if we have faith, we are continually in His presence. We need a life of prayer to have this kind of faith. We need to worship God and have a spirit of sacrifice. We need to spiritually feed ourselves on Him constantly. (50-51)
13. I have another conviction that I want to share with you. Love begins at home, and every co-worker should try to make sure that deep family love abides in his or her home. Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next-door neighbour. Then it will show forth and you will be able to say to them, “Yes, love is here.” And then you will be able to share it with everyone around you. (56-57)
14. Let’s focus more on the things we ought to do in serving our husband, our wife, our children, our brothers—rather than on other people’s short-comings. (56)
15. 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. (71-72)
16. Every time you are concerned for the poor and you make sacrifices for them—wherever you serve them you are really doing it for Christ. That is why I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be with you. I want personally to thank you for all that you have done for our poor. I thank you for all the prayers and sacrifices that you have made. But do not forget that it isn’t enough to give money. The money will come. Money is not the hard part. We have to give until it hurts. We need to give from the resources we would like to keep for ourselves. We need to give to the point of sacrificing. We must give something that we find hard to give up. (73)
17. I believe that the commitment spouses profess in their marriage vows is important. They accept each other in good times and in bad times. I think that this is something that we should always try to do with a smile. And it really helps if we can then do the same in the homes of the poorest of the poor.
It’s possible that in the apartment or house across from yours, there is someone who is blind. Perhaps there is a blind man who would be trilled if you would go over and read the newspaper to him. It’s possible that there is a family that needs something that seems insignificant to you, something as simple as having someone baby-sit their child for half an hour. (75)
18. You, too, must try to bring the presence of God to your families, for the family that prays together, stays together. I think that just being together and loving one another brings peace and joy. It strengthens the bond between family members in the home. That is the way to overcome all the evil that is in the world.
There is so much suffering, so much hate, so much sorrow! We can be real pillars in our homes through our prayers and sacrifices. Love begins at home. It isn’t how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do that really counts. That is because our actions are focused on God. It doesn’t matter how much we do, but how much love we put into our actions, for His love is infinite. (83-84)
19. We should gather to give thanks to God for what He has done in us, with us, and through us. We thank Him for having used you and us to be His love and mercy. God is still love, and He still loves the world. We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And God so loves the world today that He gives you and me to love the world, so that we may be His love and His mercy. What a beautiful thought and conviction for us, that we can be that love and mercy right in our homes, above all. Then we can be that love and mercy for our next-door neighbours and for our neighbours down the street.
But do we know our neighbours? Do we know the poor in our neighbourhood? It’s easier for us to talk and talk about the poor in far away places. We are often surrounded by the sick and the abandoned. We are often among people who are despised, outcast, and depressed. We have many elderly whom we don’t even know. At times, we don’t even have the time to smile at these people. (90)
20. In Haiti just as in England, Spain, Italy, or India—there are unhappy people everywhere. Not only because they don’t have any bread to eat. No, they hunger for love, understanding, and companionship. They suffer from loneliness, the feeling of being unwanted and rejected, a poverty of the soul. These are the things that can be far worse than being hungry or not having enough material goods. (90)
21. I have learned from the poor how poor I myself am. They give me infinitely more than I give them: their joy (they are content with everything), their zest for life, their receptiveness, their way of accepting things. What rich person can live daily without food and clothing? There are millions of poor people who can. One day a very rich man came to the home for dying destitutes in Calcutta. Upon departing he said to me, “Now I realise how poor I am.” Personally I have to admit that my contact with the poor has completely changed my life. Through them I have understood the unsurpassed power of Jesus’ words: “I was hungry and you gave Me to eat. I was homeless and you took Me in.” I have gambled everything with the assurance that Jesus will not disdain me. At the same time, He Himself is made poor by becoming our food in the Eucharist. He knows the countless hungers of man, and He gives of Himself. What a gift! What proof of His love! What assurance for us! (127-128)