Mother Teresa on Our Call selected by Brother Angelo Devananda
The following passages are taken from the book, “Contemplative at the Heart of the World,” selected by Brother Angelo Devananda and published in 1985.
You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you (John 15:16)
Let us make our society something beautiful for God.
* * *
1. He has chosen us; we have not first chosen Him. But we must respond by making our society something beautiful for God—something very beautiful. For this we must give all–—our utmost. We must cling to Jesus, grasp Him, have a grip on Him, and never let go for anything. We must fall in love with Jesus. (45)
** * *
2. Our particular mission is to labor at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor not only in the slums but all over the world, wherever they may be, by:
—living love of God in prayer and action in a life marked by the simplicity and humility of the Gospel,
—loving Jesus under the appearance of Bread,
—serving Him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, both materially and spiritually, recognizing in them and restoring to them the image and likeness of God.
As members of the active branch by:
—nursing the sick and the dying destitutes,
—gathering and teaching little street children,
—visiting and caring for beggars, leprosy patients, and their children,
—giving shelter to the abandoned and homeless,
—caring for the unwanted, the unloved, and the lonely,
—going out to the spiritually poorest of the poor to proclaim the Word of God by our presence and spiritual works of mercy, and by,
—adoration of Jesus in the blessed sacrament.
We are called the “Missionaries of Charity.”
A missionary is one sent with a mission—–a message to deliver. Just as Jesus was sent by his Father, we too are sent by Him and filled with his Spirit to be witnesses of his gospel of love and compassion, first in our communities and then in our apostolate among the poorest of the poor all over the world.
As missionaries we must be:
—carriers of God’s love, ready to go in haste, like Mary–—in search of souls,
—burning lights that give light to all men,
—the salt of the earth,
—souls consumed with one desire: Jesus. We must keep his interests continually in our hearts and minds, carrying our Lord to places where He has not walked before.
—fearless in doing the things He did, courageously going through danger and death with Him and for Him,
—ready to accept joyously the need to die daily if we want to bring souls to God, to pay the price He paid for souls,
—ever ready to go to any part of the world and to respect and appreciate unfamiliar customs of other peoples, their living conditions and language, willing to adapt ourselves if and when necessary,
—happy to undertake any labor and toil, and glad to make any sacrifice involved in our missionary life. (45-46)
3. “I Thirst”
“I thirst” Jesus said on the cross when He was deprived of every consolation and left alone, despised and broken in body and soul.
As Missionaries of Charity we are called to quench this infinite thirst of a God made Man, who suffered, died, yet rose again and is now at the right hand of his Father making intercession for us:
-by living the life of fervent charity in the practice of the four vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor,
-by a deep life of prayer, contemplation, and penance,
—by accepting all suffering, renunciations, and even death,
-by being spouses of Jesus Crucified. (46-47)
4. Hungry for love He looks at you
Thirsty for kindness He begs from you
Naked for loyalty He hopes in you
Sick and imprisoned for friendship He wants from you
Homeless for shelter in your heart He asks of you.
Will you be that one to Him? (47)
5. Each time anyone comes in contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God’s love. (47)
6. “To quench the thirst of Jesus,” for souls, means for love—–for love of me and for love of others. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He cried, “I thirst.” We have these words in every chapel of the M.C.s to remind us that an M.C. is here to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion. When Jesus was in pain on the cross, the soldier, in order to help Jesus forget his pains, prepared the bitter drink of vinegar and gave it to Him to drink. To avoid hurting the soldier, Jesus took it, but He only tasted it. He did not drink it because He did not want to forget the pain and the suffering. No. . . He loved me and He died for me . . . He suffered for me. Very often, we offer bitter drink to Jesus. This bitterness comes from the depth of our hearts and wells up in our words and our attitudes toward one another: “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me.”
We have to quench the thirst of Jesus for others and for us. We do this by:
—nursing the sick and dying. By each action done to them I quench the thirst of Jesus for love of that person–—by giving God’s love in me to that particular person. How often we do not do that well!
—gathering and teaching little street children. I must give God’s love to each of them and thus quench the thirst of Jesus.
—visiting and caring for beggars.
—giving shelter to the abandoned.
—caring for the unwanted, the unloved, the lonely—–all the poor people.
This is how I quench the thirst of Jesus for others, by giving love in action to them. (47-48)
6. The Bread of Life
As Missionaries of Charity we are especially called upon to see Christ in the appearance of bread and to touch Him in the broken bodies of the poor.
Christ when He took bread said ‘Take and eat, this is my Body delivered for you.” By giving Himself, He invites us to grow in the power of His love to do what He has done.
Christ’s love for us will give us strength and urge us to spend ourselves for Him. “Let the Sisters and the people eat you up.” We have no right to refuse our life to others in whom we contact Christ. (48)
7. Like Mary, let us be full of zeal to go in haste to give Jesus to others. She was full of grace when, at the Annunciation, she received Jesus. Like her, we too become full of grace every time we receive Holy Communion. It is the same Jesus whom she received and whom we receive at Mass. As soon as she received Him she went with haste to give Him to John. For us also, as soon as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let us go in haste to give Him to our Sisters, to our poor, to the sick, to the dying, to the lepers, to the unwanted and the unloved. By this we make Jesus present in the world today.
We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks. People ask, “Where do the Sisters get joy and energy to do what they are doing?” The Eucharist involves more than just receiving; it also involves satisfying the hunger of Christ. He says, “Come to Me.” He is hungry for souls. Nowhere does the gospel say “Go away,” but always “come to Me.”
Our lives must be woven around the Eucharist. Ask Jesus to be with you, to work with you that you may be able to pray the work. You must really be sure that you have received Jesus. After that, you cannot give your tongue, your thoughts, or your heart to bitterness.
Put your sins in the chalice for the precious blood to wash away. One drop is capable of washing away all the sins of the world.
The Eucharist is connected with the Passion. If Jesus had not established the Eucharist we would have forgotten the crucifixion. It would have faded into the past and we would have forgotten that Jesus loved us. There is a saying that to be far away from the eyes is to be far away from the heart. To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of His love. To make sure that we keep on loving Him, He gives us his hunger (to satisfy our hunger for Him)–—He gives us the poorest of the poor.
We must be faithful to that smallness of the Eucharist, that simple piece of bread which even a child can take in, that giving of a bath, that smile… . We have so much that we don’t care about the small things. If we do not care, we will lose our grip on the Eucharist—–on our lives. The Eucharist is so small.
I was giving Communion this morning. My two fingers were holding Jesus. Try to realize that Jesus allows Himself to be broken. Make yourselves feel the need of each other. The Passion and the Eucharist should open our eyes to that smallness: “This is my body; take and eat”—–the small piece of bread. Today let us realize our own littleness in comparison with the Bread of Life. (49)
8. For us, we must never separate the Eucharist and the poor—–or the poor and the Eucharist. You will really be a true M.C. when you go to the poor and take Jesus with you. He satisfied my hunger for Him and now I go to satisfy his hunger for souls, for love. (50)
9. That is why Jesus made Himself bread, to satisfy our hunger for God. See the humility of God. He also made Himself the hungry one to satisfy our hunger for God through our love, our service. Let us pray that none of us will be unfaithful. Let us pray for our poor people. They are also hungry for God. (50)
10. Many years ago an angel came to bring the good news to Mary. The Prince of Peace was anxious to come to earth and an angel was used to bring the good news that the Creator would become a little child. The Prince of Peace was attracted to a young girl, who was a nobody in the eyes of the world. Even the angel could not understand why he was sent to a creature like that. But she was so beautiful that the King of Kings wanted to become flesh in her. She was so full of grace, so pure, so full of God. She looked at the angel—–she must have been surprised for she had never seen an angel—–and asked, how? What are you saying? I don’t understand what you are saying; it makes no sense to me. And the angel said simply that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ would be formed within her. And Mary answered with just one word: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”
In heaven everything was beautiful—–yet, what attracted Jesus to the earth? The Son of God wanted to feel what it meant to be a human being; to be locked up for nine months, so dependent on a mother. That is why we say, “He, being rich, became poor”—–so helpless!
When we recite the Creed we say “God from Cod, Light from Light.” And there was the little body, so small. We find it so difficult to become small, and Jesus says to us: “Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And Mary knew and replied, “Yes, behold the handmaid of the Lord.” (50)
11. On the way to Addis Ababa August 21, 1977
Now, more than ever we need to live out the teaching of Jesus: “Love one another, as the Father has loved Me.” We have to love as the Father loves his Son Jesus, with the same mercy and compassion, joy and peace. Try to find out how the Father loves his Son, and then try to love one another in the same way. Find out in all humility how much you are loved by Jesus. From the time you realize that you are loved by Jesus, love as He loves you.
In each of our lives Jesus comes as the Bread of Life—–to be eaten, to be consumed by us. That is how He loves us. He also comes as the Hungry One, hoping to be fed with the bread of our life, with our hearts that love and our hands that serve. In so doing, we prove that we have been created in the image and likeness of God, for God is love. When we love we are like God. This is what Jesus meant when He said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus has chosen us for Himself. We belong to Him. Let us be so convinced of this “belonging” that we allow nothing, however small, to separate us from his love. (51)
12. Motherhouse, September 29, 1980
That you may know each other at the breaking of the bread, love each other in the eating of the Bread of Life, and serve each other and him in his poor by giving your wholehearted service.
When communicating with Christ in your heart—–the partaking of Living Bread—–remember what Our Lady must have felt when the Spirit overpowered her and she, who was full of grace, became full with the body of Jesus. The Spirit in her was so strong that she immediately rose in haste to go and serve.
Each Holy Communion, each breaking of the Bread of Life, each sharing should produce in us the same, for it is the same Jesus who came to Mary and was made flesh. We, too, should be in haste to give this life of Jesus to our Sisters and the poor. (51)
13. We Are Chosen
“I will betroth you to Me forever in steadfast love, in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness” (Hos 19:20)
Thank God from the depths of your heart that He has chosen you for Himself and for life. (52
14. What is our vocation? What do we call vocation? Our vocation is Jesus. We have it in the scripture very clearly: “I have called you by name, you are precious to me. . . I have called you my friend. Water will not drown you.” (Water symbolizes all the temptations of evil.) “I will give nations for you; you are precious.” “How could a mother forget her child? Or a woman the child within her womb? But even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. You are precious to me; you are carved in the palm of my hand.”
Why are we here? We must have heard Jesus calling us by name. We are like St. Paul. Once he realized the love of Christ, he cared about nothing else. He did not care whether he was scourged or put into prison. For him, only one thing was important: Jesus Christ. (52)
* * *
15. God loves me. I’m not here just to fill a place, just to be a number. He has chosen me for a purpose. I know it. He will fulfill it if I don’t put an obstacle in his way. He will not, force me. God could have forced Our Lady. Jesus could have come just like that. The Holy Spirit could have come. But God wanted Mary to say yes. It is the same with us. God doesn’t force us but he wants us to say yes.
God doesn’t want one more congregation in the world—–just 3,000 nuns more. We have been created and chosen to proclaim His love so that people may see the wonderful works of God. I will never forget a man in Kalighat who observed a Sister as she was taking care of a patient. The Sister did not know she was being watched. Afterwards the man came to me and said: “Mother, I came here godless. Today! I found God in that Sister—–the way she was looking at the sick person and taking care of him.” This is what we have been created for—–to proclaim Christ’s love, to proclaim his presence. (53)
16. Called to Be Saints
“I am the Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2)
I will give saints to Mother Church! (53)
17. Let us live the life of union with God. All our little actions may be offered through the precious blood—–through Jesus. We have learned that. Let us never be satisfied. Jesus poured out every drop of blood, not just some of it. Let us do the same. We have to learn to become virtuous. We must be full of holy ambition to be the holiest Sister. (53)
18. 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.”
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.
Jesus said, “Learn of me.” In our meditations we should always say, “Jesus, make me a saint according to your own heart, meek and bumble?’ We must respond in the spirit in which Jesus meant us to respond. We know Him better now, through meditations and the study of the gospel, but have we really understood Him in his humility? Does this humility appeal to us, attract us? Humility is nothing but truth. What have we got that we have not received? asks St. Paul. If I have not received anything, what good have I on my own? (53)
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. (54)
20. The more repugnant the work the greater should be our faith and cheerful devotion. That we feel repugnance is but natural, but when we overcome it for love of Jesus we may become heroic. Very often it has happened in the lives of the saints that a heroic overcoming of repugnance has been what has lifted them to sanctity.
This was the case with St. Francis of Assisi, who, when meeting a completely disfigured leper, drew back. But then, overcoming himself he kissed the terrible, disfigured face. The result was that Francis was filled with an untold joy. He became the complete master of himself and the leper walked away praising God for his cure. (54)
21. Self-knowledge puts us on our knees and it is very necessary for love. For knowledge of God produces love, and knowledge of self produces humility. Self-knowledge is a very important thing in our lives. As St. Augustine says, “Fill yourselves first, and then only will you be able to give to others.” Self-knowledge is also a safeguard against pride, especially when one is tempted in later life. The greatest mistake is to think one is too strong to fall into temptation. Put your finger in the fire and it will burn. Don’t play with temptation.
Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for each one of us, especially for us who have been chosen. We have been chosen to belong to Christ.
Nothing can make me holy except the presence of God and to me the presence of God is fidelity to small things. Fidelity to small things will lead you to Christ. Infidelity to small things will lead you to sin. (54)
22. First Friday in October 1960
The first step “to becoming” is to will it. St. Thomas says that “sanctity consists in nothing else than a firm resolution, the heroic act of a soul abandoning herself to God.” By an upright will we love God, we run towards God, we reach Him, we possess Him.
“0 good, good will which transforms me into the image of God and makes me like to Him,” so St. Augustine says. My progress in holiness depends on God and myself: on God’s grace and my will.
We must have a real, living resolution to reach holiness. St. Teresa says that Satan is terribly afraid of resolute souls.
Everything depends on these two or three words: “I will” or “I will not.” I must put all my energy into this “will.” St. John Berchmans, St. Stanislaus, St. Margaret Mary said “I will,” and they did become saints. What is a saint but simply a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action? Wasn’t this what St. Paul meant when he said: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me?” My Sisters, I will not be satisfied if you are just good religious. I want to be able to offer God a perfect sacrifice. Only holiness perfects the gift.
“To resolve to be a saint” means I will despoil myself of all that is not God: I will strip my heart and empty it of all created things: I will live in poverty and detachment. I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies and offer myself as a willing slave to the will of God. Yes, my children, this is what I pray for daily, for each one, that you may become a slave to the will of God. (55)
23. Rome, October 8, 1980
Holiness is the main reason for the existence of our society. For us, holiness should not be difficult—–for in giving wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor, we are with Jesus twenty-four hours. And, since every M.C. is the poorest of the poor, we live and observe the fourth vow even when we do small things for each other. (56)